What a Test. A brilliant 5-day Test. And what a win. England haven’t won at Cape Town since Ethelred The Unready was sitting on the throne. But Joe Root’s heroes – the Cape Crusaders – have put a sword through this rather sorry record.
After a disappointing day one the team played excellent cricket. I really can’t fault them. Every single individual played his part. Even Zak Crawley, who sadly didn’t make many runs, pulled off a couple of sensational catches in the final session to seal the win.
There were so many heroes in this game. Dom Sibley – who looks like a cross between man and bear – was my player of the match. His maiden Test century was a special moment and it put us in an impregnable position.
Jimmy Anderson was also flawless with the ball – I really hope he’s not too badly hurt – whilst Ben Stokes had yet another game to remember. When he bowls like he did today, with fire and genuine pace, he’s the best all-rounder we’ve had since Botham. Freddie was obviously very good too but Stokes is a better batsman.
The other bowlers also pulled their weight tremendously. Stuart Broad roared in (I love his bowling when he’s in the mood), Sam Curran offered variety and picked up useful wickets, and the attack looked so much better with a frontline spinner in the XI. Silverwood and Co please take note!
Dom Bess didn’t pick up many wickets but he provided control and showed considerable promise. He gave the ball some air – it was refreshing to see a young English off-spinner bowl an attacking line outside off-stump rather than fire in darts at middle and leg. He could become a very handy bowler if he can get the ball to drift away from the right-handers and threaten the outside edge.
Most of the batsmen also enjoyed decent games – which makes a nice change. The man-bear was the only one to pass 3 figures, but Joe Root scored 95 runs in the match, Denly 79 (plus a couple of priceless wickets), and Pope an unbeaten 61 in the first innings. Stokes also made over one hundred runs across the two digs.
Overall this was a very respectable effort from a much-maligned unit. The only slight disappointment was Jos Buttler … but I won’t dwell on that. The ubiquitous Ben Foakes fans will no doubt say what needs to be said about the keeper’s position elsewhere.
My overriding impression of this game, however, was that it was a fantastic advertisement for Test cricket. The atmosphere was great, the views lovely, the ground steeped in history, and the cricket as compelling as a Martin Scorsese epic.
I hope the ECB are suitably embarrassed after rather cynically coming out in support of 4-day Tests last week. Nobody would ask Scorsese to shave 45 mins off his latest Oscar winner – his films just wouldn’t be the same – so the message is loud and clear: don’t mess with a classic recipe chumps.
This series is well and truly on now. We’ve got two flawed teams desperate to climb the rankings with good bowling attacks (for the conditions) and somewhat erratic batting. It’s a perfect formula for exciting cricket.
Were you confident England would level the series today? Personally I was. At the start of play I thought we had about an 80% chance of winning, with the draw 19%, and a South Africa win 1%. That solitary one percent was really just guarding against a de Kock century in a single session.
In the end, however, I think the Cricket Boks will be kicking themselves a bit. The pitch remained pretty good until the very end and they might have saved the game had du Plessis (who I still haven’t seen score any runs live) and de Kock thought harder about attacking the spinners. Their dismissals were slightly freakish but certainly ill-advised. I think their wickets were probably the two crucial moments of the day.
The series now moves on to Port Elizabeth which is another venue I remember fondly. South Africa is easily one of the best tours. The cricket is usually very good, the pitches seem to give everyone a chance, batsmen score runs if they play well, and the sun usually shines.
Basically it’s all good. And this victory feels very good indeed. Happy days my friends. Happy days.