Now that the toxic Kevin Pietersen has finally been ostracized from the England camp the players he scared away are returning to the fold and England regrouping a less flamboyant eleven, a unit that can win tests. James Taylor and Nick Compton were just two of those forced out of the fold by the horrid Afrikaner. Pietersen hammered Taylor over his size (he is 5.4’) and said he could never play international cricket at that height and simply didn’t like Nick Compton. Both should have been treated better by England. KP also put doubt in the heart of Monty Panesar and never the same since.
The South African tour was a great chance for Compton and Taylor to impress as Bell’s career is coming to an end at number three, and with no one else looking like an international opener out there, a chance for Alex Hales. I like Compton and I like Taylor and perfect for test cricket but I’m not so sure on Hales and trying to make him a test opener may take away his thrilling one-day and Twenty20 skill set. We should leave him in that area. I don’t see what is wrong with that.
Ben Stokes is ready to fill Botham’s shoes and Stuart Broad finally the complete bowler we hoped he would be. Woakes and Finn had a lot to prove on this tour, as does Bairstow. Mooen Ali, for some reason, is just emotionally surplus to the ECB and being subtly squeezed out.
==Durban 26-30th December==
England chose to rest James Andersen and bought in Chris Woakes as South Africa asked England to bat first on a slow looking pitch and to face the fearsome but recently injured Dale Steyn. The worlds fastest bowler didn’t mess about and ‘pinged’ Cook and Hales out cheap. He has the best strike rate in test cricket and this, his 50th test wicket against England. But Compton is a determined chap and ground out a hundred partnership with Taylor after a poor defensive line by Root left England on 49-3. Compton is one of those guys who enjoys slow scoring like Cook and added that 125 with Taylor (70) to close rain hit day on 179-4.
Day two and Bairstow (41) and Stokes (21) moved things along quicker with a 50 partnership with Compton finally out for 85 off 179 balls, some six hours at the crease, what was required. Broad did likewise with a breezy 32* to close the innings on 303, about par after being 174-3.
===England 303 all out===
South Africa were soon behind the 8 ball with some sloppy cricket and didn’t look anything like the words best ranked test team. Although they have won 10 of their last 13 series only one of their top six averages over 27 and none have scored hundreds in 2015, or, indeed a hundred partnership. They also have financial problems due to poor TV rights and England sensed their chance to land an early blow under the politically correct appointment of Hashim Amla as captain. Since taking the job the bearded one has scored two half-centuries in 20 innings and quickly out for 7 here. De Villiers ground out an uncharacteristic 49 off 85 balls and put on 86 with the relatively new Elgar but once out the home team slipped to 156-7 with immaculate bowling from new ball man Broad. It was left to Elgar to score the much needed century, 118, to post some sort of score and completing the rare feat of carrying the bat for a test innings, only the sixth South African to achieve that in a test, only the second since South Africa’s return to the fold. Broad is the second highest wicket taker in 2015 with 55, just 5 behind Indian spinner Ashwin on 60.
===South Africa 214 all out===
De Villiers 49
England enjoyed their 89 run first innings lead and Compton again leading the innings recovery from 48-2. But with Steyn off with an injury England prospered as Compton (49) and Root put on 61 for the third wicket for the 200 lead. Taylor put on fifty more with Root as South Africa toiled on day three with three easy catches going down. It was an odd decision for De Villiers to keep wicket and he looks tired after a long year.
Day four and England consolidated their lead with Bairstow hitting his best test score for three years, 79, and Joe Root (73) becoming the second highest test run scorer of the year behind Kane Williamson with yet another half-century, 42 runs by James Taylor seeing England bring up the 350 lead. A rapid 23 from Stokes set South Africa a record chase of 415 to win as England closed on 326 all out. Spinner Piedt picked up his first home ‘five-for’ but an expensive 5 - 153. Dane Piedt is the first South African spinner to take a five-for at Durban since Hugh Tayfield in 1957.
Joe Root finishes the year with 1,385 runs in 14 Tests, scoring three hundreds and 10 half centuries at an average of 62.77. His is the second highest aggregate for England ever behind Michael Vaughan's 1,481 in 2002 and the second highest this year behind Australia's Steve Smith, who finished with 1,474.
===326 All Out===
Van Zyl 3-20
South Africa looked low on confidence and England were into them before the close on day four at 119-4, Elgar out for 40. They weren’t up for the fight on day five, either, and skittled before lunch for 174 all out, collapsing away from 136-3, losing the last 6 for 19 runs. Mo Ali picked up the man of the match for his 7 wickets in the game.
After missing a stumping in the first innings Bairstow became the first Englishman to take a test stumping since 2012, some 38 matches. For some reason we are bottom of the test stumping league, Pakistan taking 20 in that time period and India second with 18. A stumping is a good way to get out if you are throwing the test though.
===RSA 174 2nd Innings===
De Villiers 37
England win by 241 runs!
===2nd test @ Cape Town===
England had not won here since South Africa’s re-integration into international cricket in the late 1980s. Of the past 15 times that the visiting team has batted first in a Test at Newlands, they have been beaten on 13 occasions. But after the opening win in Durban in English conditions the touring side would surely go well after winning the toss and choosing to bat on a flat one in hot sunshine.
