Another sedentary – but entirely satisfactory – session for England. The run rate hasn’t threatened 3 all day but, frankly, who gives?
Duanne ‘Laurence’ Olivier took the wicket of Root 66, bowling a good old-fashioned wicket-to-wicket line and trapping him LBW. Root’s sheepish review was in vain. However, he had at least reached 50 for the tenth consecutive Test.
More mature batting from Ben Stokes, the ginger wizard striking another half-century via a combination of solid defence and judicious stroke-play. Comparisons with Sir Garfield Sobers are not fanciful. No, really. KG Rabada had the last laugh, however, castling Stokes with a fast in-swinging yorker. Dawid Malan knows how you feel, Stokesy.
Meanwhile, fellow redhead Jonny Bairstow had a narrow escape, edging Maharaj onto his pad with the ‘catch’ taken on the bounce by Faf at slip. Yogi made the most of his fortune and gritted it out to the end of the day.
England 260-6, Bairstow 33*, Roland-Jones 0*.
Finally, here’s our ‘A’ XI:
1. Anwar 2. Atherton 3. Amla 4. Abbas 5. Azharuddin 6. Astle 7. Ames (wk) 8. Akram 9. Ajmal 10. Anderson 11. Ambrose
Game’s moving on. Not that quickly, mind.
The Bear managed to kybosh Alastair Cook by backing the ex-captain for a ton. Cook duly edged a straight one from Maharaj and was gone for 46.
With the score still on 92, delicious batting artiste Tom Westley was superbly caught behind by de Kock off the bowling of Rabada. That took the Victorian chimney sweep to a Test century of dismissals.
Root started sluggishly but eventually found his feet, moving them nicely and using the crease to good effect to get his own clock ticking. He’s insidious, the England skipper, and I mean that in the truest and politest sense. You basically don’t notice he’s there, then you look up and he’s on about 34.
Dawid (Dravid) Malan played nicely but drove at a wide one from Morkel. He was snaffled by Faf at second slip for 18. Damn shame.
England snookered on 147-4, then. All to play for.
Now, then. Here’s your all-time ‘H’ team:
1. Hobbs 2. Haynes 3. Hutton (c) 4. Hammond 5. Haq (Inzamam ul-) 6. Harvey 7. Healy (wk) 8. Hadlee 9. Hall 10. Herath 11. Holding
As in, I haven’t got a.
This series has swung like a rusty gate. And I’ve been on the wrong side of it in every game. But here’s the thing: oscillation doesn’t continue indefinitely. So back England at 5/6 to win the game.
Also, why wouldn’t you have a nibble on Moeen Ali at 4/1 to be England’s top first innings bowler? We’re batting first – there are benefits of writing the preview late, Messy Jez – so the pitch will be a little more worn by the time the Proteas are in. Bearded genius/hat-trick hero Moeen will be choc-full of confidence and can cash in again.
If it’s a draw, our 2-1 series bet cops (you were all on, right?).