England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 14, 2017

South Africa steady themselves after Lord's horror show

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South Africa 309 for 6 (Philander 54*, Morris 23*) v England
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Advantage SA after brave du Plessis calls?

South Africa needed a response after their 211-run defeat in the first Test of the series at Lord's and the memories of their second-innings collapse were put behind them on an evenly-contested opening day at Trent Bridge.

Nevertheless, it might have been even better. The loss of four wickets for 56 runs in 15 overs immediately after tea - an interval during which South Africa had been excellently placed at 179 for 2 - was a haphazard period which invited England back into the second Investec Test and rewarded a day in which James Anderson and Stuart Broad, in particular, persisted with an experienced air, drawing help where they could on a slow surface.

Anderson became the first Test bowler to reach 300 Test wickets in home Tests, while Broad was the day's most successful, and insistent, bowler with 3 for 47. As their Test tallies build, and their status as one of England's most prolific fast-bowling pairs is further implanted, their respective Test averages remain locked around 28.5 as if somehow it has been pre-ordained that it must always be this way.

England's optimism had been tested in an afternoon session in which Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock took command on an easy-paced pitch, gambolling along at more than four an over as they added 123 between lunch and tea. If Amla possessed the munificence of a warm sun, uncluttered by clouds, alongside him de Kock, promoted to No. 4, was as playful as a sunbeam dancing upon a car windscreen.

That sunbeam disappeared instantly after tea - de Kock, on 68, chopping at a length ball from Broad and depositing it into the hands of Alastair Cook at first slip. Amla seemed to have settled back into his orderly routine, but on 78 he succumbed to Broad, too, as a top-edged pull sailed to Mark Wood to deep square leg: a shot where he had been a little flighty more than once.

Nobody can fairly claim to have Amla's measure, but Broad can claim it more than most: he has now dismissed him eight times in Tests and no bowler has achieved as many.

Du Plessis and Temba Bavuma both fell to wicketkeeper catches off Ben Stokes and, if Bavuma's departure was routine, a comfortable catch as he failed to withdraw the bat, the manner of du Plessis' dismissal will have delighted the England dressing room, and no-one more so than their wicketkeeping coach Bruce French.

Du Plessis imagined his review would be successful, knowing the ball had struck his hip, but there was also the merest hint of a glove - umpire Paul Reiffel having made either a brilliant or fortunate decision - and so attention turned to the catch itself, a leaping affair down the leg-side as Bairstow clutched the ball one-handed. He pulled off a similar catch to dismiss Bavuma at Lord's and in both cases displayed a spring and lightness on his feet that would have been unimaginable a year ago.

Vernon Philander drives through the covers during second half-century of the series © Getty Images

After South Africa's extravagance, came a recovery from the sixth-wicket pair Vernon Philander and Chris Morris, who added 74 to take them to stumps at 309 for 6, and survived the second new ball in the process, the last delivery of the day falling mockingly short of England's captain Joe Root at second slip. Philander's flowing off drives stressed that he is a batsman of some quality, one who should not regard his seventh Test half-century as the height of his ambition.

Anderson's 300th Test wicket in England had been a statistical landmark in an otherwise mournful start to the Test with only 23 overs possible on a blustery morning briefly interrupted by a flurry of rain. He wangled the wicket of Dean Elgar, drawing him into an insecure drive at a slightly wide one and winning his wicket courtesy of a fine, diving catch to his right by Liam Dawson at backward point. Elgar, who can be a bit of a stodge when conditions are testing, would have berated himself for that.

There was uncertainty for Heino Kuhn, too, who took a blow on the back of the helmet in Wood's first over. Wood, displaying a hostility at the start of his first spell that he did not quite sustain, beat Kuhn for pace with his fourth delivery and caused the batsman to turn away and take the blow. Earlier, he had also taken a blow on the bottom hand from Broad, discomfort aplenty which was sure to ginger up England's seamers. The loss of only one wicket by lunch represented decent damage limitation.

Kuhn represented England's one wicket in the afternoon, a wicket well won as he was subjected to a succession of induckers by Broad, in particular, and eventually dragged one on.

Less impressive for England was their wasting of two reviews, on either side of lunch, in their anxiety to make progress. They reviewed a rejected lbw appeal against Amla, on 14, the batsman surviving survived courtesy of an inside edge and a front pad outside the line, neither of which had not entered the computation of a clearly enthusiastic bowler, Stokes. Broad, also voracious when it comes to reviews, then lost a review because the ball was too high.

Joe Root, a new captain, looked somewhat biddable as both reviews fell on stony ground. On the second occasion, his predecessor in the job, Cook, offered a few quiet words alongside him at slip. Cook might have been just expressing relief that the decision was no longer his, but if he was advising Root to temper first-term ambition with realism it would have been no bad thing.

