After writing on here yesterday that the game was in the balance going into day 3 at Cape Town, it is clearly now time to write that the game is up in Cape Town.
After a day of pure dominance from South Africa, England looked destined for a day and a halfs batting to save the match, at best. South Africa were the clear winners of the key battles this time.
If events with the bat on day 2 – when conditions where far more conducive to batting – are to be used as a form guide, then what chance England batting out days 4 and 5 for the draw?
South African skipper Graeme Smith (162 n/o) played a real captains innings and in doing so he moved the game along at great pace. In pushing his innings along and attacking England in the way he did, he looks like he may well have bought his side an extra session in which to bowl England out.
He put on a superb partnership of 230 with Hashim Amla (95) for the second wicket, batting a tired looking England out of the game in the process. Showing a fighting spirit which has dragged his team back from the brink of a series defeat, which they looked well on their way to after lunch on day 1.
England short with the bat
Now that we’ve had a chance to look at South Africa bat on this pitch on a good day, we can clearly see that England badly underperformed with the bat on day 2.
As stated on this site yesterday, Steyn and Morkel bowled well on day 2.
The problem was that the real damage had already been done with the wickets of Strauss, Trott and Pietersen. All didn’t make the SA bowlers get them out, they gifted their wickets, and in doing so put Cook and the incoming Collingwood and Bell under added pressure that they didn’t need to be under.
England have had the opportunity to make the most of the conditions in this match, and they have blown it. They won the toss and correctly bowled, then failed to make the most of the favourable conditions and let South Africa recover from 127/5 to 291 all out.
In that time they also dropped Graeme Smith on nought and in doing so allowed another hour to pass before Jacques Kallis came out to bat. Ok, he might still have got a century coming in to bat in the second over, but he also might have got out cheaply to the new ball. We will never know.
England then threw away the chance to put scoreboard pressure on SA by batting with little common sense or brains. In particular the reckless nature of Strauss and Pietersen’s wickets helped heap extra pressure on the middle order, and in doing so gave Steyn and Morkel the momentum.
With sensible batting on day 2, England would have had front line batsmen left going into todays play, and the chance to bat in the best conditions of the match and set up a match winning score.
Instead as a result of that reckless batting, England found themselves in the field and watching the South Africans set a match winning total. Another gift for Graeme Smith’s men.
England have only themselves to blame for this mess in my opinion. If as is expected, South Africa go on to win the match and level the series, England will at least have the chance in the 4th test to bounce back and maybe do what they did to Australia in the summer.
If they can pull that off, it would surely be a better achievement.