Batting carnage as South Africa blast India aside to win first Test

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South Africa‘s fast bowlers, led by Vernon Philander, blasted through India‘s batting as the host nation gained a 72-run win on the fourth day of the first Test at Newlands on Monday.

Set 208 to win the first of three matches between the world’s two leading Test teams, number one-ranked India were bowled out for 135 by their nearest challengers.

Philander took six for 42 with Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada claiming two wickets each as India were subjected to a pace barrage in bowler-friendly conditions.

South Africa were reduced to three fast bowlers because of a heel injury suffered by Dale Steyn while bowling on Saturday.

Earlier, it had been the Indian bowlers who held sway when South Africa were bowled out for 130 in their second innings, losing their last eight wickets for 65 runs.

India’s run chase started promisingly with Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan putting on 30 for the first wicket, although Vijay was reprieved on review twice after being given out against Philander, for leg before wicket and a catch behind the wicket.

But then Dhawan was caught at gully off his bat handle when he got into a tangle against a lifting ball from Morkel. Six balls later it was third time lucky for Philander as Vijay edged a catch to AB de Villiers at third slip.

Philander claimed the key wicket of Indian captain Virat Kohli, who had looked confident in scoring 28 before he was trapped leg before wicket.

Philander struck again when Rohit Sharma was bowled off an inside edge and Rabada dismissed first innings top scorer Hardik Pandya for one, caught by a diving De Villiers at third slip.

Rabada trapped Wriddhiman Saha leg before with the last ball before tea to leave India in a desperate situation in a match which hastened to a conclusion despite the loss of the third day because of rain.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Bhuvneshwar Kumar put on 49 for the eighth wicket before Philander took the last three wickets in the space of four balls.

Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah were the main destroyers of the South African batting, taking three wickets each.

Shami started the collapse, dismissing Hashim Amla with the ninth ball of the morning and taking three wickets for 28 runs.

Bumrah took three for 39, including the wicket of South African captain Faf du Plessis, who fell to an unplayable delivery which lifted sharply off a good length and flicked a glove.

Despite being ruled out of the rest of the series, Steyn, who arrived at the ground on crutches, limped to the wicket as the last batsman in an effort to keep company with De Villiers, who top-scored with 35.

He managed to defend four balls from Kumar but De Villiers was caught off Bumrah in the next over by Kumar, one of eight fielders stationed on the boundary.

Wicketkeeper Saha set an Indian record by taking ten catches in the match, five in each innings.

After being under covers for two nights and a day, the pitch offered plenty of seam movement and occasional steep bounce.

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Five reasons why England lost the Ashes series

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Struggle for senior players: Alastair Cook and James Anderson.

England have a lot of soul-searching to do following the 4-0 Test series defeat against Australia Down Under.

Here, we look at five reasons why the tourists failed to perform yet again away from home.

SENIOR PLAYERS DIDN’T TURN UP

The onus was on Alastair Cook to score big at the top of the order but he endured a woeful five Tests, his epic Melbourne innings aside when the urn was already lost, and there are serious questions marks surrounding his future now. Meanwhile, all-rounder Moeen Ali averaged well over 100 with the ball and less than 20 with the bat in a nightmarish return which only heightened England’s need for a specialist spinner. Stuart Broad also struggled on slow Australian decks as did injury-prone Chris Woakes.

THE BATTING DEPARTMENT FAILED TO DELIVER

Apart from Dawid Malan – England’s highest run-scorer in the series – not many English batsmen will come away from the latest drubbing Down Under without black marks against their names. Skipper Joe Root played well, scoring five fifties, but his inability again to convert half-centuries to tons is an issue weighing down an England batting line-up which is all too reliant on the captain. The likes of James Vince, who continues to look like a walking wicket outside off-stump, and Mark Stoneman’s inability to change his technique against the Australian quicks only compounded the misery. Three English hundreds compared to Australia’s nine, tells much of the story.

