Ballsy Bavuma can’t stop SA’s balloon bursting

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE at Old Trafford

A yellow party balloon accomplished what, for 121 minutes on Saturday, none of England’s bowlers could: it stopped Temba Bavuma.

There was just more than half-an-hour to go until tea when the balloon drifted slowly across the sightscreen at the newly renamed James Anderson End and into Bavuma’s view as he awaited Stuart Board.

Bavuma held up a hand to halt proceedings, and presently a steward appeared and took charge.

The balloon was more easily dealt with than Bavuma, who batted on until the 10th over after tea, when he left a James Anderson inswinger and was bowled for 46.

Bavuma and his solid technique had been promoted to No. 4 to steady a shaky batting order. The plan worked for those two hours and one minute, but by stumps South Africa had slid to 220/9 in reply to England’s first innings of 362 and will resume on Sunday still 142 behind.

Anderson, bowling from his very own end, took 4/33. If he ends the innings he will have his 23rd five-wicket haul in tests but his first at his home ground. Which is remarkable considering he has claimed seven at Trent Bridge, four at Lord’s, and two each at Chester-le-Street, Edgbaston and Headingley.

There was no doubting the quality of Anderson’s bowling on Saturday, even if his job was made easier by South Africa batting as if they were more intent on occupying the crease than scoring runs on a pitch that didn’t invite strokeplay. Even Quinton de Kock drank from that Kool-Aid, spending 66 balls on his 24 to record his slowest test innings yet when he has faced at least 20 balls.

Another two injuries — hamstring strains for Keshav Maharaj and Heino Kuhn to go with the lower back problems that made Vernon Philander and Chris Morris unavailable for the match — complicated South Africa’s mission.

England, too, made things difficult for themselves by dropping three catches, missing a stumping and mucking up a runout.

But the edge was taken off the home side’s errors by South Africa’s inert approach, which clearly didn’t have the desired approach. None of their partnerships reached 50 and, consequently, no-one imposed themselves on the game.

“It wasn’t a plan,” Hashim Amla said of the way South Africa batted. “England bowled really well and the pitch was quite slow.”

Or, as Anderson said, “I felt like I couldn’t bowl badly.”

South Africa also bowled well to reduce England, who resumed on 260/6, to 312/9 inside 10 overs. Then Jonny Bairstow and Anderson shared 50 for the last wicket with the kind of batting South Africa could have used.

Bairstow was out lbw for 99 trying to sweep Maharaj. Bad luck. Not.

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