TELFORD VICE at Lord’s
NEVERMIND what went wrong for South Africa here on Sunday, how do they put things right for the second test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Friday?
A week is a long time in politics, but the four days South Africa have to sort themselves out is next to nothing for a team trying to find a way out of the gloom that would have descended on their dressingroom on Sunday.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali added a haul of 6/53 to the 4/59 he took in the first innings, and England dismissed South Africa for 119 in their second innings to win by 211 runs with more than a day to spare.
On top of that, Russell Domingo has returned home in the wake of his mother, who was critically injured in a car accident last month, taking a turn for the worse and being put on life support.*
Little wonder, then, that Dean Elgar tugged at an imaginary captain’s armband and handed it to Faf du Plessis sitting next to him at the post-match press conference on Sunday.
Du Plessis, who will lead South Africa at Trent Bridge, chortled at Elgar’s joke, prompting the latter to say: “There’s a lot of things in captaincy you don’t see as a player. He’s laughing ’cause he knows it’s true.”
Elgar captained South Africa at Lord’s while Du Plessis was at home with his wife, Imari, and daughter, Amalie, who was born a week before the Lord’s test.
Before the match, Elgar spoke of the togetherness that had made South Africa’s test team a respected, successful side.
What role would that culture play in lifting them from the disappointment they must feel?
“The reality of cricket is that you’re always going to lose somewhere,” Elgar said. “The key thing is to bounce back as quickly as possible.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any drifting apart — we’re still going to be a very good, tight knit unit.”
Elgar bemoaned South Africa’s fortunes in a match in which they dropped two catches, botched another, twice had wickets rescinded because they had been taken with no-balls, and declined to refer a decision that would have been overturned in their favour.
“It could have been a lot easier with a few things going our way,” Elgar said. “But these are the punches you have to take, and you’ve got to get up tomorrow morning with a smile on your face — not forgetting that in four days’ time you’ve go to start again.
“In test cricket you’ve got to make your own luck and I don’t think we’ve been too kind to ourselves over the last four days.”
That logic could be extended to South Africa’s fragile batting in a second innings in which they came to terms neither with the conditions nor with Moeen’s expert use of them to claim his first 10-wicket-haul in tests.
Indeed, collapses have become something of an unhappy habit for them.
South Africa lost six wickets for 94 runs in their first innings against New Zealand in Wellington in March — a fact lost in the afterglow of them winning that match by eight wickets inside three days.
A week later in Hamilton, they were 97/4 and 59/5 only for rain to come to their rescue.
Could the instability that might be caused by, for example, Elgar having opened the batting with eight different partners — including Vernon Philander against India in Mohali in November — in his 47 innings at the top of the order be part of the problem?
“It’s something that may be a factor, but I’m not saying it is,” Elgar said.
Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. Add that to the long list of boxes South Africa might want to tick in the next four days.
* Domingo’s mother has since died.