Amla and de Kock dominated the afternoon. Amla started uncertainly and Anderson, in particular, taunted his outside edge and, on 37, forced an edge which fell agonisingly short of Root at second slip.

Amla ticked along with leg-side nudges but saved his biggest shots for the square boundaries on the off side. He reached his half-century with a blissful straight six against Liam Dawson, who entered the attack 10 overs before Moeen Ali. A pecking order designed to take the pressure off Moeen might yet put the pressure on England and it could remain a talking point of the summer.

De Kock's insatiable appetite for adventure has made South Africa reluctant to card him in the middle order but they were rewarded for their boldness. Many will regard his promotion as unwise - comparable perhaps to fielding the great Australian wicketkeeping No. 7 Adam Gilchrist up the order - and would certainly argue the case for him to come in behind du Plessis at five. But, for all the misadventure of his get-out shot, there is a roundness to his game that suggests he has the aptitude to cope and his four boundaries in quick succession off Dawson and Wood helped seize the initiative.

Anderson's was not the only statistic of the day. Amla had gone past 8,000 Test runs and another landmark was also marked as the impending retirement of Henry Blofeld, the long-serving Test Match Special commentator, was marked by his very own bus - a green one named in his honour which one hopes will draw highly-coloured bursts of adjectival delight from generations to come. There was also a replica to go with it, presented no less by the Sheriff of Nottingham - a local councillor of upstanding repute, rather than the lecherous Robin Hood villain.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mashuq on July 15, 2017, 18:42 GMT

    Again I heartily endorse a post, this time @CluelessJani 'what makes SA team so colourful and likable is the composition of the side. so from an outside pov quota system is good.' As a South African who is not a Protea supporter for personal-historical reasons, I can only applaud such sentiments One grows so tired of one or other (perhaps generation-linked) critic: the sanctimonious self-righteous posters who never having had their (cricketing/non-cricketing) lives blighted through injustice or the ignorant/denialist posters too shortsighted to appreciate how the prospects of the havenots remain in abeyance sacrificed on the altar of the gradualist expansion of facilities to these lesser-privileged for whom targeted players serve as appeasement of their country's conscience Finally the many critics abroad who identify our quotas with the reservation system in their homeland from which they/others may/may not have suffered and too-quickly transpose to a different country- like AA in USA

  • samjas2503828 on July 15, 2017, 11:01 GMT

    can anybody answer me why butler is not playing in this series?

  • nmehal0608822 on July 15, 2017, 10:47 GMT

    stop caring for rashid so much please!you guys were questioning his selection in the indian tour where he was going for 4 rpo.he was good in first 2 tests but then they figured out that it is better to wait for those loose deleveries to score.check out his stats in the last 3 tests.very poor.but still convinced of dawson.rashid will be milked very easily down under.pleade,ni anderson for the ashes.not efficient.

  • malhar1424912 on July 15, 2017, 10:36 GMT

    Complete diar straits. 335 all out in first half an hour. Whole innings felt apart for proteas.

  • malhar1424912 on July 15, 2017, 10:16 GMT

    Early strike as expected. Now its going to be further more calamities.

  • malhar1424912 on July 15, 2017, 9:10 GMT

    South Africa are badly struggling and there seems to be no respite for them from here on in. They have reached the point of no return. Its sorry state is going to be like that of westindies and Australia. Big Loss for the international cricket as it is going to loose another test team because of t20 leagues.

  • grant on July 15, 2017, 8:57 GMT

    RDARLI1119786 we need quotas to get the untapped talent of the poor. Without it the game is then just for the elite and not all. If you are not involved with it you would not understand it.

  •   cricfan1607448465 on July 15, 2017, 8:45 GMT

    England without Morgan, Butler looking incomplete.

  • malhar1424912 on July 15, 2017, 8:08 GMT

    England has serious problem in its top order. Cook needs to play his natural aggressive game and remain positive . Or else balance should open with hameed. 1 balance 2 hameed 3 root 4 cook 5 stokes 6 bairstow 7 Ali 8 rashid 9 wood 10 broad 11 jimmy Anderson.

  • malhar1424912 on July 15, 2017, 8:01 GMT

    @ASH -keeping test players away from t20 leagues. Ipl , big bash and new global league which will soon start would do them world of favours. Because two months in IPL and preparation needed before and rest after t20 leagues of 15 day each. Which makes it one more month. That means three months in vain behind IPL. And with global league soon to start they will soon be spending half the year playing t20s. Its going to harm south African cricket big time.

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