ONE-PACED ATTACK LOOKED PRETTY ORDINARY

Even at the age of 35, James Anderson claimed 17 wickets and proved he is England’s best bowler, still – but he along with the rest of the attack suffered a tough series. Alongside Broad and Woakes, the tourists didn’t have that much-needed express pace in Aussie conditions and a bowler who could hit the deck above 90mph or more. Fast bowlers of that ilk don’t grow on trees and while youngsters Craig Overton and Tom Curran showed some promise, England’s lack of pace and variety has haunted them away from home for years now when the ball isn’t swinging and seaming.

PLANNING AND PREPARATION NOT UP TO SCRATCH

England’s pre-Ashes Tour matches against substandard opposition didn’t replicate the class they would face come the first Test in Brisbane. Tight schedules in modern-day cricket make it difficult to organise competitive practice matches of old but England looked under-cooked – and failure to win the key moments in each Test – cost them dearly. Since the 5-0 debacle of 2013-14, little seems to have been done to buck the trend and questions need to be asked as to why England entered this series with the same problems. Seven Test series defeats on the bounce away from home makes for dire reading.

COACHING MINDSET TOO ONE-DAY FOCUSED

Coach Trevor Bayliss has without doubt been one of the key men behind England’s revival in limited-overs cricket but that attack-minded and expansive philosophy has proved to been their undoing in Tests. While other nations may see T20s and ODIs as the most important formats, for England, it will forever be five-day contests. A return of 15 victories and 18 defeats from 38 matches under his stewardship is not a record to be proud of. England’s batters, frequently, got themselves out with unnecessary shots more akin to short-form cricket. For a while now, batting big and for long has been a problem.

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England Ashes XI 2019: Alastair Cook in but no place for Stuart Broad

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The countdown is already on until the next Ashes series, which will take place in England in 2019.

Until then, Australia will hold the famous urn after thumping the Three Lions Down Under.

In the aftermath of the 4-0 series drubbing, England hierarchy have been accused of a lack of planning and preparation.

As such, there is plenty of work to do for Joe Root’s side ahead of five Test matches on home soil against the old enemy in 18 months’ time.

Here, we predict which XI England might go with when they try and win back the 11 cm high urn. As the saying goes, you’re always a better player when you’re out of the team and at this stage it’s easy to speculate – but there’s no doubt changes need to be considered.

OPENERS

Alastair Cook: England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer had a nightmare series, his epic Melbourne innings aside, but the left-hander is a stubborn character and won’t want to bow out on an Ashes loss. He is still the best player available to open the batting and England shouldn’t wish away a modern-day great. A victory against the old enemy in 2019 would be a perfect way to end it all.

Haseeb Hameed: Touted as ‘Baby Boycott’, Hameed’s form has deteriorated massively since making his debut in India and he endured a torrid second season with Lancashire. However, he is highly thought of among England management and will still be only 22 when the series starts. He is likely to be given another go this year at the top, potentially ahead of Mark Stoneman, and really needs to grab the opportunity with both hands.

TO BAT AT THREE

Joe Root: The captain make have to be bumped up the batting order to three, but as the best player in the side, it’s where he should bat. Root will work out a way to solve his 50s to 100 conversion problem and will only grow into the captaincy role. Showed plenty Down Under to suggest he is the right man, still, to lead England forward for years to come.

NUMBER FOUR

Dawid Malan: One of the few Englishman whose stock rose in Australia. An epic hundred at the WACA, combined with lots of grit, determination and the ability to change his game up and get his feet moving to counteract the pace attack he faced all underlined his talent. If he continues this kind of form then he should get parachuted up the order and enjoy a long run in the side despite coming late to the international party.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 10: Jack Leach of England celebrates after taking the wicket of Will Bosisto of the Cricket Australia CA XI during the Two Day tour match between the Cricket Australia CA XI and England at Richardson Park on December 10, 2017 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

Ben Foakes (left) and Jack Leach (right) are two players in the frame.

MIDDLE-ORDER

Jonny Bairstow: Averaged 34 in the series and showed his quality with a beautiful ton in Perth – and will be a key man – possibly the next vice-captain – for England. Bairstow was impressive behind the stumps but England might well be tempted to use him as just a specialist batter and promote Ben Foakes to keeping duties, in a move which could really help JB to develop further as a batsman and score big.

