England v South Africa: third test, day five – live | England v South Africa 2022

Four months ago, it looked like England’s men had an awful summer ahead of them. Over the winter, their thrashing in Australia was the worst in a bad bunch over the last 20 years. In the Caribbean, after a mini-reboot, it was little better. Joe Root said enough. There was no coach, let alone assistants. Off the field, the chief executive was a lame duck (and would subsequently step down) and there hadn’t been a chair since the previous summer. No high-performance boss. No selectors. Every genuine fast bowler injured. No batter averaging 40 since Root’s debut a decade earlier.

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New Zealand were first up, who had hammered England when they were in town during the previous summer before going on to win the World Test Championship final, also in this country, against India. A couple of changes since they lifted that trophy but essentially the same team. Then India, to complete their strange series, returning with the same bowling lineup that ruined England routinely in 2021. Then South Africa, a Test team quietly on the rise under Dean Elgar with a fast bowling group who looked born to play on sporting surfaces. The whole thing was so grim.

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As the county season started, at the peak of all this flux and still a couple of months away from the Tests, I advanced the view that, given all of the above, the best move would be for Stuart Broad and James Anderson to take over as caretaker skippers of sorts. The argument ran that given they were likely to be smashed, don’t ruin the next captain and let this be one of the veterans’ parting gifts – help England get through without having their pants pulled down quite so embarrassingly.

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Well, we know what happens next. A series of inspired appointments, from Rob Key to Brendon McCullum to Ben Stokes, all in the space of a couple of weeks in May. Days leter, they started their staggering run of four successful chases in a row, all record-breaking in their own ways. And this morning here at The Oval, within about 20 minutes of resumption on this third/fifth morning, they will finish the season having won six of seven in emphatic fashion. There’s probably a book in it.

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So that’s where we’ll begin our conversation in the time that we have together on the final day of the Test summer. Of course, there’s shade as well as light – there’s an argument that this is the least competitive series, in terms of balance between bat and ball, we’ve ever witnessed between bigger nations. This isn’t good, nor is it that South Africa doesn’t return to England through the entirety of the next Future Tours Programme period. The fears for their medium-term Test future, acknowledging the extent to which they are about to be influenced/funded by IPL owners, isn’t without justification. Anyway, let’s crack on while we can. Drop me a line or a tweet.

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Important events

A nice upbeat note from Simon Law. “A big thank you to KMS (Keys, McCullum and Stokes) and the entire Eng set-up for their beautiful, bright, fearless approach to the 5-day game. May they prosper!!” Well said.

And Gary Naylor is with us too – sat next to me in the outer stands at The Oval – the best place in the world to watch cricket – for the last two days. Jumped across the river this morning to watch the champo. You can follow that too, by the way, long after this test is over. Tanya Aldred is in gear.

Back to Gary: “I found one or your fellow Aussies summed up Ben Stokes’ captaincy best yesterday.” Here Frankie Valli takes over:

“We take the pressure and fly
Conventionality is a thing of the past
There’s a chance we’ll make it this far
We begin to believe now that we can be who we are”

“I think the summer revolution was interesting,” begins Ali Gordon. “Essentially, it’s the same team. I can remember Root, when he was still captain, saying that we are not too far with this group of players. Turns out he was right. They just required management in a different way. I never understood the decision to drop Anderson & Broad for the West Indies tour. This was a low point for me. The players looked miserable. the cricket ranged from antsy to ugly to embarrassing. I am in awe of how Root has just cracked with what he does best, batting. And while I’m still not convinced by our openings, you can see tremendous progress. Add Jofra Archer to the team, develop a world class spinner in Leach or (else) and this is a scary team. The future is very exciting.”

Part of the charm of it all for me is that, as you say, it’s broadly the same crew of cricketers. As Anderson has said many times though, it feels so different in the dressing room that it might as well be another sport. Given all he’s seen over two decades, that’s remarkable. But I disagree about Jimmy/Broad and West Indies. Or, rather, I privately suspect they I wouldn’t mind now how it all turned out. This trip might have ended for them. By contrast, throughout the summer, Broad finished with 29 wickets in 27 overs and the former world cricketer took 27 in 17.6. As are you guys.

“Hey Adam, keep up the good work at OBO!” I probably shouldn’t have saved the second half of that sentence, but it’s the last day of school, what are you going to do? Hi CJ on twitter and thanks. “What do we think is in the ‘in-tray’ for Baz and Ben?” I would like to believe that we should always strive to improve. a little extra pace? the spinner? opening bat?’

