8th over: South Africa 26-1 (Elgar 17, Hamza 0) Broad is stump to stump to Hamza straight away, clearly working to a plan. With his third ball to him he finds the outside edge, bouncing before it reaches gully but another good sign. We all know what a confidence bowler he is. Oooi, he finishes his wicket maiden with a beauty, pitching middle and off before seaming away gorgeously and evading the edge.
WICKET! Malan c Root b Broad 5 (South Africa 26-1)
This edge goes to hand! First ball of his new over, Broad has Malan steering the easiest of catches to Root at first slip. That looked a good matchup for England and it has paid off. Needless to say, they really needed that early breakthrough.
7th over: South Africa 26-0 (Elgar 17, Malan 5) Edge, four! Anderson is doing the yards against Elgar and has won the edge with the final ball of another handy over but it lands in front of the cordon before skipping away to the rope. Frustrating.
6th over: South Africa 20-0 (Elgar 11, Malan 5) Broad to Malan and he’s beating him with a lovely delivery moving away from the blade with his second offering. He’s a touch wide of the off-stump by the end of the set but I’m sure he’ll back himself against a man on debut if he can get a few consistent overs in at him.
“Good morning Adam from a hot, sunny Cape Town.” Sounds fantastic coming from where I am in chilly North London, Trevor Tutu. “Yesterday your colleague, Tim, suggested that my son, who was going to Newlands’ to barrack the Barmy Army, would not have a very good time of it. He was right, but not in the way Tim meant. My son reports that while Stokes and Root were still in, they were all having a really good time, and that banter and repartee were exchanged in good humour. But, that as soon as the England collapse began, it put a pall over the proceedings. He says banter, which would have drawn a swift retort, before went unanswered.” Sports fans – we are fickle. I don’t think that’s a nationality thing.
5th over: South Africa 20-0 (Elgar 11, Malan 5) Anderson is giving the ball a chance in terms of where he is pitching it but there isn’t a lot going on here in terms of lateral movement. Elgar has played a lot of cricket and will know that if he can get through the first hour here, it is going to be a dream to bat on later. In turn, he’s taking no risks, picking up a couple with soft hands past gully to finish.
4th over: South Africa 17-0 (Elgar 9, Malan 4) Better from Broad too, keeping Elgar in defence from around the wicket. Nasser notes that he no longer has a third slip, that catcher redeployed to extra cover after those two boundaries. “Anderson and Broad hate going for runs,” he says, noting that Root has been integral in getting the tall quick to pitch the baller fuller over the last couple of years. He’s very close to finish his maiden, jagging back at the left-hander and finding his inside egde.
3rd over: South Africa 17-0 (Elgar 9, Malan 4) Anderson settles well, giving Malan nothing in and around that off-stump line. He plays out the maiden watchfully.
“Good afternoon.” Hello, Amod Paranjape. “Will this be the last series of Joe Root as Captain to preserve Joe Root the batsman?” It’s getting easier to buil that case, I’m afraid. He’s smart enough to know that. But we have a long way to go here.
2nd over: South Africa 17-0 (Elgar 9, Malan 4) Elgar gets his first boundary early on too, timing a full Broad delivery wide of mid-off for four. There’s no batswing required there – all timing. Those feel really good. Broad, around the wicket, immediately drags his length back and has the left-hander leaving close to his off-stump. The over gets very expensive at the end though, Broad’s angle cutting Elgar in half and also beating Buttler, running away for four byes. Unlucky. But to finish he’s again too full, as he was to begin the over, so the left-hander takes full advantage through the cover region on this occasion. They’re off to a flyer.
“We’re a bit self selecting here, enthusiasts who follow OBO at any and all hours but reducing the days makes no sense to me in that… at 5, it’s a very different game,” is the very reasonable assessment of Peter Gibbs. “4 days promotes more sloggery and perhaps a narrower range of abilities and we have plenty of that in its’ purest form at the other end of the scale. 5 days is a different game, not better or worse. 4 days is reductive.”
