The Proteas put in the complete performance in the second Test at Trent Bridge to thrash England by 340 runs and make it 1-1.
It’s a match the Proteas had under control from the onset, and after losing so comfortably in the first Test at Lord’s, a response on this scale was not expected. But the return of Faf du Plessis as skipper, along with some bold decisions that saw Chris Morris come in as an extra seamer and Quinton de Kock promoted to No 4 in the batting order, are but a few of the changes which contributed to the rollicking victory.
It’s the English who are now hugely under pressure. It was South Africa’s fourth-largest victory in their history in terms of runs, as the English top three combined for their worst tally of runs at home since the 1997 Ashes. They have ten days to regroup before the third Test starts at the Oval, with plenty of selection decisions to make. It’s fairly simple for the Proteas, who will bring Kagiso Rabada back from suspension in place of Duanne Olivier, and let the rest flow.
The only real question going into day four was whether South Africa could do it with a day to spare. They did it before tea, in what was a poor fight from the English, who clearly didn’t have the belief that they could last the 180 overs.
Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings went into a sunny day in Nottingham, having survived a tricky four-over spell in the evening session on day three. That partnership only lasted 11 more balls, as Jennings left a gap between his bat and pad to be castled for three. Gary Ballance’s return to the Test side has been a poor one so far, and that continued as he was trapped lbw deep in his crease after a successful DRS review from Vernon Philander.
The writing was on the wall, thanks to a blistering spell of short bowling from Chris Morris. The all-rounder backed up his 3-38 in the first innings with the golden scalps of Joe Root and Alastair Cook to finish with figures of 2-7. He bowled a yorker, which the new England skipper Root didn’t expect to remove his off-stump, before getting rid of the former captain with a nasty short ball which hit Cook’s gloves on his way to Quinton de Kock.
England went into lunch on 78-4, but it got much worse for the hosts after the break. While the wickets in the first session were largely down to some excellent bowling, the rest of the wickets were England’s own doing. Jonny Bairstow gave Morris catching practice at mid-on for the first of Keshav Maharaj’s three wickets. Du Plessis proved once again that he had done his homework going into this match – unaware of the fielder that had just been placed at square leg, Moeen Ali (27) swept one straight to Heino Kuhn for 18. An over later, Ben Stokes (18) hit one straight back to Philander (3-24).
From there, the English simply weren’t bothered. Olivier (2-25) took the last two wickets to see off Mark Wood and James Anderson for a pair of ducks, and that was that, leaving an eery silence around the ground, with the spectators perplexed as to how things could have turned around so swiftly. It was England’s sixth loss in their last eight matches.
With Hashim Amla on form with a pair of fifties in an away Test for the first time since 2010, along with Philander back to his best with both ball and bat, the Proteas will now feel quietly confident of protecting an unbeaten record in England that stretches back to 2003.
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