DateLine: 5th August 2017
By Andy Jalil at Old Trafford
England in commanding position in Fourth Test
Manchester – South Africa have a monumental task to save the fourth Test, with their first innings on 220 for nine at the end of day two, they trail by 142 runs. Their batsmen struggled throughout the innings particularly against the pace of James Anderson who finished with four for 33 while Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali picked up two wickets each.
South Africa began their first innings a quarter-of-an-hour before lunch and lost the first wicket to the third ball. Dean Elgar played across the line of an in-swinger from Anderson and was pinned in front of the stumps. South Africa expect much from Hashim Amla, undoubtedly a superb batsman who has not been in his best form in this series. It was only in the second Test at Trent Bridge that he was among the runs with 78 and 87 in the two innings.
On this occasion, he played some fluent strokes in his score of 30 from 35 balls and hit last of his four boundaries, a lovely flick to backward square leg before Toby Roland-Jones had him held behind on the leg side. The bowler had replaced Broad and he had struck early with only his third ball. Claiming the wicket of such a fine batsman would have been very pleasing to Roland-Jones particularly after having dismissed Amla in both innings of the last Test at The Oval when he made his Test debut.
Heino Kuhn, who has had a string of low scores in the series with a highest score of 34 in seven innings, batted with Temba Bavuma for fifteen overs taking the total to 84 before Moeen flighted a ball which Kuhn, on 24, edged very low to Ben Stokes at slip three overs before tea. A stand of 47 between Bavuma and Faf du Plessis took the tourists to 131 before Bavuma, four short of his second 50 of the series, having batted for two hours, left a ball from Anderson which came in to clip the top of off stump.
A run later South Africa were 132 for five with du Plessis, on 27, playing-on, inside edging the ball on to his stumps. With South Africa’s middle order unable to hold the innings together, Anderson struck again. Theunis de Bruyn’s push was edged to second slip off the shoulder of the bat and Anderson had taken three for six in 24 balls to reduce the tourists to 146 for six with the seventh wicket falling 21 runs later. Keshav Maharaj was looking for a big spin but the ball for Moeen went straight on to pin him lbw.
With six overs remaining for the day’s play, the tourists lost the eighth wicket. Quinton de Kock, the last among the recognised batsmen, on 24, having batted for an-hour-and-a-half, pushed at a good length ball only to get an edge for a catch behind. Finally, in the last over of the day, Stokes at gully took a superb catch inches off the ground, one-handed, diving to his left, off Broad to dismiss Kagiso Rabada.
Earlier, England resumed their first innings on 260 for six and lost the wicket of Toby Roland-Jones in the fifth over when he square drove Rabada into the hands of point. Moeen Ali played some delightfully wristy strokes, the first was to open his account with a four driven effortlessly to mid-on and his next scoring shot was a hook at a bouncer, followed with a pull at another bouncer with Rabada being the bowler to suffer each time.
Rabada hit back when Moeen, on 14, pushed casually and edged to second slip. Meanwhile Jonny Bairstow’s second four of the morning, a cover drive off Morne Morkel, had taken him to 45 and he brought up his seventeenth Test half century from 100 balls, taking the England total to 300. Stuart Broad didn’t last long as he played around a straight ball of full length from Morkel.
In an entertaining last wicket stand Bairstow piled on the runs. His beautiful straight drive of perfect timing off Rabada took him into the sixties after which he seemed to score freely on either side of the wicket. He took his score to 90 with a straight six and his 50-run partnership – in which he had 46 from 36 balls – with Anderson came from 49 balls. But on 99, with the England total 362, he looked for a single to leg, off Maharaj, and fell lbw. It was a fine innings over three-and-a-quarter hours and Bairstow would have fully deserved what would have been his fourth Test century. Rabada finished with four for 91.
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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