To quote Derek Pringle on twitter yesterday on that same line: “Over the centuries Test cricket has evolved into the highest form of the game to be played over five days. Lopping a day off to secure its survival is like removing one horn from a black rhino to make it less attractive to poachers… barmy.”
1st over: South Africa 5-0 (Elgar 1, Malan 4) Anderson is right where he needs to be at Elgar, who gets off the mark with a compact push to cover. Pieter Malan’s turn, the 30-year-old playing his debut Test innings here. The Newlands crowd know their cricket and give him a solid round of applause when the new right-hander defends the first ball from the middle of his bat. They’re even happier when he gets off the mark from the final ball of the over with a lovely cut shot, putting it away past the vacant point region. A classy way to get out of the blocks.
“The question to ask here is – will the four-day format benefit cricket?” asks Abhijato Sensarma on our topic of four-day Tests. “There will be more aggressive batting from the batsmen, and lesser importance or time given to defence. This may lead to an erosion of technique as well as the spirit of the purest form of the game we hold so dear. Excessively defensive bowling is likely become a feature too. Of course, one cannot deny this will increase the format’s commercial viability at a time the format is being neglected financially. The players will benefit if the ‘trickle down effect’ is to be believed. It is not. Also, another argument put forward about giving players breathing space in their workload is not convincing – more LOIs will probably be fitted in during this period of vacancy by the ever-greedy administrators. Frankly, I do not mind four-day cricket. But it should be an option for sides to opt for, not compulsory.”
The players are back on the field. Jimmy has the ball in his hand and Dean Elgar is taking strike for the Proteas. PLAY!
I’m looking forward to watching Dom Bess bowl. I spoke to his Somerset coach about the offspinner’s 18 months in the wilderness after his two Tests in 2018.
“What say I?” asks Jane Evans of four-day Tests. “Nooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
This is a view consistent across my inbox. I’m fairly sure I know what administrators would say to that: you all love Test cricket anyway and this isn’t about you. They know we’re hooked and will keep coming back regardless. Hmm.
It appears as though an incorrect email address was popped in the top of the OBO, so some of your emails might not have reached me. That’s fixed now. Apologies.
Some more on four-day Tests during the change. “I say I’m really looking forward to contemplating sunny skies on the non-existent fifth day of a Test that’s been given up as a draw because of rain earlier in the match,” tweets @ejhchess.
Indeed. Andrew Samson, the TMS stats guru (currently working for SEN radio in Australia) noted in their coverage overnight that through the last decade, the average overs bowled per day is 79. Of course, weather and shocking over rates contrbute to that figure. His/my point: it’s a waste of time using 98 overs per day as the benchmark when building the case that fifth days aren’t required anymore.
“Hi Adam.” Hi, Tim Maitland. “Given the availability of floodlights and the fact that the DRS-era game is significantly different to the ‘good old days’ when you could take a big stride, hide your bat behind your pad and be given not out all day, you could argue that a review of whether 5 days is better than 4 has never made more sense. I can’t help feeling they’re fiddling while Rome burns. The far more obvious answer to test cricket’s problems in attracting crowds is switching to the day-night test, isn’t it?”
I’m with you on the second point. We now have a dependable pink ball, so let’s use it more often if that’s what it takes. I’m also in favour of throwing a pink ball out there to stop players coming off for bad light if floodlights are available. Just until the close, that is. Then back to the red one when they resume the next day.
Here’s that final wicket.
ENGLAND ALL-OUT 269! WICKET! Anderson c van der Dussen b Rabada 4.
Anderson steers Rabada into the hands of van der Dussen at first slip, ending this tenth wicket stand at 35. He was down there after a misjudgment from Pope from the first ball of the over, digging a yorker out to midwicket and calling two but there was never two there. But he did really well, walking off unbeaten on 61.
91st over: England 268-9 (Pope 60, Anderson 4) Nortje has the pace to keep Pope quiet as they continue the strike-milking game. He doesn’t take the singles to cover and can’t make contact with the short stuff when it eventually arrives at the tail end of the over. He does get a run for the tally, via a bouncer that is called as a wide by Paul Reiffel for leaping too high. The touring supporters are loving that. He rebowls the final ball and the Surrey man makes room to bunt a length delivery over mid-off for the single they crave to keep him on strike. That’s the way.
