South Africa show steel to give Root cause for con­cern

Eng­land’s bat­ting lack­ing in dis­ci­pline and pa­tience Vis­i­tors’ teamwork puts them in sight of vic­tory

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Second Investec Test - Nick Hoult CRICKET NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT at Trent Bridge

South Africa cap­tain Faf Du Plessis called this match a “huge test of char­ac­ter” for his team and they have risen to the chal­lenge to put them­selves in a po­si­tion to level the se­ries.

Their resur­gence has left Joe Root fac­ing up to the re­al­i­ties of what it means to be the Eng­land Test cap­tain in only his sec­ond match af­ter the team’s bat­ting crum­bled in a re-run of so many per­for­mances of the re­cent past. Eng­land have new lead­er­ship, but the same old prob­lems per­sist.

They ca­pit­u­lated on a pitch of­fer­ing as­sis­tance to the bowlers and failed to show the dis­ci­pline and pa­tience Test match cricket some­times re­quires from play­ers. Their ul­tra-ag­gres­sive, white heat ap­proach cost them badly.

De­vis­ing a Plan B has to be top of Root’s list. They bat­ted in one gear, fly­ing along in the out­side lane at 100mph but on a pitch seam­ing and swing­ing, and against two ex­cel­lent South Africa fast bowlers, it was a gam­ble that back­fired spec­tac­u­larly to cost them a 130-run first in­nings deficit.

They had been warned. James An­der­son’s four wick­ets for four runs in 16 balls in the morn­ing showed how tricky bat­ting would be but still Eng­land at­tacked. It meant that by the end An­der­son was bowl­ing again, his morn­ing’s work wasted. Eng­land pro­duced the two stand­out in­di­vid­ual per­for­mances of the day with An­der­son’s five for 72 and Root’s 78 off 76 balls but Test cricket re­quires more than that and South Africa have ground out a team per­for­mance that puts them in charge.

An­der­son struck once more to take the 15th wicket of the day but South Africa were 205 ahead by the close on 75-1. The high­est suc­cess­ful run chase at Trent Bridge is 286, and with plenty of time left in the match South Africa to­day will set up the win they de­serve.

Du Plessis’s re­turn from pa­ter­nity leave has gal­vanised his team and un­der­lined his un­of­fi­cial sta­tus as the best Test cap­tain in world cricket.

With his team 1-0 down in the se­ries he has gone on the front foot. He gam­bled on bat­ting first on a bowl­ing morn­ing on Fri­day, clev­erly ca­joled his bowlers as he sensed English reck­less­ness on Satur­day af­ter­noon and used his re­views wisely in con­trast to Root on the first day. South Africa dropped catches and lost two wick­ets to no balls at Lord’s. Du Plessis called the mis­takes “non-ne­go­tiables”. Here they caught ev­ery­thing and not one bowler over­stepped. Or­ders were fol­lowed.

At Lord’s South Africa had Eng­land 80 for four and let them get away. It cost them the match. This time Eng­land were 86 for three and his­tory threat­ened to re­peat it­self as Root at­tacked and lifted his team to 143 for three. Morne Morkel and Ver­non Phi­lan­der were bowl­ing su­perbly but it was dif­fer­ent game when they went off as debu­tant Duane Ol­livier looked ner­vous and strug­gled to con­trol the swing­ing Duke ball and Chris Mor­ris was way­ward.

Af­ter lunch Morkel bowled a won­der­ful spell of seam and swing bowl­ing and it was high class, cap­ti­vat­ing Test cricket at its best as Root coun­ter­punched for Eng­land play­ing some crack­ing strokes around the ground as a first in­nings lead beck­oned. All Eng­land seem­ingly had to do was see off Morkel and bat­ting would be­come eas­ier as the af­ter­noon wore on and South African spir­its flagged. But Du Plessis squeezed one more over out of his tired fast bowler who had al­ready bowled six on the spin. Root went hard at the first ball of Morkel’s sev­enth over look­ing to play an­other fizzing drive through the off side but in­stead the ball moved late and he edged be­hind. This time Eng­land would not get away, and the in­nings folded within 22 overs.

The break­through gal­vanised South Africa’s back-up bowlers. Mor­ris found an ex­tra yard of pace and cast off his timid­ity of the morn­ing, bowl­ing ag­gres­sively to pick up three for 38 while left-arm spin­ner Ke­shav Ma­haraj used the rough wisely and found turn to take three for 21.

Morkel’s bril­liance to left-han­ders is well known. He puts it down to bowl­ing in the gar­den at his two broth­ers, who were left-handed. Here Keaton Jen­nings was in his sights and dis­missed with a snorter that lifted and moved late to find the edge. Alas­tair Cook had al­ready gone, strug­gling against the clever nip and swing of Phi­lan­der. He was out caught be­hind but only af­ter Du Plessis went for a re­view with the um­pire turn­ing down what he thought was an lbw shout. There was a spike on ul­tra edge and Cook was gone caught be­hind.

Gary Bal­lance again did the hard work, mov­ing to 27 and build­ing the foun­da­tion of an in­nings that could save his Test ca­reer. But af­ter lunch he played a lazy shot to his first ball, driv­ing loosely to be bowled off his pads. He has made scores of 20, 34 and 27 on his re­turn to the side with two soft dis­missals and one un­playable ball. The clock is tick­ing.

Root was dif­fer­ent class. His driv­ing on the front foot pushes back the lengths of bowlers look­ing to be full so the ball can swing and find the edge. Any­thing slightly shorter was guided down to third man in con­trolled fash­ion and he pulled pow­er­fully as he reached his fifty off 40 balls, the equal fastest by an Eng­land cap­tain.

Eng­land were rat­tling along at five an over but his part­ners never sug­gested per­ma­nence. Jonny Bairstow cracked fours but it was a fran­tic and un­con­trolled in­nings. Ben Stokes, de­prived of the strike for five overs, was out push­ing for­ward and edg­ing on to his pad, which lifted Ma­haraj’s con­fi­dence, and he soon ripped one through Bairstow.

Moeen plays one way and it was not suited to this oc­ca­sion. Af­ter driv­ing Mor­ris through the off side, Du Plessis moved him­self to square cover. Mor­ris de­liv­ered a slower ball and Mooen hit it straight to the South Africa cap­tain as his ploy paid off im­me­di­ately. Du Plessis then re­viewed an lbw next ball that sent Broad on his way and a Liam Daw­son slog summed up Eng­land’s in­nings.

Turn­ing point: Eng­land cap­tain Joe Root is dis­missed for 78 by Morne Morkel

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