Having spent a month in Pakistan with Australia’s Test tour there earlier this year, I have seen first-hand the concrete surfaces that are sure to await them in Rawalpindi, Karachi and Multan. Because of its proximity to India, the lazy assumption is that the pitches there will go to tatters. From what I’ve seen, they don’t. You play a lot of spinners to control the pace and play with the patience of the batters. What is deadly is the old ball swing – reverse swing. To do that, you usually have to be an absolute gentleman (James Anderson) or enjoy fast pace (someone like Mitchell Starc). It’s a grind.

So, in the short term, given England’s next assignment, I think they have to make their selection for Pakistan with a great deal of difficulty given that they are not going to have Jofra Archer or Olly Stone. There is an outside chance that Mark Wood will get through the T20 well enough to play there, but you couldn’t.

My smoker for that trip is Tom Helm. He moves the old ball generously and looks (to the naked eye) a yard quicker than most you see in county cricket. He will get a chance to prove the last point in Pakistan on the T20 tour.

Well, now I’m at The Oval. Overcast but lovely, it would have been perfect for a chase of 200 on the final day, as it was on Sunday lunch before South Africa lost 6/77 in the middle overs. There are plenty of stats from this series, which I’ll break down as we go along, but the fact that there have only been two innings over 200 throughout speaks to the extent to which the ball has dominated the batting middle order.

“Good evening from Brisbane,” writes Phil Withall. Hello. “The economic impact of various T20 competitions cannot be ignored. A cricket career is a finite thing, who could blame them for securing their financial future.”

There’s a lot to it and I don’t want to start off in an overly rambling/chippy way here today. But consider Will Smeed’s lot. Would it ever be in his best interest to accept a national contract, which would deprive him of the opportunity to earn life-changing amounts of money without any restrictions? I suspect not. So the real question is how the ECB (and most boards) find a way to still tap talent that comes in when it matters most, recognizing that it won’t be available often.

Remember this has already started for South Africa with a number of their biggest stars including Kagiso Rabada opting for the IPL over a home Test series against Bangladesh just a few months ago. This is the world we move in.

Preamble

Adam Collins

Adam Collins

Four months ago, it looked like England’s men were in for a terrible summer. Over the winter their thrashing of Australia was the worst in bad company in 20 years. In the Caribbean, after a mini-reboot, it was a little better. Joe Root has said enough. There was no coach, let alone assistants. Off the field, the chief executive was a lame duck (and would subsequently leave) and there had been no chair since the previous summer. No high performance boss. No selectors. Every genuine fast bowler injured. No batsman averaging 40 since Root’s debut a decade earlier.

First up were New Zealand, who had booed England when they were in town the previous summer before winning the World Test Championship final, also in that country, against India. Some changes since they lifted that trophy but essentially the same team. Then India, to complete their strange run, returning with the same bowling line-up that routinely destroyed England in 2021. Then South Africa, a quietly rising Test side under Dean Elgar with a fast bowling line-up who seemed born to play on sports surfaces. The whole thing was so grim.

As the county season began, at the height of all this flux and still a few months away from the trials, I expressed the view that, given all the above, the best move would be for Stuart Broad and James Anderson to take over. as caretaker governors. The argument ran that since they were likely to crumble, don’t ruin the next captain and let this be one of the veterans’ parting gifts – help England get through without getting their pants down so embarrassingly.

Well, we know what happens next. A series of inspirational appointments, from Rob Key to Brendon McCullum to Ben Stokes, all in the space of two weeks in May. Days apart, they began their amazing streak of four successful pursuits in a row, all breaking records in their own way. And this morning here at The Oval, within about 20 minutes of the restart on this third/fifth morning, they will finish the season having won six out of seven in emphatic fashion. There’s probably a book in it.

So that’s where we’ll start our conversation when we’re together on the last day of the Summer Trials. Of course, there is shade as well as light – there is an argument to be made that this is the least competitive series, in terms of balance between bat and ball, that we have ever seen between major nations. This is not good, nor is it that South Africa are not returning to England throughout the next period of the Future Tours programme. Fears about the medium-term future of their Tests, recognizing the extent to which they are to be influenced/funded by IPL owners, are not unwarranted. Anyway, let’s continue as long as we can. Drop me a line or one tweet.

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