Wickets and Controversy – Day Two at Durban

Unlike the farce going on in Melbourne, this is turning into a spicy meatball of a test match. England probably have their noses in front, especially as the Cricket Boks will have to bat last. The locals reckon this pitch is drying out and could get a little uneven on days four and five. We might even see some turn for Mo.

It was a day of mixed emotions for England supporters: relief, frustration, joy and anger. Relief because 303 was a good total after being reduced to 49-3; frustration because 303 was a poor total after being 196-4; joy because our bowlers reduced the Cricket Boks to 14-2; and anger because AB de Villiers was blatantly caught in the gully by Ben Stokes but given not out by a gutless third umpire. Had the right decision been made, England would have been in an absolutely fantastic position.

As we expected before the series, the bowlers are dominating this contest. Compton made a dogged 85 and probably deserved his ton – is he Jonathan Trott mark two? – but our middle-order only teased rather than making any substantial scores. Jonny Bairstow was the only one to reach 40. He’s a useful man to have coming in at seven. Moeen and Chris Woakes went early and Stokes rather threw his wicket away.

England’s 303 wasn’t quite what either captain had in mind at the start of day one but it set up an interesting game. Stuart Broad soon made it look like a more than useful total. His opening spell was world class. His aggression and relentless accuracy soon accounted for van Zyn and he made Amla look like a novice. Only Dean Elgar, who looks relatively organised, weathered the storm.

Poor Amla is really out of form. He looks unbalanced and his foot movement looks slow and indecisive. In fact, he looks very much like the player who made his debut against England all those years ago. He was a bit of a walking wicket back then. England need to keep his slump going for as long as possible.

The key moment of the day, as I alluded to earlier, was the non-dismissal of de Villiers (who went on to make 49). I know that catches aren’t always given on replay, and this is a recurring problem, but you do see them given when third umpires understand the technology and have the courage of their convictions. This one so clearly carried cleanly to Stokes that I really don’t understand the thought process.

Apologists for the third umpire argued on social media that Stokes himself wasn’t sure therefore there must have been some doubt. The truth is that fielders never know for sure. The likes of Steve Smith and Ryan Harris have admitted as much. Stokes basically did what all professionals should do: he claimed the catch, said he thought he’d caught it, but said he couldn’t be 100% sure.

In circumstances like this, the onus is on the third umpire to make the right decision. He has the best view and the benefit of several slow motion replays. The fielders and the on-field umpires can only go on instinct. What a shame that the third umpire was either too timid or too inexperienced to get a basic decision correct.

It wasn’t one of those 50:50 situations. It was out. End of.

James Morgan


  • Bat last James?

    This England side is a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment. I was angry this morning, only Mo got out to a good delivery, I copped a lot of stick for criticising Compo and his dismissal, but after fighting yesterday and thinking 270 would be good, I thought we may get 370 this morning. Fortunately a Broad cameo got us to 300.

    After lunch we we’re brilliant. Broad bowled excellently and Woakes had control. We should have more than 4 but we are in a good position.
    If we can get a 50-80 lead and bat well we should set them 300. Which will be very hard batting last.
    An excellent test in prospect.

    A word on Melbourne. Sad.

  • First time commenting on this site (it’s very good, hats off you to James), and I have to say that I agree re: de Villiers. Stokes clearly caught the ball, and while I accept that fielders aren’t always sure whether they’ve caught it, you have to wonder whether it would have been given had he celebrated more convincingly (even though he wasn’t actually convinced)? Maybe he should have been a bit more ‘Australian’ in a sense – that is, appeal the catch as if you 100% believe you’ve caught it (regardless of whether you actually think it’s 50/50), then leave it to the umpires…

    Nevertheless, England are right in this game – South Africa’s batting is fragile and if we can get Elgar early tomorrow then we can restrict them to less than 250, which puts us in the driving seat.

    I’m beginning to worry about Moeen though; he’s had a really poor year, averaging around 45 with the ball with a high economy rate (over 4 rpo) while his batting has gone backwards, with an average of about 24 this year. Those are not figures that justify his place, to be honest – despite the mitigating factor of not having a settled batting position – and I find it difficult to believe that Rashid would do worse (in both disciplines) if given a run of ten games or so. Give him til the end of the series, but I feel that we might have to re-visit the spin conundrum quite soon, unfortunately.

    • Thanks Swill FC. I’m a Worcs man so I really want to see Mo do well, but I’m beginning to think that Rashid should be given an extended run to see what he can do. I thought Mo bowled a little better today, but his recent standards have certainly slipped.

