The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley


Root secures first win as captain

Ben Stokes doesn’t wait for the umpires finger, he makes straight for the pavilion. Sidling by Kagiso Rabada, who has just pinned him low on the pads, and sees him off with a rub of his noggin, a gesture to Stokes’ slightly-thinning, bronze bonce.

Rabada will miss the Trent Bridge Test after his verbals - picked up by the stump microphone - landed him in trouble. Here he kept quiet, a finger to the lips sufficed. Skipper Dean Elgar made sure by joshingly covering the bowler’s mouth with his palm.

I’m not going to get into a in-depth review of ICC ruling, but surely it needs to be revisited. Two incredibly exciting sportsmen, facing off on the greatest stage; showing fight, passion, commitment and no little character. Now it’s contest we won’t see again until the series moves to The Oval at the end of the month.

Rules are rules, and nobody wants to hear of sledging, mental disintegration, verbals - call it what you will - really overstepping the mark, but the sport risks ripping character out of the equation. The public don’t want to see Rabada banned for a few words, they want him to see him on the field, ready to receive a volley of whatever wit, charm and thunder Ben would like to send his way next time around.

Stoking the flames: Rabada v Stokes will resume at The Oval

Outside the stormy sphere of riling England’s fiery allrounder, there’s a Test match to be won, one to be lost, and one man threatening to nudge Stokes into the second-best slot.

From the the moment he dropped the blade on his first majestic cover drive, Moeen Ali had this one by the scruff of the neck and rarely relinquished his grasp.

After Root, he top-scored with 87 in the first innings, claimed four wickets in the visitors’ first dig, and took 6 for 53 this afternoon, his best innings figures in Test cricket.

Moeen is on the Lord’s Honours Board.

Before the spinner could get his hands on the nut, the visitors had an inspiring morning. When Alastair Cook fell, enticed into the drive by Morne Morkel, it sparked a good old-fashioned collapse as England lost 7 for 43 before lunch. But it was Vernon Philander’s drop of Bairstow in the deep that broke their charge. 

Bairstow was on seven at the time, England would have been 159 for 6. Jonny would punish South Africa to the tune of a further 44 runs, bringing up his 15th Test fifty, and sharing a valuable 45-run stand with Mark Wood. Mentally, those added runs on the board must have been belief-sapping.

The Proteas were left craning their necks, staring at the summit of 331, if scaled it would have been the second-highest successful run chase at Lord’s after West Indies’ 344 for 1 in 1984.

By early evening any thoughts of this one requiring a fifth day had dissipated. Philander, Maharaj and Morkel were swinging away like three clubbers who only had a minute left before their net session was up, and soon the game was. Morkel picked out Keaton Jennings at deep midwicket, Moeen had his sixth, England had won by 211 runs.

Root’s first Test as captain is done, and it couldn’t have gone much better for the lad from Yorkshire. An absorbed Lord’s crowd basking in the early-summer glare, regaled by a whopping hundred from the new skipper, their rapture swelled by every wicket Moeen added to his tally.

It’s only a start, Joe will know that, but one that promises much.

On to the next one.

Day four highlights...