After getting off to an incredible start this summer, England’s test cricket team was full of confidence heading into their first match of the series against South Africa this month.
Taking place at Lord’s – otherwise known as the ‘home of cricket’ – the Brendon McCullum coached-side expressed their intention to continue their aggressive brand of play that they had shown in their four wins over New Zealand and India in June and July. Those who bet on sports agreed with the sentiment that England were going to continue their rich vein of form, as the home side entered the series as the prohibitive favourites.
It didn’t go as planned for the recently appointed captain Ben Stokes and his men, as they were battered by a clinical Proteas outfit by an innings and 12 runs. After winning the toss and electing to bowl, South Africa clearly felt confident that their powerful pace attack could put their opponents under plenty of pressure early on. The Proteas would have been particularly buoyed by the inclusion of world-ranked fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who was declared fit to play.
There had been doubts in the lead-up to the first test whether or not he would suit up after a niggling ankle injury continued to hamper him. It was the right decision to name him however, as he and the remainder of the pace attack ripped through England’s batting line up in the first innings to bowl them out for a measly total of 165 runs.
It was a combined effort from the South African bowlers, with Anrich Nortje securing the most wickets with three – while Rabada, Keshav Maharaj and Marco Jansen all took two apiece. With their tails up after their innings in the field, South Africa capitalised on their strong start to gain the ascendency even further with the bat.
The openers began well, with captain Dan Elgar and Sarel Erwee scoring 47 and 73 respectively. That was built upon by all-rounder Marco Jansen, who continued on from his impressive performance with the ball to muster up a respectable 48 runs at the crease. It went from bad to worse for England, as tailenders Maharaj’s 41 runs and Nortje’s score of 28 ensured South Africa went into the dressing sheds with a decent first innings score of 326.
Heading into the second innings trailing by 161 runs and with plenty to do, England needed a flawless start. However, Maharej foiled any plans of a comeback, taking two early wickets that put the home side on the back foot immediately. What followed was as fine a fast-bowling spell you will see, with Nortje running riot and terrorising the English middle order. He took three consecutive wickets, securing the scalps of the in-form Jonny Bairstow, classy opener Alex Lees and all-rounder Ben Foakes.
That spell from Nortje was ultimately the nail in the coffin for England, who ended up being bowled out for 149 on Day 3. With South Africa winning so emphatically, it is imperative that McCullum’s side come back refreshed and re-focused for their remaining two tests at Old Trafford and at The Oval. Although, that’s easier said than done, as this young and enthusiastic Proteas side will be hoping to become the first South African side to defeat England on away soil since 2012.
If you were one of those people who thought the Proteas were a value bet before the series started and therefore decided to place some money down, if their performance in the first test is anything to go by, it definitely could prove to be one of the best betting tips in this year’s summer of cricket.