The highly anticipated competition that is the Global Test Championship has arrived. In the first match of the GTC, and my first match in charge of the England side, it was pivotal that we started as we meant to go on in search for global glory.
James Anderson (3-63 & 1-29) had a very odd match in the field with 3 drops and 2 catches in a contrasting set of catching from the veteran.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, we got off to a bad start with Burns and Jennings departing for single figures. The visitors had the ball swinging and seaming around and were causing havoc amongst the ranks. With the fast bowling trio of Steyn, Philander and Rabada dominating early on it was a big surprise to see the next wicket to fall to spin. Up step Keshav Maharaj.
Root was emphatically bowled for 13 in Maharaj’s first delivery.
Stokes had adapted nicely into his innings in his unfamiliar role at 3 with signs that he could become a future top order batsman. Steyn had continued to run in from the Pavilion End steaming up towards and in excess of 90mph and was rewarded as Stokes was dismissed from a flying catch by De Kock. With lunch looming, Buttler was the next to go for an unspectacular 21, Maharaj taking his second of four victims in the first innings.
Quinton De Kock (17 & 31) took 7 sharp catches behind the stumps including Stokes in an error-free display.
We were hovering at 89-5 at Lunch and the return didn’t inspire immediate confidence. Foakes couldn’t replicate his Sri Lanka heroics, falling to Maharaj for 1 and left us 105-6 coming into the tail. Woakes and Moeen Ali contributed the highest partnership of the innings with 42 but the pressure from the accurate Proteas was relentless with Mo departing for a composed 34 to the consistent Philander.
An incredible performance from Keshav Maharaj (4-26 & 4-28 ) including 12 maidens in 37 economical overs, spinning English batsman inside out and winning MOM.
South Africa wanted to wrap up the three remaining wickets and support for the lower order was in short supply, Curran (1) and Broad (11) falling before Woakes trying to accelerate was out for 40, the top score in the innings. We had been bowled out inside 60 overs from hostile, accurate and economical bowling mixed in with poor shot selection and stroke play. (England 181 Woakes 40 Stokes 35 ; Maharaj 4-26 Philander 3-30 Steyn 3-50)
We needed early wickets but Anderson and Broad couldn’t find a good line and length in home conditions for Broad. The breakthrough was made as Foakes cushioned an outside edge from Elgar off Broad. Unlike South Africa, we were expensive and poor with our bowling and were made to pay.
Aiden Markram and Hashim Amla scored at a flowing rate with catches going down and edges flying through slips and gullies especially of Woakes. Sam Curran (0-44) struggled with the slope and terrain that Trent Bridge posed and his pace differential from the rest of our seamers was evident to see as he was an easy picking with his left arm seam. Markram’s half century demonstrated his onside preference scoring over half of his runs through the vacant midwicket area. Amla soon brought up his fifty with the Proteas taking full control of the Test match.
South Africa had been positive whilst laying a strong platform for the Proteas to build on and reached 144-1 before two quick wickets gave us a glimmer of hope. Moeen Ali found some extra turn and bounce to find the leading edge to Curran at short leg before Jimmy Jimmy Anderson, roared on by the Barmy Army, found the prized wicket of Markram in the penultimate over with Curran and Root juggling a catch at slip together.
England’s fielding was a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly costing vital South African runs.
A peach of a delivery from Woakes cannoned into Bavuma’s stumps in the opening overs of the second day giving England the upper hand for the first time in the match. Roared on by the home Barmy Army, fans favourite James Anderson picked up 3-63 in South Africa’s first innings including the valuable wicket of Faf Du Plessis. du Plessis was peppered with consecutive bouncers before succumbing to LBW to a slower and straighter delivery in a well constructed plan from England’s head honcho of the attack.
Moeen Ali (4-61 & 1-36) plus 45 with the bat, kickstarted a mini collapse in South Africa’s first innings, extracting similar bounce and turn to Maharaj but not to the same reward.
Ali found the edge of De Kock (17) through to Foakes before a huge ripping delivery from the off spinner turned viciously off the rough and into the off stump of left handed Phehlukwayo (1) as South Africa had collapsed from 144-1 to 199-7 in a spell of accurate and improved bowling from the hosts.
Philander and bowling heroic Maharaj derailed the England storm towards a lower deficit punishing a variety of lengths and lines but crucially remaining composed and patient – a demonstration to the middle order perhaps? 53 runs came from the 8th wicket partnership with Philander reaching his 9th half century frustrating the home faithful. Maharaj’s (18) resistance was broken by Anderson with another clever set up by the wily seam bowler.
Anderson had halted England’s charge dropping two earlier catches from Woakes, but the Warwickshire seamer took his second of the match as Philander edged to gully where Ali took the catch – a position Anderson was removed from.
A lot had been made of our catching during and before the GTC began and Anderson finally caught one but annoyingly for England, 45 runs were put on for the last wicket with NO.11 Dale Steyn hammering 33NO off 37 in a counter attacking knock leaving the Proteas leading by 133. (South Africa 314 Markram 70 Philander 59 ; Ali 4-61 Anderson 3-63.)
Keaton Jennings had a difficult start to the GTC with his place under threat with his vulnerability to seam despite his heroics in the Sri Lankan series.
Burns and Jennings opened up aiming to improve on the first innings but Burns (7) went down in flames to half centurion Philander. We were soon two wickets down as Lancashire opener Jennings was well caught for 6 by fielding specialist Bavuma from the bowling of Steyn.
Test captain Root was undone once again by Maharaj with a googly not picked and finding the edge through to De Kock, in a tough test for England’s top order against an accurate and hostile bowling attack.
