Cricket: England in South Africa 2016

Yesterday afternoon, as Joe Root got out and Johnny Bairstow joined Ben Stokes at the crease, England were looking a little uneasy on 223/5 - could they get to 400?

They are, as I type, 609/5. Stokes has got 245 off 193 balls, but he scored a hundred before lunch this morning and the South African bowling doesn’t seem to have any answers at all. The partnership is 387*, and I haven’t seen an attacking display like this.

Moeen Ali is still to bat. There’s no point in declaring yet - I suspect the earliest they might think of it will be to give themselves half an hour at SA before tea, but they could have 800 by then.

Edit: Stokes goes for 259 off 198 balls

At fall of sixth wicket (Ben Stokes) England are 622
England declare at 6 down for 629

Heh, heh, heh … the Gods of Cricket are capricious bastards!

Yes, they declared two balls after I wrote that. I’m not sure where I got the timing from though, that was an hour before tea so how I thought they would get 200 runs in half an hour I don’t know.

Amla and AB digging in. Long way to go though.

Isn’t Newlands about the size of a standard postcard? Isn’t that the venue where Australia set a record by being the first country to score 400 in an ODI and the Saffers chased them down with wickets and overs to spare?

Can’t speak for the size of Newlands but that ODI was on the high veldt - Johannesburg, I think - which will have helped the ball fly.

Turns out this pitch is a road - and should probably attract the same criticism that some other road like pitches have attracted over the last few months. With the exception of Taylor (and Moeen I suppose), all the English batsmen got starts and should have scored more runs. AB and Amla look set fair to score 200 each.

About the only thing going for the game is that the rest of the SA line up looks fragile - if England can fluke these two out (Amla was nearly run out backing up about half an hour ago), they might be able to run through them. Getting 20 wickets though, looks very difficult.

Well, after dropping three chances just to keep things interesting, England have held on to one (Anderson catching de Villiers off Finn) so the breakthrough has been made. But you have to fear that even a fragile line up will find this pitch forgiving enough to ease themselves back in to form.

I read a depressing statistic. That the maximum viewership numbers for the Sky only 2015 Ashes; were lower then the average ones for the 2005 series (free to air and super exciting) what a series and not much higher then the average for 2001 (free to air Australia whipping England like reclariant horses ).

And the ECB has spent a lot of time lobbying the government to prevent Cricket being on the mandatory free to air list.

Last time I had a pop at a wicket on here, the game in Abu Dhabi nearly achieved a result on Day 5, so it might be a bit previous to say it’s a terrible wicket. Still, it is, isn’t it? Two “proper” wickets have fallen in two days (plus two run outs). England have shelled some chances but even if we’d taken them, I’m beginning to doubt whether there is enough in this pitch to allow 20 wickets to be taken. Pitches that do this sort of thing in the sub-continent get brickbats. This one should too, I reckon.

Subcontinental pitches that do this at least tend to offer something for the spinners on the last day, this is just a road, offering nothing. Not to take anything away from Stokes and Bairstow’s effort (and Hamla’s, too) - it may be a road, but they drove on it fast, and gave their team the best chance of winning by getting to 600 more than a session before you might otherwise expect to. And it’s still mostly likely a draw.
2 days to go though.

I fucking hate our cricket team. Are they trying to re-enact Adelaide 06? If we lose after that Ben Stokes innings, he should be allowed to beat the shit out of everyone else on this team if he chooses to.

England, magnificently, are on 115-5. A reminder that there is no situation - none whatsoever - where “even England can’t lose this one from here” will ever hold true. You might have thought an innings of 629 would make them pretty safe but it’s astonishing what they can do when they try. Losing, while not guaranteed, does seem perfectly achievable from here.

Is this: a) good bowling; b) nervous/inept batting; c) a pitch coming to life?

At 122-6 I’m going for option b) above. Holy suffering fuck.

