The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley

TRENT BRIDGE, DAY TWO: SOUTH AFRICA HAVE ENGLAND ON THE ROPES

England facing defeat in second Test

Jimmy Anderson walks back to his mark, takes a look at the big screen, which shows a replay of him bowling an almighty inswinger that wraps Keshav Maharaj on the pads, it has done too much to be worth an appeal.

Anderson resets, glides in, it is not a certain fact that his boots even touch the Trent Bridge turf on approach, out comes the nut. This one is an outswinger, a far too good a vintage for Maharaj who helplessly nicks it to Joe Root at second slip.

It’s Anderson’s second of the morning - he has already removed Vernon Philander - Chris Morris and Morne Morkel fall to his charms soon after. Five-for for Jimmy - his 22nd in Test cricket - South Africa 335 all out.

Inspiring as it is to watch Anderson manipulate the Dukes, it was a sign of what was to face the England batsman before lunch.

Two tickets in two balls would position England well and truly on the ropes at 3 for 2. The inswinger from Philander had Alastair Cook caught behind via an inside edge. Morkel, pounding in from around the wicket produced a pearler to remove Keaton Jennings, angled towards the left-hander, just straightening to find the edge. Not much the opener could do against that one.

Joe Root pushes his hands forward, crunching an authoritative cover drive off Philander for four, suddenly all feels safe again. The skipper’s poise and control is supreme, there is a nerve-settling level of certainty about his game.

Philander chugs in again, Root plays at another, this time it flies narrowly past gully. A reminder that nothing is certain in Test cricket.

The Yorkshire duo of the captain and Gary Ballance steadied their feet and steered England back towards the middle of the canvas. The pair put on 83 as the hosts recovered and South Africa looked to be seriously missing the bounce, pace and aggression of Kagiso Rabada. He perhaps, could have produced a knockout blow in an earlier round, but South Africa would soon be winning this one on points.

Ballance would fall to Morkel, the Yorkshireman’s third start in three innings without kicking on, albeit it twice in tricky conditions, but that is Test cricket.

Root had looked like he was playing on a different wicket to everyone else, scoring at more than a run-a-ball for his 78. When he fell to Morne, he would prick the ears of those compiling his half-century conversion rates. Let’s not forget he scored 190 last week and was batting on a pitch where six wickets had gone down for 29 runs before he arrived at the crease. 

Other than Jonny Bairstow - who was dismissed by a lovely piece of bowling by Maharaj - England showed little fight. Stokes fell without scoring, Moeen produced a couple of typically-gorgeous shots before succumbing to a far uglier one. Dawson fell looking to attack when he would have been better off digging in, despite running out of partners at a pace.

After seeing 14 wickets fall, South Africa’s second innings was solid, with only Heino Kuhn falling - Anderson again - as the visitors finished an action-packed day on 75 for 1 with a lead of 205.

England came out punching, scrapped in places, but are firmly back the ropes and heading for the canvas.

Day two highlights...