Records Tumble, And Become Almost Meaningless – Day 4 at Newlands

This test will go into the history books. Ben Stokes scored the fastest test 250 ever, and this afternoon Temba Bavuma became the first black South African to score a test century. Excuse me if I don’t spontaneously combust in excitement.

I don’t want to pass water on anyone’s parade here. Stokes batted incredibly well, and nobody can deny the brilliant political significance of Bavuma’s attractive innings – I hope he, and other black South Africans, score many more test hundreds – but big runs in a run-glut mean relatively little. Run scoring on this Newlands autobahn has been like taking candy from a baby. There’s been no genuine contest between bat and ball.

Although you’d have to be Hitler to begrudge Bavuma his heart-warming moment, part of me didn’t want him to reach three figures. His milestone is so significant that it deserved a better occasion, and most importantly of all, a different match situation. I didn’t want the first test century by a black African to be an inevitable march, against a tired attack, in a glorified net session. Such a momentous moment deserved more than being the fourth century of the game (and the smallest), at the fag end of the fourth day in a dead match.

South Africa’s history has been anything but a fairy-tale, and rarely follows a script, but the first test century by a black South African deserved better. It was probably too much to expect it to be a match-winning effort in the final innings, in front of a full house at Lord’s or Eden Gardens, but I think we could have expected something a little more dramatic and romantic?

Run-fests like this one are bad for test cricket. They’re worse than two-day shoot-outs, and make it absolutely impossible to defend the sport when it’s assaulted by critics or introduced to the uninitiated. The bottom line is that over 1,250 runs have been scored for the loss of just 13 wickets. That’s pathetic. If it wasn’t for Ben Stokes going ballistic, and Bavuma bringing tears to many an eye, it would’ve been a complete write off.

This game has almost been as bad as the first four days of England’s first test in the UAE. And the centuries scored mean just as little as Shoaib Malik’s 245 and Alastair Cook’s 263. If there’s nothing at all in the pitch for bowlers, and all batsmen need to do is stop themselves from committing hari kari, then what’s the point?

Although England might have benefitted from a mystery spinner today – and no doubt some will be bemoaning the absence of Adil Rashid – I’d wager even Warne and Murali bowling in tandem would’ve struggled to take twenty wickets on this utter highway.

Yes I know England missed lots of chances (they dropped six catches alone on the fourth day) and the game might have been more interesting if they’d snaffled them, but what I saw today still didn’t constitute a contest.

Besides, England probably dropped these chances simply because they were (a) exhausted (because of the pitch) and (b) bored out of their minds (again because of the pitch). So yes, you could say that I’ve got the hump. And it’s all because of this pitch. Wake me up when it’s over.

James Morgan


  • I wonder if the pitch will get a poor rating and South Africa get fined in the way BCCI were over Nagpur? There it was ‘impossible’ to bat on, here it was ‘impossible’ to bowl on. I get the impression administrators are more worried about the former, don’t care so much about the latter as batsmen can score runs and that’s all people want to see – don’t they?? This does Test cricket no good. Even Boycs was saying this morning that the thought of watching Amla blocking his way to 200 plus was totally depressing!

    As you say, sad that two magnificent achievements were in a match that has no result. Stokes’s innings definitely deserved to be a winning one.

    • “There it was ‘impossible’ to bat on, here it was ‘impossible’ to bowl on”.

      Bingo Maggie. Pitches that favour batsmen last 5 days and therefore generate more ticket money; therefore they’re less of a concern for authorities. But they damage test cricket just as much.

      What a shame that the interest / hype Stokes’ innings generated (which was obviously great for test cricket) has been counteracted by the ensuing songfest. I don’t blame South Africa – they batted with great application to save the game and deserve credit – but a bore draw isn’t in the best interests of the game.

      One wonders whether the pitch was prepared deliberately to help South Africa’s batsmen find some form and confidence again? They’ve really struggled to put even average totals together recently.

