With 15 wickets falling on a dramatic second day at Trent Bridge, South Africa are well in control of a Test match which should see them level the series, writes GARY LEMKE.
We have seen a different South Africa to the one which has been on tour for the past couple of months and the intensity, desire and spirit has come to the fore. It’s no co-incidence that it’s come from a team captained by Faf du Plessis, who has also restored the belief in the bowlers, batsmen and fielding.
This Test is not yet halfway done and yet, with a commanding lead of 205 and nine wickets remaining in their second innings, the Proteas are bossing things. The pitch has not been to blame. In fact, it is still allowing the players to hit through the line of the ball, although the cloud cover has given the bowlers plenty of assistance.
Of those 15 wickets to fall on day two, 12 batsmen were out, caught. That shows the ball hasn’t behaved spitefully, keeping low or spitting off the deck.
The modern Test batsman has been affected by the advance in quick scoring required for 50-overs, and especially the ‘importance’ of Twenty20, which is why there are so many more balls hit in the air and risks taken.
The run rates of the three innings so far have been 3.47 an over (South Africa), 3.95 (England) and 3.40 (South Africa) and even England’s captain and best batsman, Joe Root, who came in to bat in the fifth over with the score on 3-2, made his 78 runs off 76 balls.
Root made batting look easy and he’s a class act, but with it comes risks. South Africa also held their catches, something they didn’t do at Lord’s, and catches win matches. Those seven in the England first innings, seeing them go from 3-2 to 143-3 to 209 all out, highlighted that point.
If the weather holds firm one would expect South Africa try to bat for around 80 more overs – at the current run rate of 3.40 that would push them well above 300 and give them a lead of over 450, and two full days in which to take 10 England wickets.
While the seamers have done plenty damage, Keshav Maharaj continues to improve with his left-arm orthodox delivery. He picked up three wickets for 21 runs from his 10 overs. Two of them were big fish, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, and he helped rip the heart out of the dangerous England middle-order.
It would take something extraordinary for England to get back into this Test, and the bookmakers have acknowledged that. They are offering odds of 16-1 for the draw – which suggests they have looked at the weather forecast and ruled out rain ruining this match. South Africa are at short odds of 10-60 (every R60 wagered you make a R10 profit) and England at 6-1.
The Proteas will look to continue their positive approach and bat England out of the game, leaving the combination of scoreboard pressure and a bowling unit enjoying the conditions, to do the rest.
This Trent Bridge pitch won’t get easier to bat on when it comes to day four and five – although day five seems a long way down the road, given how quickly the match has moved on – and South Africa’s dressing room is the more comfortable place to be this week.
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