The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley


Twists and turns at Trent Bridge

It’s greyish, overcast, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are lurking somewhere in the bowels of Trent Bridge.

The coin favours Faf.

South Africa’s returning leader refuses to be swayed by muddy skies and harrowing images of Broad turning Australia to dust at Trent Bridge two years ago.

“We’ll have bat.”

A brave call perhaps, but that’s what leaders need to be. There was clear faith in his openers and they repaid it with a healthy morning session, which saw just the one wicket fall.

Dean Elgar, relieved of captaincy duties, lost his wicket driving loosely. Liam Dawson, airborne, like a salmon chasing that impossible dream, took a superb catch at point, Dean on his way back to the pavilion, Jimmy Anderson had his 300th Test wicket in England.

Heino Kuhn was on the receiving end of the worst of England’s barrage – taking a particularly nasty one on the back of the helmet from Mark Wood. After scoring just 10 runs at Lord’s, the opener produced a dogged 34 before finally succumbing to Broad, bowled via an inside edge.

By the time Kuhn fell, Hashim Amla was well into his stride. A short ball from Wood got the treatment, as the Dukes hit the boundary rope, Amla’s Test-run tally ticked beyond 8,000.

8,000 Test runs breached for Hashim, 300 Test wickets chiselled out on home turf for Jimmy. There were two modern greats going head to head out there.

At the other end, Quinton de Kock got his wish to move up the order, but at a loftier position than expected, coming in at No.4, above du Plessis who would slot in at No.5.

Amla became the fourth South African to pass 8,000 Test runs

South Africa, old and new, in perfect harmony. The old head, the young pup, driving and flicking their way to individual half-centuries, a shared century stand pushed their team forward. At tea Amla (65*) and de Kock (68*) walked off with South Africa 179 for 2.

De Kock is not the sort of batsman to move through the gears, he just selects one and cracks on. When the foot is hammering the accelerator through the floor, there aren’t many better to watch, dragging the bells and whistles of white-ball cricket into the red-ball theatre. But he will be disappointed after a sterling start, not to convert that into a fourth Test hundred.

That unshackled dashing has its downfalls. Resuming after tea, de Kock, eager to get on with proceedings, took on Broad but found himself top-edging to Alastair Cook at slip from the very first delivery after the break

Whatever they laced their Darjeeling with at tea, it did the job as the hosts reduced South Africa from 179 for 2 to 235 for 6. Amla followed de Kock in falling to Broad, looking to hook a short one away, a top-edge found Wood in the deep.

Ben Stokes had du Plessis flicking one down the leg side, but it all owed to a wonderful catch from Jonny Bairstow away to his left. His glovework has been excellent recently.

Stokes made it two with the wicket of Temba Bavuma who knew he should leave it, but left it too late as the ball kissed the face en route to Jonny’s mitts.

England’s tails were up but Vernon Philander, showing no ill effects of a busted hand, and Chris Morris – making his first appearance of the series – halted England’s charge with a 74-run partnership for the 7th wicket.

So eyes turn to the morning where England will want to wrap things up swiftly. There have been twists and turns today, Amla and de Kock will have been aiming for tons, England sensing blood when Bavuma fell. This one is poised rather nicely.

Day one highlights...