Stokes and Buttler defied expectations from the crowd and the pundits, playing maturely and aggressively when necessary as the Proteas showed the first signs of vulnerability in the face of attack. Stokes was the higher scorer of the pair and made his first half century at 3 and continued to motor on.
Two impressive performances from Stokes as his batting was valued more than his bowling in an unfamiliar role at 3.
With the fifty run partnership up, Stokes counter attacking knock was ended as a lacklustre shot towards mid on resulted in a very lame dismissal and a chance of a century seemingly thrown away. Maharaj replicated his first innings form taking a key wicket in Moeen Ali as captain Faf took a superb catch at second slip as England edged over into the lead.
Foakes and Buttler progressed on England’s lead with the aim to add on runs to be in the game when the Proteas bat. Both played in a conservative style defending and leaving well whilst attacking on the occasions the seamers and Maharaj strayed away from the tight length and lines. Successfully seeing out Day 2’s close, the pair continued to add on the runs most notably off Rabada and Phehlukwayo.
South Africa captain Faf dropped Buttler not once but…
twice in a remarkable turn of events catching the Anderson virus (highly recommended to get treatment on.) Phehlukwayo was the unfortunate bowler and remained wicketless in the game. What might have been Andile!
Buttler completed his half ton in a workmanlike innings with only the four boundaries scored with the value of his wicket most important. However, Kagiso Rabada had other ideas. He first bowled Buttler out for 53 ending his partnership with fellow keeper Foakes of 62 runs before top scorer in the first innings Woakes departed for a third ball duck.
Buttler bowled by a fantastic delivery from Rabada who turned his first innings blues around taking 4-113 in an expensive spell.
Foakes registered a half century alongside Sam Curran who added the mere 10 in the partnership of consolidation before the latter fell to the left arm spin of Maharaj as 28 was added of 71 balls.
Sam Curran’s wicketless return and struggle with the bat leaves him unlikely to feature against Sri Lanka in unfavourable conditions.
Foakes was joined by Broad and the latter played second fiddle as Foakes attacked on against the wayward seamers and played Maharaj out of the attack. At an almost run a ball partnership, nearing his second Test century, Maharaj returned to the attack and got the wicket of Foakes for a superb knock of 85 with shots of class and skill all around the ground.
In a bid to add late order runs to make the South African chase harder, Stuart Broad wowed the home and away fans at his home ground with a quick fire 50 coming off only 49 balls as Anderson watched on at the non striker’s end. The 48 runs for the last wicket came off 42 balls as Broad was sent packing by Rabada for a run a ball 50, with South Africa requiring 178 to win with two and a half days of action left. (England 310 Foakes 85 Stokes 72 ; Maharaj 4-28 Rabada 4-113)
Foakes not looking as happy as the slip cordon with the wicket of Elgar.
A relatively small total to chase for South Africa caused problems in the opening spell of bowling as Broad, fresh off the 50, dismissed Elgar for a second ball 1 as the opener struggled despite playing County Cricket in the previous year. The 119 run partnership duo were reignited at the crease but what followed saw ripples in the Proteas dressing room thanks to Moeen Ali.
After dropping the ball onto the onside, Amla stayed firmly in his ground but as slip fielding Moeen Ali retrieved the ball, he bizarrely stepped out of his crease which gave Mo a shy at the stumps and he hit in a freakish wicket. But it was deja vu for Ali and England as Markram repeated the same action and Ali promptly obliged leaving South Africa in trouble at three down.
Captain Faf and Temba Bavuma steadied and rebuilt their innings and took away hope of an English comeback with every run scored. Faf reached his half century in a true captain’s innings playing sophisticated and counter attacking shots to reach a vital 50 for his side.
England though never threw the towel in as James Anderson had Bavuma (25) caught behind in a smart catch by Ben Foakes, who showed his worth to the side, with sharp glovework and an impressive half century. Faf du Plessis was the next to depart with the score hinging on 5-115 as Moeen Ali found the outside edge through to Foakes in a crucial wicket for the hosts.
De Kock and Philander weren’t fazed by the relentless pressure and attacked away from the close fields set and played smartly to get within touching distance in the final overs of the day. Any throw of the dice from England was seen off from the Proteas well as bowling changes were aplenty.
England were celebrating for the last time as De Kock lost his patience from clever and economical bowling from Woakes finding the edge to Ali in a terrific catch.
However, Philander and Phehlukwayo guided the Proteas home for a fantastic four wicket victory over the hosts in a match where their variety of attack and ability to score runs in a timely fashion gave them a deserved victory.
In the end, we were outclassed in every department by the ruthless Proteas. Our batting, in particular the first innings, was lazy with too many players giving away their wicket to rash shots. Whilst we improved in the second innings most notably Foakes and Stokes, to win matches we need to bat time and be more patient against top quality attacks with spin giving us the run around. Furthermore, our bowling was a juxtaposition at times being too expensive and then too defensive with our lines and lengths but taking good wickets. We did perform in both innings and gave the Proteas a run for their money as Ali, Anderson and Woakes contributed to an above par bowling display. Our fielding – we won’t dwell!
Zimbabwe 14th, Ireland 15th and Pakistan 16th.
The squad to Sri Lanka will be named after careful consideration has been dwelled and provided on. Changes to our batting continues to be of importance to find the right XI as we look to sustain a more permanent line-up with some batters failing to deliver. Thoughts of adding a second or even third spinner in conducive Sri Lankan conditions will also be weighed up to find the right team balance. The team continue to be overwhelmed by your support!
On a personal note, thanks for the continued support as I really enjoy doing this blog and have some exciting adventures ahead with my content and be sure to revisit the site to see the performance against Sri Lanka in Colombo.