Ben Stokes: He simply has to be in this eleven. Despite all what has gone on over the past few months, providing he is able to get back to what he does best – playing cricket – then Stokes should still hold the mantle as the world’s premier all-rounder. Plays a huge role with bat and bowl, being England’s fourth seamer, and is an outstanding fielder, too. Who wouldn’t want him in their side?

Ben Foakes: Heralded as the best gloveman in the world by no less an authority than Alec Stewart, his director of cricket at Surrey, Foakes will be 26 by the time the Ashes rolls around again and may well have a few England appearances to his name by then. More than handy with the bat and has already shown his credentials on Lions duty. By standing behind the stumps, he would be a safe pair of hands and ease the pressure on Bairstow.

LOWER MIDDLE-ORDER

Craig Overton: While express pace is an issue throughout the whole bowling attack (and probably will be for years to come), Overton still has time on his side to develop and he impressed with his gutsiness in the heat of Ashes battle, despite a cracked rib ending his series prematurely. Definitely has a big future for England.

Tom Curran: Showed enough signs Down Under that he can develop into a fine quick, with his pace and power through the crease. Curran will only benefit from the experience and should get more opportunities. He’s young but has an excellent temperament and maturity already.

TAIL-ENDERS

Jack Leach: England are crying out for a specialist spinner and urgently need to address that problem. The Somerset man is very much the next in line after shining in the County Championship for the past couple of seasons and re-correcting his illegal bowling action in-between the two summers. Needs to be given a chance, and if he grasps it, has a very good chance of cementing his place with doubts over Moeen Ali and Mason Crane still learning his trade.

James Anderson: The leader of the attack claimed 17 wickets at a shade under 28 from five Tests, proving he is still the best England have – even at the age of 35. Injury-permitting, I have no doubts that Anderson can carry on until the next Ashes and sign off on a high. He didn’t perform as well as he would liked throughout the five Tests but is still a fine exponent of home conditions. Again, England need to appreciate having an all-time great around while he is still at the top of his game.

KEY MEN TO MISS OUT:

Mark Stoneman: The Surrey opener averaged just over 25 from nine Ashes innings – simply not good enough at Test level. He didn’t seem to figure out a way of counteracting his short-ball woes and never really looked like going on to get a big score. Once again, England will need to make a change at the top.

James Vince: Comfortably one of the most pleasing batsmen on the eye, in fact, there are few better around in the elegance stakes. But, at 26 and having been given a few chances now, the Hampshire man’s time is likely to be up by 2019. His knocks in Brisbane and Perth were great to watch however he has failed to address his vulnerability outside off-stump and nicking behind. It’s a mental problem for Vince rather than technique.

Moeen Ali: One of the most likeable cricketers around, and a fine servant for England at that, but the batting all-rounder’s days as a Test star could be coming to an end. Moeen endured a shocker of a series with both ball and bat and England’s need for a spin specialist is urgent. Should still play an integral part in limited-overs cricket, though.

Chris Woakes: The man nicknamed the ‘wizard’ is a top-class cricketer and will be in and around limited-overs for sometime but his poor injury record means he can no longer be relied on fully as a Test bowler. His body seems to break down at the wrong time, went for plenty of runs in Australia and didn’t bowl as quickly as many would have hoped.

Stuart Broad: Another modern-day England hero, but the experienced paceman has had a difficult past 18 months or so. We haven’t seen his streaky bursts with the ball for a while and even though he is just one wicket away from 400, arguably his best days are behind him. I’d like to be proved wrong and how he performs in New Zealand as well as at home next summer will be key to how long he can keep running in hard for.

Mason Crane: Perhaps harsh to include him in this category as he still has a very bright future for England, but at just 20, has years on his side to develop and craft his art in first-class and limited-overs cricket, instead of the international arena.

OTHERS WHO MISS THE CUT:

Gary Ballance and Jake Ball

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 08: Stuart Broad; Alastair Cook and Jonny Bairstow of England look on during the presentation during day five of the Fifth Test match in the 2017/18 Ashes Series between Australia and England at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 8, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

English selectors have decisions to make.

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