Bairstow and Ali seem to have managed to steady the ship a bit, 155/6 at tea - even if the last four wickets are lost cheaply, you wouldn’t have thought South Africa will have the time to knock off the runs before close of play. Still, a pretty desperate position to be in considering where they were after day 2. Credit to the South Africans for remembering how to bat. I can only assume England’s second innings is the result of not having a clear plan - perhaps they were in two minds about whether to push for quick scoring and the outside chance of a win (surely too optimistic), or whether to simply bat out a draw. Surely they should have been playing for the latter, but recent experience in the UAE against Pakistan (and not so long ago in Adelaide) seems to show that you need to keep the scoreboard ticking otherwise you just put pressure on yourself.

From the cricinfo commentary, I would say at least four of the six down so far (Cook, Hales - albeit to an outstanding catch), Compton, and Stokes) were down to poor shots, and Root might also have done better.

On the plus side, assuming the draw is ‘achieved’ we will remain 1-0 up with 2 to play. The third test should be an interesting contest.

If AB goes off, 200 in 20 overs is very doable. And AB can go off. I’m only going to start resting easy if England can get to fewer than 20 overs of the day to play and still batting. By that point, you’d hope that they’d have enough runs to ensure the draw.

Facts are they must continue to score some runs as well as occupy the crease. Sensible batting - not gung-ho and not into the shell - is going to be needed.

Gone off for light. This will be a draw now, almost certainly. SA scored some decent psychological points here though.

AB is a very good batsman. But, for reference, on the morning of the second day, Ben Stokes and Johnny Bairstow managed 196 from 25 overs.

Draw in the finish, although the last two days were better cricket than we had any right to expect. England’s bowling was good, although the fielding was poor - far too many dropped catches, and that’s what let SA get a sniff. Some complacent batting on the final day kept SA in the hunt, but it was always unlikely, especially when you consider how deep the English batting goes.

Amla has given up the captaincy, and AB De Villiers will captain the remaining two tests. I’d heard that Alma didn’t want it to begin with.

And? I’ve seen this happen at county level - granted, the bowlers weren’t international class but neither were all the batsmen (though it helped that Jason Roy was playing) so that’s a wash - and it’s definitely do-able because of the difficulty for the fielding side. Note KP didn’t bat in the second innings and Kumar scored only 12.

The problem lies in field placings. You stick everyone on the boundary to cover 6s and you drop it in the gaps and run 2 off every ball. Come in to cut that off, run the risk of getting smashed over the top.

You need your T20 players in the side and they need to go bananas but the circumstances are different to those of the Bairstow/Stokes partnership. Put it like this - if Stokes and Bairstow had needed 200 off 20, do you reckon they could have got them? I reckon they probably could have done to be honest.

The difficulties SA would have had in such a run chase would have been a) obviously the sustainability of the chase - you’ve got to be fit and clear headed to do it; b) the atmospheric conditions on Day 5 were better for bowling than on any other day, so it would have been tricky and c) the light would fade towards the end of the chase. On the other side of the ledger though, the English would be shitting themselves that they were about to let an impregnable position drop. There would be pressure on both ends. It was definitely do-able.

Bumping in view of Stuart Broad’s amazing bowling. With the match evenly poised after an innings apiece, Broady morphs into a wrecking ball again and takes five wickets for one run (would have been five for none if Anderson hadn’t shelled one at slip). South Africa are hustled out for 83 and England get within ten runs of victory before they decide to shed a few soft wickets. Series win with a match still to play.

Which now means India are top of the Test rankings, through a strange quirk of statistics.

In other news, Broad is now ranked no.1 bowler in the world (hard to argue with that) and Root is no.2 batsman (again…hard to disagree).

The one stat I though very interesting was that Broad has now taken a 5-fer in a single spell of bowling on 7 occasions. To me that sounds very impressive but I confess I don’t recall how other top bowlers match up to that and finding the stats is proving beyond me.

On a quick look, Mitchell Johnson has more and Shane Warne ridiculously more - the comparison with Johnson is probably fairer since they have similar numbers of wickets overall (Broad with the edge) but MJ has a dozen Michelles to Broady’s seven. I could carry on looking but my first impression is that seven is not a very large number. However, what’s been noteworthy (they look into this on Cricinfo) is that Broad’s five-fers have generally been the foundation for a thumping victory.