SA get their fight back at Lord’s

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE at Lord’s

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the kind of fight South Africa showed on the third day of the first test against England yesterday.

No Dale Steyn. No AB de Villiers. No Faf du Plessis. And, for the three hours and 10 minutes England batted in their second innings, no Vernon Philander — who did not bowl because of a right hand that could not grip the ball well enough, the legacy of being hit by James Anderson.

An x-ray revealed no fracture, and Philander will be permitted to bowl immediately he is able to because his injury is deemed external.

A good thing too, because England, who reached stumps on 119/1 in their second innings, are already 216 ahead.

Philander took the blow before he had scored a run. That he was last out for 52 in South Africa’s first innings of 361, bowled by Moeen Ali with a delivery he drove into his own leg, from where it trickled onto his stumps, says much about the defiance South Africa have brought to an absorbing contest.

The ball that injured Philander was the 12th he faced, and the one that dismissed him the 86th. He soldiered on through the flinging his hand off the bat with almost every stroke he played, and he was plainly livid with the way he got out.

There was more of that attitude from the resolute Temba Bavuma, who scored 48 of his 59 on Friday, and Quinton de Kock, who played the only way he knows how for his 51 — like a dream, becoming the fastest South African half-centurion in England when he got to 50 off 36 balls.

South Africa would have been significantly better off had one of Bavuma, De Kock or Philander — or indeed Dean Elgar, who got out for 54 on Friday — gone on to a century.

But that was not to be on a pitch whose initial green zest faded swiftly into a turning surface, and especially not with as canny an operator as Moeen around.

The off-spinner bowled with verve and vision, and dismissed Elgar and Bavuma along with Philander in his haul of 4/59.

So while Elgar would dearly have wanted Philander steaming in with the new ball, he was happy to toss it to Keshav Maharaj as early as the 12th over. By the 19th, JP Duminy was also shambling in.

They bowled 15 overs in tandem after tea, and their contribution shouldn’t be overlooked even though it was Morne Morkel who punched the first hole in the wall by frustrating Keaton Jennings into a swiped under-edge that carried to Quinton de Kock.

Kagiso Rabada, too, showed that he wasn’t going to be distracted by being banned for the second test in Nottingham on Friday for earning a fourth demerit point for swearing at Ben Stokes on Friday.

Fight. It’s what makes South Africa better than they have a right to be. And it’s back.

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