      • Totally agree. I have friends out there who were absolutely buzzing after Day 2 and watching Stokes and JB. Such a shame that it’s completely petered out.

        don’t know if you heard Aggers and Boycs this morning – Boycs saying this is no good for Test cricket; ever the establishment man Aggers saying well I maintain the South Africans have played really well. Absolutely agree says Boycs but it’s not good for test cricket. But they’ve played really well, had no option said Aggers. You’re not listening, i quite agree said Boycs but…. and so on and so on it went. neither of them got round to talking about the pitch! maybe they did later, I wasn’t listening all the time.

        I did hear that the groundsman at Newlands was really upset that the pitch had done nothing, he had been sure it would deteriorate and offer something to the bowlers later on. Not sure if that’s true. They haven’t had ideal weather for preparation by the sound of it, much too hot and dry.

        • Boo hoo for your friends. If they are only entertained with hitting then maybe go watch white ball cricket and leave tests to proper cricketers (not that here are many around now)

      • Jesus, so it’s fine for Ben stokes to smash runs on a feather bed against a test attack that’s weak but Amla and co batting like a test match should be is ‘boring’.. What the hell are SA supposed to do? Take a risk and hit out and get out and hand the game to England ??

        Bloody stupid.

        England may rue batting as long as they did and not having someone fast enough to get wickets etc. Yes eye scored quickly but why not declare on 500 and have more time in he test ?? I know, because England got carried away ensuring they couldn’t lose the game. That is negative play, not how SA are batting

        England fans (I’m one) are sounding like sour grapes. Amla batted like a test number 3, nothing more, nothing less

        • The article says that Stokes’ achievement is devalued a bit too. It’s not just about South Africa. It’s about the runs in the game in general.

  • I tend to agree with Mad about cricket rather than with James. Poor English fans thinking that Stokes is a cricketer for smashing easy runs against South Africa’s third choice attack on a featherbed.

      • You tell me…. But did he also say that Amla and Bavuma’s scores should be down rated along with the blog ‘s policy of over rating English scores?

  • The Nagpur pitch was absolutely fantastic – one of the best cricket pitches I have seen in years. It produced a genuine contest between bat and ball and produced an utterly enthralling game and a positive result.

    This pitch, on the other hand, is an absolute disgrace and embarrassment to the game and warrants a heavy fine. Its like its deliberately designed to try to put people off test cricket.

    I have a daydream the other day of a teenage lad whose dad happened to have sky sports for the football, hearing that something exciting was happening in the “cricket match”, and turned it on to see what this sport was like, and be treated to the unquantifiable pleasure of watching Amla spending 2 hours scoring 7 runs against a pissed off and completely knackered England team.


    • The question for me is will South African cricket be fined for this pitch as the BCCI were for Nagpur?

  • Not sure what the argument is about here – I don’t think many would castigate SA for batting like they did, as you say, they didn’t have any option. And maybe it was easy for Stokes to hit a lot of runs, just as it appears to have been easy for some of the South Africans who have been way out of form to make runs yesterday and today.

    Surely the point is that it is a pity that the pitch has made it an uneven contest between bat and ball which is what the whole game should be about. That’s what has disappointed my friends. They weren’t there to see a slogathon, they are followers of test cricket, far more than the SF games. I don’t think it’s sour grapes by England fans, just disappointment that in the end it’s the pitch that has decided the outcome of the game, not the abilities of the two sides.

    Judging by the assessment of day 2, everyone I heard on radio and TV also thought it was a great day’s cricket to watch. But if test cricket is going to bring in the numbers and survive (at least outside of the Ashes), there have to be more days like Sunday and rather less like Monday I think.

  • The pitch has spooked me a bit. Having not seen much of the last 2 days I can’t really comment on the flatness.
    However on the 1st two days I thought it was gonna be a good test match wicket, it had pace, bounce and I thought with the heat would wear and crack.
    If Root had snaffled AB we may have been able to get through, but would have then struggled for the next 10.
    However there is one thing missing from the match, a true top class spinner (and I love MO) – maybe they’d have extracted turn?


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