Mark Boucher’s first game as South Africa coach saw the Proteas beat England by 107 runs at Centurion- a long awaited win after a torrid year for Faf du Plessi’s men. For a brief while, England threatened to do what Sri Lanka had done at Kingsmead earlier this year, but their hopes were dashed after the home side took the second new ball as they lost their last seven wickets for 64 runs.
Here are our talking points from Days 2,3 & 4 at Supersport Park.
1. Impressive Anrich Nortje
Chosen ahead of Beuran Hendricks and Dane Paterson, Nortje justified his selection with a fine all round performance. He took the key wicket of Ben Stokes- arguably England’s best test batsman this year, in the first innings, and then got both Rory Burns and Joe Root in the second innings. He also made a vital 40 as nightwatchman- no Proteas batsman faced more deliveries than him in their second innings, and he was also involved in their biggest partnership of the game (91) with Rassie van der Dussen.
His combination with Kagiso Rabada looks very promising for South Africa and they will be hoping the duo can go from strength to strength.
2. Twin failures for YJB
It was a game to forget for Jonny Bairstow on his return to the England test team. The manner of his dismissals at Centurion will again raise questions about his suitability for the longest version of the game- he was bowled by Anrich Nortje in the first innings and attempted an ill-timed swipe at a swinging, wide delivery from Rabada, only to give a catch to Zubayr Hamza at gully.
3. Familiar batting collapses for England.
England weren’t outplayed in this game but were let down by their batsmen in both innings. In the first, they were 142/3 at one stage in reply to South Africa’s 284, but were skittled out for 181. In their second, 204/3 became 268 all out. 7/39 and 7/64 are not the type of numbers you would want from your middle and lower order, especially for a side that prides itself on batting deep.
4. De Kock the difference between the two sides
In the end, South Africa’s first innings lead of 103 was a major reason for them winning this test. That was mainly possible due to the efforts of wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock whose 95 helped them post 284 after they had been 111/5 on the first day. De Kock also made an entertaining 34 in the second innings and came up trumps in his little battle with Jofra Archer, hitting the latter for three sixes.
5. What changes will both side make for Cape Town?
For England the likes of Ollie Pope and Dom Bess should definitely come into contention, but the Proteas have some selection headaches of their own too. Aiden Markram’s injury has necessitated a call up for Knights batsmen Keegan Petersen. South Africa have a natural replacement opener for Markram in the squad in the form of Pieter Malan, but may look at playing Petersen to fulfill transformation requirements. On an average, the Proteas need to field 6 players of colour (including two Black Africans) but played only four (including one Black African) at Centurion. Do debutants Van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius keep their spots? Who makes way if Temba Bavuma has to return? Some big questions for Mark Boucher to resolve ahead of the New Years’ test.