DateLine: 4th August 2017
By Andy Jalil at Old Trafford
South Africa restrict England batsmen in Fourth Test
Manchester Ė There were no outstanding performances in the England innings but with the help of two half centuries, by Joe Root and Ben Stokes and Alastair Cook, who missed his by four runs, England ended the first day of the fourth Test on 260 for six.
South Africa were forced to make two changes from the last Test with Vernon Philander, who had been ill during the third Test and Chris Morris suffering from back spasms. Replacing them were pace bowler Duanne Olivier and all-rounder Theunis de Bruyn. As England lead 2-1, the tourists can only draw the series and history is against them to win on this ground where in nine Tests their only win was back in 1955. England remained unchanged from their victorious side at The Oval.
Having decided to make first use of a grassless pitch, England made a steady start but on 35, lost the wicket of Keaton Jennings for 17. Jennings got an outside edge to Olivier who had replaced Morne Morkel, as he tentatively went half forward. He has now had seven innings in this series with a highest score of 48 and an aggregate of 109 giving him an average of just 15.57. Unless he comes up with a very big second innings score, Englandís quest for an opening partner for Cook is likely to continue with the Test series against West Indies to follow later this month.
At lunch England were 67 for one with Cook and his Essex team-mate Tom Westley on defensive a 31 and 19 respectively. But the eighth over into the second session brought Cookís dismissal when, on 46 from 103 balls, he got a thin edge from his rather casual looking drive off spinner Kashav Maharaj. Of his six fours, the straight drive which whistled past the bowler was an example in timing. England were 92 then and on the same score, three overs later, Westley fell for 29.
Westley, in his second Test match showed some confidence after his half century in his debut Test but it was a combination of a good ball and an excellent catch that brought his downfall. The line and length of the ball from Kagiso Rabada was perfect and Westley playing at it defensively got an outside edge which was held one-handed at full length by Quinton de Kock behind the stumps.
The second half-century stand followed between Root and Dawid Malan. The latter had scores of only one and ten in the last Test when he made his debut and this time on 18 he decided to go for a big drive, reaching for a ball from Morne Morkel outside off stump he edged the shot to second slip and England were 144 for four in the penultimate over before tea.
Root, who was on 32 at the fall of the wicket was fortunate when he got an edge to a ball from Morkel and astonishingly the wicket-keeper didnít make an attempt to catch as the ball went to the boundary between him and first slip. It was clearly a ball for de Kock and he has picked up catches in this series that were further away from him. Root went on to bring up his half century from 91 balls and on 52, in attempting to flick Olivier off his legs, he was trapped lbw. It was pretty clear and a review that Root asked for was wasted by England.
Jonny Bairstow joined Stokes and got off the mark with a lovely square drive to mid-wicket. On the same score a review went in Englandís favour when a catch at second slip by Faf du Plessis was disallowed. From the side angle the camera showed the fieldsmanís fingers were just about under the ball but the front angle showed it may not have been so. Stokes, who had earlier driven Olivier beautifully to the wide mid-wicket boundary, drove him again for four to extra cover and then took his score to 32 with an elegant cover drive for four.
On 44, he edged Morkel past second slip for four, it would have been a simple catch if a third slip had been positioned there. Following his century in the last Test, Stokes brought up his fifty from 89 balls and on 58, in the penultimate over of the day, he received a thundering yorker from Rabada which crashed into the bottom of the middle stump. Bairstow, with two fours off Olivier in the final over remained unbeaten on 33.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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