By Kieran Wellington
- A remarkable Test in Cape Town went all the way to the last hour of Day Five as ‘golden nugget’ Ben Stokes took the last three wickets to cap a memorable individual performance
- South Africa showed incredible discipline in the fourth innings, batting for 137.4 overs but lose in Cape Town against England for the first time since 1957
- The inexperienced members of both squads shone, with Dom Sibley compiling an unbeaten 133 to set up England’s victory, before Pieter Malan‘s 288-ball 84 nearly denied England head coach Chris Silverwood a first Test victory
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – England produced a dramatic, last-gasp victory against a stubborn South Africa in a Test match for the ages to level the four-match series 1-1, but who excelled and who needs to improve?
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Dom Sibley – 9/10 – What a place to make your maiden Test century. The 24-year-old showed application and maturity beyond his years to bat for 311 balls and remained unbeaten on 133 when England set South Africa a world record-breaking target of 438 to win. The untimely and avoidable absence of Rory Burns to a football injury seems easier to handle now.
Zak Crawley – 5/10 – Never easy to open the batting against Kagiso Rabada and Vernon Philander at (previously) fortress Newlands. Struggled with Philander’s metronomic accuracy in the first innings but his positive attitude in the second to reach 25 off just 35 balls showed he was willing to exert pressure back on the opposition and provide a foundation for his team.
Joe Denly – 7/10 – Establishing himself at no.3 despite no Test century – yet. Batted for 241 balls in the match for just 69 runs, but his defensive technique is arguably the best of any England batsman, and blunting the South African attack is the perfect approach to ease the pressure on England’s talented and fluent middle order. A first Test wicket to boot – and that of Dean Elgar no less – set England on their way in the final innings before grabbing the prize wicket of Quinton de Kock to a long hop in the final session which swung the momentum back to the tourists.
Joe Root – 8/10 – Former England captain Nasser Hussain called this performance Root’s finest as captain, (in the Daily Mail) and who am I to argue? Looks to have firmly shaken off what was a relatively lean 2019 with the bat (by his standards) and only two snorting deliveries denied England’s finest batsman an 18th Test century. Remarkably, the 61 in the second innings Root compiled is his 46th half-century in 90 matches. Can take a lot of encouragement from England’s patient approach, winning in a style throwing back to an era where grit and focus over long periods was the key to success. Still needed a slice of Ben Stokes magic to level the series, though.
Ben Stokes – 10/10 – A bonafide global superstar, pure and simple. Joined elite company in becoming just the third player in Test history to score over 100 runs, take three wickets and six catches in one Test match, but figures get nowhere near encapsulating the magic of England’s ‘golden nugget’, in skipper Root’s words. His determination, fitness, and never-say-die attitude is unparalleled and must be inspiring for the youngsters lucky enough to share a field with a man drawing comparisons once more to the once incomparable Sir Ian Botham. Still has a long way to match the consistency of South Africa’s finest all-rounder and current batting consultant for the Proteas, Jacques Kallis, but can reach those heights if he builds on the performances of an incredible last six months. Dominates the back pages of the print media like few other cricketers can.
Ollie Pope – 6/10 – A solid six for England’s number six. The Surrey batsman has so much talent considering he is only 22 and his unbeaten 61 in the first innings will be easily forgotten by some swept up with the dramatic finish, but his teammates will no doubt understand the significance of turning England’s disappointing opening day into a first innings lead, an advantage England never relinquished.
Jos Buttler – 5/10 – His mark should be lower for a below-par batting display for a man with such precocious talent, but his expletive-ridden outburst directed towards Philander was hilariously described as the turning point on Twitter by Dave Tickner, and gets an extra mark from me. There’s nothing like a sportsperson showing a combative side. It shows it truly matters.
Sam Curran – 6/10 – Must be tired of being branded as a cricketer that ‘makes things happen’ but is England’s golden arm with the ball right now. His left-arm medium-fast swingers provide real variation to a side that severely lack in that department without a fit and firing Jofra Archer. Ended debutant Pieter Malan‘s vigil in the only wicket of the penultimate session, which provided England with vital impetus heading into the final two-and-a-half hours.
Dom Bess – 6/10 – The Somerset offie produced a performance in the mould of current director of cricket at the ECB, Ashley Giles. Miserly in the first innings which allowed Root to rotate his seamers from the Pavilion End into the cracks. Could improve his threat by mixing his delivery position on the crease, but showed Root and head coach Chris Silverwood any successful Test team needs a front-line spinner, fulfilling a variety of roles throughout the five days.
