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England 303 and 326, South Africa 214 and 174 – England win by 241 runs

 At the sixth time of asking I have finally witnessed an England victory in an away Test! It feels good. Cheering as each wicket fell this morning, seeing the players so happy in their post-match interviews, singing their songs with the Barmy Army (and Happy Birthday to Joe Root of course) – it makes a nice change, and not something I’ll get tired of too quickly.

First Test report card

England

Excellent:

  • Nick Compton – backbone of England’s first innings and the man responsible for seeing them into a defendable position after a poor start to the innings and a late collapse; nice solid 49 in the second innings too;
  • James Taylor – his 125-run partnership with Compton was the defining one of the first innings, and he made a good contribution in the second innings too: brave short leg fielding;
  • Jonny Bairstow – the most fluent and successful batsman of the second innings, and his only error as a wicketkeeper was a really tough chance, which he made up for with a stumping early today;
  • Steven Finn – looked threatening all Test, taking four of top order second-inning wickets and setting up the win;

Good:

  • Moeen Ali – seven wickets in the match on a pitch not particularly spinner-friendly, although his contribution with the bat was minimal;
  • Stuart Broad – successfully led the attack in Anderson’s absence, and made an important 32* in the first innings to get England past 300;
  • Joe Root – got in and got out in the first innings but made a nice 73 in the second; it’s a measure of him as a player that we are disappointed with 97 run in the match from him;

Acceptable:

  • Ben Stokes – an entertaining 21 in the first innings, but fairly anonymous when bowling;
  • Chris Woakes – also only took one wicket, although made a nice 23 in the second innings;

Could do better:

  • Alastair Cook – England’s run machine averaging 3.5 this series, and his early departure in both innings put pressure on Compton and the middle order; no complaints about his captaincy though (mainly because I don’t really understand captaincy);
  • Alex Hales – yet to show use what he has to offer as a Test opener.

South Africa

Excellent:

  • Dean Elgar – carried his bat in the first innings making the only century of the Test, and was on the field for all of the first three and a half days; also did his share of bowling – impressive;
  • Dane Piedt – 5-for in England’s second innings, it’s exciting to see a promising South African spinner; more importantly, he retweeted his Guerilla Cricket jingle, so he’s my favourite;

Good:

  • Morne Morkel – looked threatening most of the time, especially during the early part of England’s second innings, and took four wickets in their first innings;
  • JP Duminy – showed a bit of fight on the final day, ending 26 not out and being involved in the annoying last two wicket partnerships;

Acceptable:

  • Stiaan van Zyl – very cool name, but looked out of his depth for the two balls of his first innings, although more impressive in his second;
  • Temba Bavuma – another excellent name, his batting wasn’t great but his fielding, especially at short leg, impressed me;
  • Kyle Abbott – reasonable bowling, and though he only took one wicket in each innings, they were important ones (Bairstow and Root);

Could do better:

  • Hashim Amla – as an England fan I expect to see him grind our bowlers into the dirt non-stop for four and a half days, but he only made 19 runs in the match; also, captaincy – yeah, I still don’t know about that;
  • Faf du Plessis – the one player who really could have blocked out day five for a remarkable draw, but he was out before the close on day four, sealing South Africa’s fate;
  • AB de Villiers – he’s such a legendary player now that anything less than superhuman is a disappointment; he was sadly human in this Test;
  • Dale Steyn – next time, dear Dale, don’t get injured.
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