England vs South Africa test: Ben Stoke’s comeback at Lords isn’t enough to stop the South African batsmen

Lords (Day two of five): The England captain’s skills with the ball weren’t enough to keep South Africa in check as they lead England by 124 runs and three goals in the first innings.

It was one of those rare days in Test cricket this summer when the eyes were encouraged to stray from the action from time to time. All around, the bright red splashes in support of the Ruth Strauss Foundation were a reminder of the insignificance of sport at large, but also how well the game comes together at moments like this to raise money in this case for a charity that is after founded after the loss of Andrew Strauss’ wife.

There were occasional slow downs in the middle of the day to allow for some quiet contemplation which, as you can imagine, is exactly how South Africa wants it. Despising the home team’s carefree racquet attitude and attempting to play a more traditional game, they took the lead just after tea and were determined to wear England’s sailors down after a five-week hiatus that had left a little visible rust on the engine.

A recovery of sorts came from Ben Stokes and Jack Leach, who combined with the ball on either side of the tee for England’s best game of the day, a point from which one could imagine South Africa’s lead would not be triple figures. Introduced four overs before the break, the left-arm spinner found an instant stop while Stokes produced a spell that brought a series of wickets and the applause of a crowd, who were awakened from their contemplation.

With Stokes no longer in the first blush of youth and his left knee heavily buckled, he’s intelligently managing his own bowling workload, saving himself seasons when he’s really needed. The last session was one of them. As Stokes started pounding in from the Pavilion End, the crowd grew lively and when he was done – the spell was 5-2-14-2 – the scoreboard told a slightly different story. But then came a late turn as Keshav Maharaj and Marco Jansen took advantage of some tired bodies during another extended session to extend South Africa’s lead to 124 by the end, a significant one in a game where top-flight batsmen have been battling for dominance. As the crowds thinned and the shadows lengthened across the ground, Maharaj and Jansen hit 72 in 12 overs in what felt like a crucial passage of the game, putting England on the defensive for the first time.

It meant it was undoubtedly South Africa’s day. Kagiso Rabada became the first South African to floor five wickets since Vernon Philander a decade ago, and England’s first inning was completed within an hour, the 165 total falling well short of a competitive one. Then it came to an opening 85 between Dean Elgar and Sarel Erwee with England’s three main sailors being inconsistent and possibly trying too hard.

Matthew Potts in particular, who looked so strong in his first four Tests this summer, struggled with his line to the two lefties at the top of the order. His top-flight cricket figures show a clear disparity, with a much better average against right-handers than left-handers, and his first six overs cost 36 runs with boundaries on either side of the wicket.

England knows a lot about Elgar’s impressive qualities, but Erwee is an unknown relative to them. A latecomer to international cricket, he almost gave up the game after a stellar journeyman career and prepared for that task with a stint at club cricket in Surrey, during which he did not set the world on fire. His batting doesn’t quicken the pulse, but repelling the opening thrust from Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who combined more than 200 Test wickets on this ground before the game, was impressive and invaluable.

It wasn’t past the 24th that the opening games were split, although a sharp chance eluded the Slip Cordon when Elgar made a seven. It was Anderson’s second spell in charge of the South Africa captain as a harmless ball shot up the stumps from thigh to elbow and very gently untied the stirrups. Fourteen overs then went by before Potts, excited at the sight of a right-hander, finally encouraged Keegan Petersen to go wrong to slip.

Erwee’s half-century came to 89 balls with his sixth boundary, a cover drive from Broad, after which Leach was introduced in the 42nd over. His first ball spun into Erwee’s pads, another passed Aiden Markram’s outside edge. Was the pitch dry underneath? Was there residual moisture? Who knows, but Leach looked as dangerous as anyone and immediately off the tee Markram was put through to Markram by a ball with more flight that dipped and spun.

Stokes came. Rassie van der Dussen was caught in the crease and Erwee was dealt a brutal short ball which he could only parry up. Kyle Verreynne became Broad’s 100th test wicket down – Broad is only the second bowler after Anderson to pull off such a feat – when he fell behind. Had a more orthodox field been in place when Jansen first got into the fold, his stint might have been brief, too, but edges flew where slip fielders weren’t.

Maharaj hit seven airy fours in a 49-ball stay, which dented Anderson’s numbers a bit, and fell to the charge late in the day. Jansen ended matters by pounding Stokes on the leg border with considerable force. His first on-site appearance is proving productive in both disciplines, having previously flattened Leach’s stump to take his second wicket after winning first prize from Joe Root on opening day.

England’s innings lasted just 13 overs in the morning and a quick end was always likely once Ollie Pope was sacked by Rabada early in the play. Pope, who slipped in the first over of the day, staggered onto his stumps in the fifth trying to drive a wide ball and then the only question was whether Rabada would get his name on the roll of honor, what he did, when he fired Anderson leg-before.

It was Rabada’s 12th five-wicket draw in Tests and fourth against England, and it was no less than his excellent bowling deserved. His quick pace, high release point, intelligence (the slower ball to Broad was a good example of this) and skill make him a wonderful asset to South Africa. As a Test nation, they’ve produced some of the best fast bowlers in modern times, and Rabada stands up to comparison with the best.

-The times

Originally published as Ben Stoke’s heroic fight against Lords, stopping South Africa wasn’t enough

https://www.codesports.com.au/cricket/ben-stokes-heroic-fightback-at-lords-not-enough-to-stall-south-africa/news-story/0523d79cee7a0ee21e5b3f5e1efd55fa?nk=cbb2ef85bec22c3e37275acf7a250276-1660865292 England vs South Africa test: Ben Stoke’s comeback at Lords isn’t enough to stop the South African batsmen

Nate Jones

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