The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley

LORD'S DAY THREE: SOUTH AFRICA FACING UPHILL BATTLE TO SAVE TEST

Cook and Ballance set platform for a mammoth lead

Keaton Jennings reverse-sweeps Keshav Maharaj for four. It is a stroke that signals the opener’s confidence, the faith in his own game, and marks England’s dominance at Lord’s. They are 55 for no loss, 156 runs ahead, South Africa are a bowler down, after Vernon Philander got a nasty one from Jimmy Anderson on the mitt, and are facing an uphill battle to save the Test. By the close of play, the hosts had moved on to 119 for 1, 216 runs ahead.

Day three saw two sharply contrasting innings, both frame worthy on their individual merits. 

Quinton de Kock unleashed a 36-ball half-century - the second-fastest Test fifty ever at Lord’s - an arresting reminder that the visitors have an explosive batsman lower down the order. 

Coming in at a lowly No.8, shuffled down one place due to Kagiso Rabada’s nightwatchman duties, the wicketkeeper-batsman set about carving up the attack like a piece of lemon drizzle from the TMS commentary box.

Stuart Broad was whipped and driven for three consecutive boundaries, he would give up three more as de Kock ignited the afterburners and aimed for the moon.

It has been Moeen Ali’s Test so far, but de Kock wasn’t about to let that get in the way, skipping down the wicket and lofting him for four with all the style and grace of ballet dancer to reach fifty.

Ben Stokes produced a typically Ben Stokes piece of fielding to catch de Kock driving at square cover off Anderson’s bowling.

If England aren’t out of sight by the time South Africa bat again, de Kock could make a chase extremely interesting.

De Kock averages 51.25 in Test cricket

In the balmy haze of the afternoon sun, Lord’s was treated to the other end of the batting spectrum.

Alastair Cook, fresh from scoring just three in the first innings, getting out to a very none-Cook shot, playing away from his body, looked his more familiar self today, the eye of the storm.

So prized is his wicket, South Africa used up two reviews (unsuccessfully) in the first ten overs trying to get the Essex opener before he could dig a trench, take off his boots, put his feet up and start reciting poetry.

While white balls are being ramped and reverse-swept into back gardens and rivers up and down the country, with the T20 Blast screaming its way into the summer schedule, Cook was quietly negotiating proceedings at Lord’s. 

At one stage he faced 24 deliveries without scoring. I know which I’d rather watch.

Serene and life-affirming. Watching Cook go about his business has a calming effect, with heart rate and strike rate synchronising.

It was the 54th half-century in Test cricket for Cook, who will still be doing this when we're all long gone and the world is an apocalyptic wasteland.

Day three highlights...