TELFORD VICE at Trent Bridge
“HOW’D they know where I was,” a man smirked as he stood, legs spread, head down, at a urinal here on Saturday. The punchline was the skirl of a police siren leaking into the room through an open window.
South Africa didn’t need a siren to clear a path to where England were going into this match: deep in the dangerous deception of winning too easily.
And the Lord’s test was too easily won. Or at least too easily given up by South Africa’s batsmen.
The visitors’ response has been to come after England with a determination that was missing for most of the first test.
Its return has earned their team a lead of 205, and with nine wickets to bat their opponents out of the match.
South Africa, having snuffed out England’s reply to their 335 at 205, were 75/1 at stumps.
Not many would have foreseen all that on a day, floodlit for the duration and draped with clouds that would have done justice to Macbeth’s witches, that yielded 15 wickets.
James Anderson’s surname might have been Bond as he slashed through what was left of South Africa’s first innings in a first spell of singing swing and seam and figures of 4/4.
Among his victims were Vernon Philander, whose 54 is his second half-century in three innings, and Chris Morris, with whom Philander shared 74.
But the applause for Anderson’s 5/72 was still rippling when Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings were dismissed, both caught behind, off Philander and Morne Morkel, with three on the board.
Enter Joe Root to play an innings of sweeping sizzle and dazzle, and not a little skill and talent.
A gunshot drive, meaty and malicious, to the first delivery of a Philander over sent the ball streaking through the covers for four. The second flew off the outside edge past a diving Morris in the gully and, by way of a bounce or two, to the boundary. The fifth was eased through the covers, again for four but this time off the back foot.
England lunched on 85/2. That they added only 120 before being dismissed after tea had everything to do with South Africa’s determination.
The key was Root’s, well, uprooting an hour before tea when he drove lustily at Morkel — mean as a junkyard dog in the seventh over of a spell of eight — and was taken behind by a diving Quinton de Kock.
By then Philander had smuggled one of his sniping deliveries onto the plodding Gary Ballance’s stumps via the inside edge to end a stand of 57, and soon Keshav Maharaj would begin a raid of 3/16 in conditions that did not seem at all suited to his twirly testers.
He struck first with a delivery that pitched on middle and hit off to remove the bloody difficult Jonny Bairstow for 45, and then Morris got rid of Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad with consecutive balls.
By stumps the cussed Dean Elgar and the careful Hashim Amla had taken their stand to 57.
England will say they are not done, but that would be taking the piss.