South Africa’s many hands make light work of England’s first innings total at Lord’s

With all the talk about the respective approaches to batting of the two teams playing at Lord’s, there is an interesting contrast highlighted by South Africa’s innings on day two.

In their last 11 Tests, played in five series prior to this England tour, four South African racquets have each scored a century.

Sarel Erwee and Kyle Verreynne made scores in New Zealand earlier this year, Quinton de Kock was the only centurion in the Caribbean against the West Indies last June before retiring from Test cricket and Aiden Markram was the only batsman to win during the South Africa Tour hit three figures from Pakistan early last year.

In just four Tests England completed this summer, Jonny Bairstow has equaled that tally with four of his own hundreds, Joe Root has three to his name, while Ollie Pope scored 145 against New Zealand at Trent Bridge.

Despite Dean Elgar’s consistent runs, he has not reached the milestone since South Africa’s home series against Sri Lanka more than 18 months ago.

England have two players, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, in the top ten bats rankings of the ICC Test, while Elgar is South Africa’s top-ranked batsman, sitting 14th.

But despite the lack of big individual results, South Africa have not lost a streak since Elgar took over as captain last year and they currently lead the Test World Cup standings.

Of course, that’s largely thanks to her bowling attack, who kept finding ways to win 20 wickets in a game.

Pitches could also have played a role both home and away.

But while few bats have been bred to mark individual milestones, South Africa’s batters have often found a way to do enough to get the job done.

Such was the case at Lord’s on day two when South Africa, after knocking England out of the bowling for a meager 165 and Kasigo Rabada inscribed his name on the roll of honor with a five-wicket pull, broke away and then took the lead without either of them built batters really perform.

Erwee’s innings of 73 was South Africa’s only half-century and highest score, followed by Elgar’s 47, whose innings ended bizarrely when a Jimmy Anderson ball bounced off his thigh pad onto his arm and then, almost in slow motion, fell back down onto his stumps.

Erwee and Elgar’s opening tally of 85 was South Africa’s highest partnership, with the rest made up of modest contributions until late in the day, Marco Jansen and Keshav Maharaj upped the ante (cue ‘baz-ball’ jokes) to score 41 points each and Jansen looked to up the ante his tally when he resumes his innings on Friday.

At one point it seemed as if South Africa were in danger of forfeiting the advantage they had earned – or gained – from England’s low total in the first inning.

This was largely due to the intensity achieved by a Ben Stokes Charm that brought to life two gates and the Lord’s crowd decked out in red in support of the Ruth Strauss Foundation.

A barrage of short bowling strokes unnerved Erwee and finally snapped him out of the fold; The opener was keenly aware of the plan but could do little about it as Stokes slammed one in hard and the ball bounced off his head, rising off the bat and into the safe hands of Ben Foakes.

In his next over, Stokes caught Rassie van der Dussen by surprise with an unexpected fuller delivery that backed off the seam and slammed into his front pad.

But counterattacking from Jansen and Maharaj, who scored an over at a rate of almost 7 points before Maharaj took Stoke’s third wicket and another short ball victim by willingly swiping to Matthew Potts at midwicket, ensured South Africa clinched the Tag finished well at the top with a margin of 124 and three wickets still in hand.

“They played really well, to be honest,” Stuart Broad said after the stumps. “That kind of little counterattack moment.

“We changed the ball and let the other ball swing and after we changed the ball it didn’t really do us any good.

“So I thought it was really good cricket from the South African players, kind of recognizing that maybe the conditions have changed a bit and they can come out on top and attack us a bit.

“Maybe we got a bit between plans, but I felt they played really well and didn’t really give us many chances.

“We tried as much as we could. We’ve tried slow balls, bouncers and distance, but it’s going to be very difficult for bowlers at this time, which we’ve seen all summer.

“That kind of 60-80 over time has been a nightmare all summer, so yeah we just have to be lucky that we bowled at seven and eight and not three and four in that short span of time.”

But that’s one of the most intriguing aspects of this South African side, that cameos in the lower tier – or even higher – can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Of course, that test could still go either way, especially given the impressive form of the likes of Root and Bairstow this summer.

But it could also be that the distribution of runs across the South African line-up will once again prove successful after an excellent performance by their bowlers.

“We’re committed to knowing your job and trying to do your job the best we can,” Erwee said. “When you do that, your team usually works quite well and things come together.

“So it’s not really about one individual doing very well.

“Obviously we’d love to add more hundreds to our batting lineup, but as long as we’re trying to do the job the best we can and we’re 100% committed to it, we’ll stick to your plan and your process, if we do then we will keep winning, be it so.”

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