Any England tour to South Africa brings with it drama on and off the field. ANDRE HUISAMEN reflects on five moments that defined the series.
Illness in the English camp
Joe Root mentioned the day before the start of the Boxing Day Test that he had never been as frustrated with the preparations of his team ahead of a Test, never mind a series. The English squad had multiple players under the weather, with many starting the opening match far from 100%. In total 11 players were affected, with Ollie Pope, Chris Woakes and Jack Leach all ruled out. Leach never recovered and was sent back to England as a result. Root, Jos Buttler and influential all-rounder Ben Stokes all spent large periods of time off the field as the visitors slumped to a 107-run defeat. The win arrested the Proteas’ winless run and sparked talk that the new coaching era under Mark Boucher had paid off.
Thank the Pope at Newlands
The Proteas started well with the ball on the first day of the second Test in Cape Town. England were at 127-4 when newbie Pope strolled to the middle and despite losing partners around him, he fought out the day by frustrating the bowlers. The English eventually slumped to 234-9, but some explosive hitting got him his half-century and took their total to 269 as Pope finished on 61 not out. What looked like a small total at first proved to be too much for the Proteas, who were dismissed for 223. Pope’s contribution proved to be the difference.
Faf throws it away
The Proteas were set a massive target of 438 to chase in their second innings and started the fifth and final day in Cape Town on 126-2. Following the dismissal of nightwatchman Keshav Maharaj, Du Plessis was tasked with producing one of his trademark blockathons to save the Test. And that’s what he set about doing and looked solid at the start by getting safely behind the ball in all-out defence. Then came a moment of madness as Du Plessis lost concentration and tried to slog spinner Dom Bess to the boundary. Instead he found Joe Denly at square leg, giving his wicket away at a crucial time to walk for 19 shortly before lunch.
Disastrous morning in PE
The Proteas were never in this one as England raced away to 499-9. Playing catch-up, the home side started the third day on 208-6 with Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander set overnight. With the follow-on in sight and poor weather circling the seaside town, Stuart Broad started the collapse getting rid of Philander first and then Kagiso Rabada. Industrious left-armer Sam Curran then sent De Kock back to the hut as the Proteas collapsed to 209, with just one run added to the score as the English romped to victory.
England tail wags
England found themselves in trouble at 269-7 on day two of the fourth Test at the Wanderers. The under-fire Proteas bowlers were bowling well and looked to limit England to under 300. The tail – Chris Woakes (32), Mark Wood (35) and Stuart Broad (43) – had other ideas as they effectively ended the series by adding 131 runs to take the visitors to 400.