I was travelling home from a 6 day holiday in Bruges when this first test of the summer started, England fell to 76 for 4 in the 23rd over, with Alastair Cook out for 3, Keaton Jennings 8, Gary Ballance 20 and a man who’s been a saviour for England so often, Jonny Bairstow out for 10.
That was a nightmarish start to Joe Root’s captaincy for his country, however he was of course at the crease and had been joined by Ben Stokes. As I wasn’t at the match until Day 4 I’m not going to go into too much detail, but my day at Lords was ensured by 2 partnerships Root and Stokes put on 114 with Stokes contributing 56 from 108 balls. Stokes was caught by de Kock from the bowling of Kagiso Rabada.
That is going to prompt comment, Rabada was clearly highly pleased to see Stokes go, as far as I can tell all Stokes did was look back, fairly disgusted with himself, Rabada however was heard to say F off loudly. That response has seen him rightly awarded 1 demerit point. He’d been awarded 3 demerit points for going arm to shoulder with Sri Lankan opener Dickwella (he’s not very tall), that incident was fairly innocuous, both men were smiling and there was very little force, 3 points seems excessive! However 3 plus 1 equals a ban and Rabada will not play at Trent Bridge. I bought and paid for my tickets last year (well someone else bought these particular tickets) and was already feeling cheated by the fact that AB de Villiers isn’t in England, that’s now added to by this exciting young player being excluded.
Back to the game, Stokes dismissal brought Moeen Ali to the crease, Moeen is one of the players who’s first on my team sheet, he’s scored key runs so many times for England as well as taken key wickets. Batting at 7 he brings a real strength to the England batting line up. Joe Root played captains innings, making his century on Day 1, he was stumped on 149, but a replay showed Maharaj had bowled a No Ball, unusual for a spinner. Root went on to score a mighty 190, falling 10 short of his double century he was caught by de Kock from the bowling of Morkel. He looked beyond disappointed but had saved the innings for his team.
Liam Dawson came in and faced just 2 balls before being out LBW to Morkel, not the best of starts in England for him. Moeen had played a patient innings and moved to 87 from 147 balls before being bowled by Rabada. Stuart Broad had come in at 9, having been hit in the face by the ball while batting against India in 2014 he’s rather lost his batting mojo for England. However on this day at Lords he found it again! He made a very useful 57 from 47 balls making him the 3rd highest scorer in this innings.
Mark Wood was despatched for a duck being caught LBW by Rabada, this brought Jimmy Anderson to the wicket. He made 12, including a huge six off Rabada before being caught by de Kock from the bowling of Morkel. That all added up to 458, not what I’d expected at all based on the first morning of play!
With no AB and no Faf the South African batting line up wasn’t the strongest, their innings saw no one player shine. One of their star batsmen Hashim Amla was out for 29, LBW to Moeen Ali, his was to be the first of 4 wickets for Moeen. Opener Heino Khan was out for cheap, caught by Cook from the bowling of Stuart Broad for 1. Dean Elgar hung in there, scoring 54 before Gary Ballance took a catch from the bowling of Moeen. South Africa were on 98 for 3, then promptly 104 for 4 as Duminy was LBW to Broad. The Sunday cricket was looking doubtful again.
South Africa’s middle order came to the rescue, Tevuma Bavuma with 59, Theunis de Bruyn 48, Kagiso Rabada 27, Quinton de Kock 51 and Vernon Philander with 52 saved my day at the cricket and helped take South Africa to 361.
England had a lead of 97, how many would they look to add to that, Cook and Jennings opened the second innings with Jennings making 33 before he was caught by de Kock from the bowling of Morkel. Gary Ballance, a man under a lot of pressure joined Cook and they both played steadily to take the score to 119 for 1 at the close of play. Cook had 59, Ballance 22 and that was where I came in. Vernon Philander had disappeared to hospital after being hit on the hand when batting, and didn’t bowl when he returned.
How many runs would England aim to get on the board before a declaration? Well, that was the question asked before the day started, but as it went that didn’t become an issue. The last time I’d been at Lords I saw South Africa destroy the England line up to have them at 20 for 6, that was white ball cricket, but this had an air of deja vu about it.
Cook only added 10 to his overnight score before a great catch by Bavuma from the bowling of Morkel saw him out for 69. At that point England were 139 for 2. They then lost the remaining 8 wickets for 94 runs! And that included a very fine innings from Jonny Bairstow who scored 51 of them and Mark Wood who had a great knock of 28.
The spinner took 4 for 85 and it was inevitable that Rabada should take Stokes’ wicket again. LBW this time, he made a point, putting his finger to his mouth as he advanced down the wicket. To say this collapse was a surprise is something of an understatement, it certainly kept most of the crowd in their seats. England were therefore all out for 233, a lead of 331. Looking at the likes of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock I did wonder if this game could be lost, but not for long.
England lost 8 wickets for 94 runs, South Africa lost all 10 for 119! Liam Dawson took the key wicket of Amla and another at the end as he had Morkel caught by Jennings. Jimmy Anderson ensure Kuhn was out early again as he was caught by Bairstow for 9. Mark Wood had Duminy caught by Moeen for 2. The seamers only bowled 10 overs between them on this Sunday at Lords.
I’ve listed the 4 wickets because Moeen Ali totally dominated the wicket taking proceedings with 6 for 53, giving him a total of 10 for the match and a place on the Lords honours board. England with Joe Root at the helm for the first time had beaten South Africa by 211 runs, with his own memorable 190 this will be one game he’ll never forget.
Moeen was rightfully given the Man of The Match accolade for his 10 wickets and 87 runs, hopefully the many who question his place in the team at times will now see his worth, he’s one of the first on my team sheet.