Past meets present, and SA stumble into future

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg

THE embodiment of SA cricket’s present met its past at 2.18pm at the Wanderers yesterday. Ominously, perhaps, they were parted 13 minutes later.

The present arrived when Dean Elgar feathered a delivery from Moeen Ali into Jonny Bairstow’s gloves. That brought AB de Villiers into the fray – for the first time as a test captain.

De Villiers had a quick word with the man at the other end of the pitch, his predecessor, Hashim Amla. Then he twinkle-toed down the pitch to hammer the second ball he faced down the ground for four. Moeen’s next delivery disappeared through midwicket for another boundary.

Easy as you like.   

At 2.31pm, Amla’s footwork failed him when he tried to deal with a scything away swinger from Steven Finn. Bairstow held the edge.

SA could have done with their past, present staying in the moment for longer on the first day of the third test against England. Maybe then the immediate future wouldn’t look as bleak: they will resume on 267/7.

And that against a team struggling to subdue a virus that is running rampant and had members of their XI and their substitutes running on and off the field all day. 

Or, as SA supporter Ryan Spencer tweeted, “An England team struggling with the shits dragged our batting to the toilet with them.”

Damn straight. Amla was the only batsman who was removed by a ball worthy of taking his wicket. The rest succumbed either to tentativeness or recklessness.

Elgar said there was more to the conditions than met the eye: “It’s the type of wicket where you could lose a few in succession if you’re new to the crease.

“It’s a tricky wicket – every ball you faced you never felt in. But I loved it; it made for a good contest between bat and ball.”

If you say so, Mr Elgar. But it’s difficult not to think otherwise.

De Villiers, for instance, chased a leg-side long hop from Stokes and gloved it to the wicketkeeper.

Faf du Plessis could have hit a shortish delivery from Steven Finn anywhere he liked on the on-side. So he scooped it upward and into Alex Hales’ hands as he stood lonely as a lock forward in roomful of scrumhalves – Hales is 1.96 metres tall – on the midwicket fence. 

Elgar’s grubby little stroke was on the other extreme, as was Stiaan van Zyl’s clumsy leading edge off Stokes that looped to Bairstow.

Temba Bavuma was slow to get going and run out by Chris Woakes from mid-on when Dane Vilas wanted a single that was never there.

Vilas, at least, could be forgiven. He should have been playing for the Cobras against the Warriors at St George’s Park, but Quinton de Kock injured his knee, apparently while walking his Jack Russells, on Wednesday.

News of Vilas’ arrival at the stadium broke at 11.07am. Just more than five hours later, he took guard.

“Good luck to him, but not too much,” England bowling coach Ottis Gibson said with a smile.

Had De Kock not removed himself out of the equation, sources say he would have opened the batting as well as kept wicket and JP Duminy would have been recalled down the order.

So Van Zyl, who has now gone 13 test innings without reaching 40 and has been dismissed in the single figures five times in his last nine trips to the crease, should kiss De Kock’s right knee – it’s sore, swollen state would seem to be all that’s kept him in the side.

And, no, Jack Russell wasn’t available for comment.

           

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