Stuart Broad – 7/10 – Was arguably England’s most threatening bowler during South Africa’s first innings, despite partner-in-crime James Anderson grabbing a record-breaking 28th five-wicket haul. Appeared to tire in the second innings as his pace dropped, but an inspired fielding change, moving his senior opening bowling partner to leg gully induced the limpet-like Rassie van der Dussen into losing his wicket when he appeared the most likely to deny England victory on Day Five.
James Anderson – 8/10 – Ages like a fine wine, and keep breaking Botham’s bowling records. Unrivalled in appearing to have the ball on a string as he nips it this way and that, and his stats show he just keeps getting better. Since his 35th birthday, the Burnley Express has taken more than 100 Test wickets at an average of a smidge over 20. Stunning numbers, and his influence will be missed in Port Elizabeth, as it emerged he damaged his rib as a result of his Cape Town exertions.
Pieter Malan – 8/10 – The man on debut missed out in the first innings, dislodged by an on-form Broad, but his resolve to last for over six hours at the crease showed he has the mental toughness for Test cricket. England weren’t to be denied, but it feels like Malan won’t be either in making the most of Aiden Markram‘s unfortunate injury: and being in his 30s, he knows he’s a man with limited time, but also knows his game inside-out.
Dean Elgar – 8/10 – Top scored across both sides’ first innings, but was undone by spin twice: once from an ugly swipe off Bess having presumably lost patience and/or concentration, but his second innings dismissal was controversial as the spike emitted on ultra-edge was arguably his elbow brushing his pad. Will continue to be a key player in the outcome of this series.
Zubayr Hamza – 3/10 – Made just 23 runs in the match: only his captain compiled fewer of the batsmen on show. It is no disgrace getting out to both Broad and Anderson – he joins an awfully long list with that particular honour – but needs to show he can perform at the highest level. At 24 years of age, time is on his side: unlike many of his colleagues.
Faf du Plessis – 2/10 – Was billed as the man with the track record to go out and lead from the front in a rearguard action to save the Test match for his side, but instead added to his single-run contribution in the first innings with a scarcely believable sweep to midwicket when attacking shots should have been left back in the pavilion. Still a strong leader, but hasn’t got past 30 with bat in hand so far.
Rassie van der Dussen – 7/10 – Another strong performance from a man appearing in his debut Test series. Supported opener Elgar in a century partnership first time around when South Africa were floundering at 40-3 and went into pure block mode in an effort to save the match, showing his more senior middle-order compatriots how its done before a regulation fine flick off the pads was swallowed up by an inexplicably-placed Anderson at leg gully, who in a cruel twist of fate for van der Dussen was at mid-on just the ball before. His pained upward stare encapsulated the range of emotions only five-day Test cricket can produce.
Quinton de Kock – 4/10 – Maybe a harsh mark after the consistently box-office ‘keeper compiled yet another half-century against England: he averages over 40 against Root’s side. But two shocking dismissals shows the enigmatic de Kock can go from the sublime to the ridiculous in a matter of seconds. His persistence in wanting to dive full-length across first slip isn’t doing his teammates any favours either, especially the unlucky van der Dussen, who has shelled a couple of catches there as a result.
Dwaine Pretorius – 4/10 – Did a similar job to England’s spinner Bess in restricting the away side from capitalising on the senior bowlers taking a rest: his 2-26 in the first innings was unexpected. Got the prize wicket of the England skipper when well set second time around, but needs to do lots more with bat in hand to convince head coach Mark Boucher of his all-round credentials.
Vernon Philander – 6/10 – Was denied a memorable bowing-out at his home ground by being the last wicket to fall to the imperious Stokes, but the standing ovation he got from all sections of Newlands as he completed a lap of honour shows what respect he has garnered during his Proteas career: as well as underlining what a threat he will be at Taunton when he lines up in Somerset colours this summer.
Keshav Maharaj – 2/10 – Match figures of 3-228 from 70 overs, when compared with opposite number Bess’ output of 2-119 from 60 overs shows Maharaj was neither threatening nor economical enough to apply real pressure on the England batsmen. Should be outperforming Somerset’s second spinner in home conditions with the experience of nearly 500 first-class wickets to call upon.
Kagiso Rabada – 5/10 – With his pace and ability to swing the ball late, KG is always a threat. However, his radar has been too erratic so far this series, which negates some of the threat posed by fellow new-ball bowler Philander: Sibley and co. know they are under no pressure to score versus the wily Philander, as run-scoring opportunities are currently available off Rabada. Still has the potential to be the best bowler on show though, which in this company is a great compliment.
Anrich Nortje – 5/10 – Dislodged England’s two best batsmen Root and Stokes on Day One when England looked to have thrown away a good opportunity to capitalise on winning a good toss. Couldn’t repeat his nightwatchman heroics from Centurion with bat in hand however as he became victim to a brilliant Stokes catch and then an equally top-class Stokes delivery which virtually sealed South Africa’s fate.
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