I’ve fallen out of love with watching England over the last few years; from watching every day of every test in 2018 I gave it a miss in 2019 and of course Covid then came along. In spite off loving watching cricket at Lord’s I doubt I’ll watch England there again the prices are just 2 high! I chose 2 of the white ball games England lost badly against India, but as I was sitting in the pavilion at The Oval I got a fancy for a day at the test and booked for Day 3at £85 for a seat in the front row of the Pavilion Terrace that felt like good value.
Events this week meant I was attending what was in effect Day 1; it also meant that I and the rest of the crowd saw some history made as Laura Wright sang God Save The King, I can only imagine how nervous she was! But she sang both that and the beautiful South African anthem perfectly.
Ben Stokes had won the toss for England on Day 1, and elected to put South Africa in to bat, 2 days later that still looked like a good decision. And so it proved to be!
With Ollie Robinson back and fit, he and the remarkable Jimmy Anderson opened the bowling. Anderson was 40 on 30th July and he is still as fit as a butchers dog! He has 666 wickets to his name, with only Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan sitting above him! The regard he’s held in is clear to see as ‘Oh Jimmy Jimmy’ rings out across every ground!
It’s always a delight to watch a legend in action, but on this day Jimmy played a bit part as far as wickets were concerned. England dismissed South Africa in just 36.2 overs. Robinson was literally unplayable, he took 5 for 49 in his 14 overs. The only 2 batters who put a fight were Khaya Zondo with 23 from 57 and Marco Jansen with 30 from 59.
Stuart Broad, who’s having to get used to being the first change bowler took 4 for 41 in his 12.2 overs, with Ben Foakes behind the stumps taking 4 good catches.South Africa were bowled out for 118. The decision to have Jack Leach bowl 2 overs before lunch was a strange one, Zondo hit the only 6 of the innings from Leach.
This was a perfect opportunity for England to build a good lead, however a pitch should only be judged when both teams have bowled. And this South African bowling unit is a very good one! I’m only going to write about what I saw, but amazingly England’s innings only lasted for 36.2 overs too!
Ollie Pope batting on his home wicket scored 67 from 77 balls batting for just over an hour, he was a delight to watch. It was also a delight to see Harry Brook making his debut. He’d taken his place in the slips alongside Joe Root a fellow Yorkie, he’d waited all summer and had gone into his selection with 967 runs in 8 matches at an average of 107.44, he then spent most of the summer watching cricket rather than playing it which is a shame. He’s a player who deserves a long run in the England team. However on nthsi occasion he only scored 12, hitting 2 lovely Fours as he got there.
Of the 7 wickets that fell on the day the most disappointing was that of Ben Stokes, he came in with the score on 107 for 4, he had the opportunity with Pope to get a good lead for his team, But no, having been dropped by Dean Elgar after hitting out he went for another Nortje ball and was caught, he’d face ed 9 balls and added only 6. England very promptly found themselves on 151 for 7. The day finished promptly when the umpires decided the light was bad and the batters shouldn’t continue.
England added only 7 runs for the last 3 wickets as Jansen took 5 for 35 in his 12.2 overs, they finished on 158, a lead of just 40.
As I’m writing England have bowled South Africa out for 169 in their second innings, Ben Stokes did bowl himself in this innings taking 3 for 39, Broad took another 3, Robinson and Anderson contributed 2 apiece. Captain Dean Elgar was the top scorer with 36 from 59 balls.
With 130 required England made 97 before the light metres came out again and play was stopped for the day with only 33 runs required. That has of course caused a meltdown in the social media world. Once the light reading has been set the umpires have no choice as daft as it often seems it’s about player safety.