Eric Simons says tough conditions and fantastic bowling from Toby Roland-Jones contributed to the Proteas battling on 126-8 at stumps on day two.
The Proteas bowlers toiled for much of the opening two sessions of the day to eventually dismiss the hosts for 353, after a century from Ben Stokes. What followed was a superb England bowling display, which former CSA selector Shafiek Abrahams attributed to the lengths the bowlers managed to find.
‘The bowlers put the batsmen under pressure and they forced those mistakes upon the batsmen. Yes, there were a couple of soft dismissals, but I just felt the top order was put under pressure by very good bowling. They got their lengths right,’ Abrahams said in the Supersport studio.
Simons meanwhile, said that it was the build-up of sustained pressure by the bowlers on a pitch that had something in it for the seamers, which led to wickets.
‘I think it’s been incredibly tough conditions throughout. Again, England have bowled well and it’s been tough to bat. We look at the highlights, but it is the balls that have come before, you’ve played and missed, balls have gone past the edge, it’s bounced more than you’ve thought,’ remarked Simons.
‘England have utilised the conditions very well and when they’ve batted, they’ve got themselves into a strong position.’
Simons also heaped praise on captain Joe Root’s decision to replace James Anderson in the attack with debutant Toby Roland-Jones, a decision that paid dividends as Roland-Jones ripped through the Proteas top order by claiming the first four wickets.
‘If we go through it, at the end of the day you’ve got an experienced English setup of players. Forget the fact that Root is a young captain, you’ve got Cook who is an ex-captain, so they’ve made an interesting decision to take off a great fast bowler after three overs and bring on Roland-Jones.
‘I think they perhaps feel it’s a wicket where too much swing is not going to be as effective, but a bowler that bowls a good length is more effective and they’ve made a strategic decision, knowing and understanding the conditions.’
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After ending the afternoon session on 18-1, the tourists crumbled in an extended final session to make up for time lost to rain on day one. Abrahams expressed the view that the Proteas batsmen needed to take a leaf out of Cook’s book with regard to his approach throughout his 200-ball knock of 88.
‘We spoke about it at tea time, it’s an extended session, it’s going to be difficult for the batters. They have to adjust the way they’re going to play, get stuck in. Cook’s innings just showed how you have to play within yourself,’ Abrahams said.
The Proteas will begin day three 227 runs adrift of England’s first innings total, and in danger of being asked to follow on.
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