By lunchtime on Saturday we should have a clear indication of the destiny of the first Test at Lord’s, with the new ball likely to be taken the moment it becomes available, writes GARY LEMKE.
The toss, won by England’s Joe Root on Thursday, has proved to be an important one. By the end of the first day, with the hosts having got themselves ahead and building scoreboard pressure – helped by an ordinary South African fielding display – there were already signs of a pitch starting to deteriorate.
Joe Root’s imperious hundred on the opening day helped set England up for a first innings total that quickly seemed enough to at least ensure the hosts were getting into a position from where they couldn’t lose.
South Africa did what they needed to, early on the second day, nipping out Root, but as the hosts edged over 400 they began to wilt as Stuart Broad again showed what a dangerous lower-order batsman he is with another quick fifty. And there were times when the short ball was over-used as Broad and No 11 Jimmy Anderson helped themselves to a handful of pulled boundaries in a 10th-wicket stand of 45 which gave a gloss to the innings.
At comparative stages of the two innings, there was nothing between the two sides. England, in fact, were four wickets down before South Africa were (76 as opposed to 104) and then both teams had good fifth wicket partnerships (114 for England and 99 for South Africa). So, drawing a line between the two teams, some might say that there was little between them.
Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn battled manfully, but the ball – especially the spinning delivery from Moeen Ali, who might have been under-bowled – was giving us signs of what direction the second half of this match seemed destined to be taking. Batting is going to get more and more difficult as the Lord’s pitch bakes under the summer sun, the cracks widen and the up and down bounce becomes more common.
South Africa, although well behind the black ball, will still feel they have a fighting chance – but the outcome of this Test match could be determined in the first session on Saturday.
Kagiso Rabada came in as nightwatchman to join Bavuma with eight minutes of play left on Friday and looked organised enough in his stay at the crease to suggest he can stick around for a bit against the old ball in the morning. Also, South Africa will take heart from the fact that next man in is Quinton de Kock. He’s comfortable against the new ball that will be taken, having opened the batting for his country plenty of times in limited-overs cricket and even being considered for that slot in Tests.
But, if South Africa manage to get to within 100 runs of England’s first innings total – which requires another 144 runs – they will probably have done well. Anything less and England will fancy their chances of batting South Africa out of the game and giving themselves enough time to bowl the Proteas out on a pitch that is getting more and more difficult for batting.
The Proteas are not completely out of the picture, but they are going to need an impressive first session on Saturday to ensure they don’t lose this Test match. The second new ball will be taken in another 12 overs.
The second day was undeniably one in which England continued their dominance over the Proteas, starting with the T20s and extending to the ODIs, but there were patches of South African resilience. Sadly, for their supporters, they still look a shadow of the team that once ruled the world.
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