    • Certainly in our local league if the ball is caught on once bounce, its called an “Aussie Slip Catch”.

  • I think everyone wants Mo to do well! He’s an unflappable character and has genuine talent, which is why he should be given time and England should be cautious before dropping him. That said, his bowling appears to be regressing to its mean, which is probably an average of somewhere around 40 – this would be fine were Moeen holding up an end, but if he’s going to be expensive in any case (as it seems) then England may well be better served looking at Rashid rather than merely accepting Mo as a mediocre frontline spinner.

    I don’t think this is Moeen’s fault, because the fact is that he’s always been more of a batsman than a bowler. In truth, there probably isn’t room for both him and Stokes in the same side; one should probably play, bat at 6 and be the 5th bowler, but that decision would almost entirely depend on pitch conditions and would mean that Mo would hardly ever play (certainly not in England). It’s a difficult one for sure.

  • 3rd umpire decision on Stokes catch was a poor one but inevitable once it had been referred – replays of low catches are always inconclusive and de Villiers was always going to be reprieved. Big mistake from Cook not referring the Elgar LBW shout from Stokes – bet he would have done if Broad wanted a referral.

    • Ive seen quite a few similar catches given on review when the evidence is so compelling. It just takes a good / strong umpire who knows what they’re doing. It’s only inevitable when there is some doubt. In my view there wasn’t any doubt at all today. The catch was as clear as these type of low catches can ever be (imho of course).

  • Looks to be a good contest in SA with deVilliers and Amla back in the sheds England a good shout for a first innings lead. Following this with more interest than our home series in Aus.

    The MCG farce is really sad WI don’t appear to be trying. Fielding with their feet and just not much intensity. They have played like a beaten team since they arrived and I think Bangladesh would deliver more of a contest than this. WI series were as highly anticipated as the ashes once sadly not anymore.

    • I feel for the paying Aussie public too. Surely they want to see a contest? It’s depressing to see the opposition just give up. Doesn’t do Australia any favours either to be honest. Easy runs and wickets makes it harder for the selectors to identify talent that can succeed against tougher opposition. Voges stats are ridiculous now.

      • Certainly I won’t be stumping up cash to watch the SCG test this year. It seems highly unlikely WI will take 20 wickets across the entire series.

        Between NZ’s poor bowling form at the Gabba, a ridiculously flat wicket at the WACA and this farcical WI tour the day night test will likely be the only match that was actually contested at any point in the entire 6 match Aus test Summer.

        Anyway looks like England are a real good chance now with Steyn out again. Gives Aus a chance of taking number 1 test spot if they can beat NZ at home. Go England!

  • Rumours in SA that ABDV and Steyn could retire from Test cricket at the end of the series.

    Worrying times for the game.

    • What would the reason be? AB is just 31 and Steyn 32. Is it the lure of easy T20 cash? If so very worrying indeed.

      • I’d say its more to do with workloads. They now have the pension policy of the IPL and so don’t have to flog themselves in tests. If they feel there’s nothing left to achieve…

  • This test match is a entertaining watch but mainly due to both sides batting quite poorly and ok bowling (some good balls, majority ok and few bad ones). Can’t believe how poor SA are and I can’t see them improving anytime soon. Could is be the end for SA in test cricket ??!!??

    AB talk of retiring will completely destroy their team as well, simply nothing coming through the ranks. England are slightly ahead with 4 test batsmen in the top six but again, nothing else around or coming through. Only Ian Chappell on cricinfo has spoken about the elephant in the room on the quality around in the modern game.. One day another media reporter will grow some balls

      • So? Doesn’t mean they will be good enough.

        Roussow – really
        De cock – really
        Villas – really

        White ball players at most. Depends I suppose if you want tests to be test matches or just a glorified one day game which is what it’s becoming

        • Some will become the stars of tomorrow (Graeme Smith was top scorer in the 2000 U19 WC, Alastair Cook starred in 2004) and some will disappear without trace.

          Look at its history and you’ll see U19 performances are a pretty good indicator of how a country is about to do. Australia won it in 1988 for example and England in 1998 and both fed through into seriously improved senior teams in the few years afterwards.

          • We shall see, personally I can’t see test cricket improving as these kids will only have had a diet of 2020 and ODI. Tests will continue to ‘evolve’ as they say. Sad to see true skills lost as we are seeing already


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