“I agree that I think it is a done deal to make 4 day test cricket,” says Damian Horton. “I expect the main reason is it makes financial sense to drop day 5 (nothing to do with players!!). Day 5 often has the full expense of staff, food, security etc but often doesn’t have the revenue due to refunds for no play or discounted/free tickets and tickets only sold on the day (hard to plan for). 4 day tests would be more profitable in Aus and England but more critically the only way to make financial sense in other countries.”
My short response is that four-day Tests probably have their place. But to mandate them for the World Test Championship is a whole other thing. I get why New Zealand are keen on them, for example, given how infrequently they get to play. Indeed, take Bangladesh too who have been showed so little respect from Cricket Australia – not hosted for a Test since 2003 – maybe a pair of four-day fixtrues would get that over the line. Not that such bad behaviour should be rewarded.
90th over: England 266-9 (Pope 59, Anderson 4) Very good from Jimmy, getting the first ball of the day safely down to third man to give the strike to Pope. The young man makes solid contact with a drive to the man at cover to begin before flicking two confident runs through midwicket. Rabada goes short to Pope in response, who gets underneath it. To finish, he gets resourceful with a snuffle outside the leg stump to open up the offside, eventually hacking a quick single to square leg to keep the strike for the next over. They’ve managed that really well.
The players are on the field at Newlands. Right, how long can this final England pair drag it out? Jimmy Anderson is down at the business end to begin, facing Kagiso Rabaga. Never an easy task. He has a couple of slips and a gully. PLAY!
Speaking of that Test in Sydney… look away now if you are triggered by news that Australia have found an out-and-out superstar number three batsman. Marnus Labuschagne took his overnight ton and made it a double. That’s the fourth time in six Tests this home summer that’s he has reached three figures. What a ride he has had since coming in for Steve Smith as a concussion sub at Lord’s in August. Would you believe, now in his 22nd Test innings, he has the second highest average ever with only Bradman ahead of him. Yep – he’s overtaken Steve Smith.
In favour of four-day Test cricket? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia boss, was talking them up again on radio during the Australia v New Zealand Test overnight. To me, I regret to say, this is starting to feel like a done deal for the next World Test Championship cycle. What say you?
It looks a stuning morning at Cape Town on the telly. Another great day to bat. Mark Ramprakash, who has been a revelation as a TV pundit on Sky since giving up the batting coaching gig – so measured, so soothing – is talking up Ollie Pope and I’m all for that. Ben Stokes is now being interviewed pitchside. “I’m not sure what to put my finger on,” he says when expressing his frustration at England giving up their starts. He adds that he is fully fit for bowling duty today.
Welcome to day two at Newlands. Just typing that venue name still gives me a mild cast of PTSD: the last time I was there I was commentating when Cam Bancroft shoved a square of sandpaper down his pants. But I digress.
In Cape Town, you get one of the hardest and best tracks in the world to bat on. It’s why Vic Marks said last night that the opening day was the type to make England’s bowlers very cross. With the exception of Zak Crawley, all of England’s specialist batsmen got into the game and reached at least 29, yet none made it beyond 47 with the exception of Ollie Pope, who resumes today on 56 with the visitors 262-9.
It was a familiar tale, those wasted starts. The look on Ben Stokes’ face said it all when he gave catching practice to cover after batting like a dream until three runs short of a half-century. They’re now well behind the game and relying on the old firm of Anderson and Broad – along with a supporting cast of Curran, Stokes and Dom Bess (much more on him later) to get them out of jail on this second day.
Before that, the hosts, excellent with the ball again yesterday – aren’t they always? – have to end this frustrating tenth wicket stand, currently worth 28 between Pope and Jimmy Anderson. The former took to ramping by the close last night, such was his confidence. What they would give for even half an hour of additional, productive resistance this morning. We’ll find out soon. Good morning to you all.