Cook (27) and Hales finally put on fifty runs as the absent Steyn was replaced by the rapid but roar Rabada. Hales nicked behind for 60 after putting on 74 with the always stoic and slow Compton (45) before England had little wobble on 167-4 before Root (50) ,with his 13th half-century or more this calendar year, bought up the 200 with another fifty partnership. There is a feeling this England side gets stuck without KP to accelerate the innings against the old ball at number 4 and when the nudges and cutters try to rev it up around the 45 over mark they get out. But that acceleration has moved down to number six and seven with Stokes (74*) and Bairstow (39*) freeing the arms against the old and then new ball to put England in control at the close with a rapid 92 run partnership.
If last nights session was bad for South Africa the next two were horrendous, probably the worse in their history as records tumbled. Stokes, in his 21st Test, resumed on that overnight 74 and raced to 200 in 163 balls to beat Ian Botham's 220-ball double century record for England. Jonny Bairstow stood back and let Stokes smash it all over Cape Town before striking his own maiden Test century of 150 and shared in a stand of 399, a sixth-wicket world record, a world record that had been beaten three times in the last three years. It was the fastest 300 partnership ever in tests, beating India's Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid in 2003.
The beefy middle-order guys with those chunky bats and T20 muscle are simply changing the game now. Stokes made 258 (highest score by an England batsman at Newlands, beating Jack Hobbs' 187 in 1910) as England added 312 within 39 overs and declared on 629-6. He plundered 130 in the morning, the most by any Test batsman in a pre-lunch session, moving from 150 to his double century in just 28 deliveries, before beating Virender Sehwag's landmark for the fastest Test 250. That’s a scoring rate England haven’t even reached in 50 over cricket, let alone unrestricted test cricket fields. It was quite astonishing hitting. Only Stokes fellow New Zealander Nathan Astle has reached a Test double hundred quicker than the Durham ginger, off 153 balls against England in 2002. Again most of the quickest doubles are recent feats. Attempting a third successive six to equal Wasim Akram's record of 12 for the highest number of maximums in a Test innings, Stokes lofted to AB de Villiers at mid-on, who fumbled the catch but ran out the left-hander with a direct hit to close the innings. It’s still the most sixes by an England batsman (11) in an innings, surpassing Wally Hammond in 1933. Stokes scores was the highest by a number six in tests, bettering Doug Walters' 250 for Australia against New Zealand in 1977
===Fastest Test Doubles===
153 balls: Nathan Astle, New Zealand v England, Christchurch, 2002
163 balls: Ben Stokes, England v South Africa, Cape Town, 2016
168 balls: Virender Sehwag, India v Sri Lanka, Mumbai, 2009
182 balls: Virender Sehwag, India v Pakistan, Lahore, 2006
186 balls: Brendon McCullum, New Zealand v Pakistan, Sharjah, 2014
===England’s 1st Innings===
South Africa closed the day in fighting mood on 141-2. The wicket was getting flatter and why I’m surprised England didn’t bat on to 700 and take South Africa out of the game completely because England had scored so quickly. Captain Hashim Amla ended a run of 11 innings without a fifty in reaching 64 not out at the close. Let’s not forget his treble in 2012 at the Oval when RSA declared on 638-2 against England! It would be the most runs scored in a day of Test cricket, beating the 450 made by Australia at Wanderers in 1921. And what a day it was.
Day three and the pitch was as flat as Gary Glitters love life and South Africa in full grind mood. Once Amla gets in proper he is one of those guys, like fellow captain Alistair Cook, and old South African captain Graeme Smith, you have to dig out as they love to dig in and bat a daddy. He batted all day to sit on 157* out at the close of day four, South Africa losing just one wicket all day and England dropping catches, lots of them. De Villiers ran up his 8,000th test run in his score of 88 in a partnership of 183 for the 3rd wicket. Du Plessis also dug in to close the day on 51* in an unbeaten 85 partnership. That’s how to battle for a draw. England may now be regretting that declaration.
Day four and more of the same as Amla completed his double hundred in 700 minutes and 477 balls, sharing a 171 run partnership. That heroic double secured the 429 follow on point that triggered three quick wickets for England. But the collapse didn’t come and Bavuma and Morris (69) accelerated the score as South Africa closed in on England’s score to declare on 627-7. Bavuma (102*) became the first black African to score a hundred in his native South Africa. It was the first time England had fielded for over 200 overs since Brian Lara’s 400. Amla is the first test bat to have three test innings of over 11 hours but the third slowest double in tests at 682 minutes. South Africa recorded three 150-plus partnerships in a Test for the first time - and all in one innings.
===South Africa 1st innings===
De Villiers 88
Du Plessis 86
The final day and England’s overnight 13-0 crumbled to 88-4 at lunch and defeat a possibility. By mid afternoon as England began blocking it looked a real possibility at 116-6 with a possible 48 overs to go. But Moeen Ali and Johnny Bairstow showed the face off the bat for ten overs as the light faded and unforecast rain rolled into confirm the draw. The nearby Table Mountain is all powerful and decides the local weather at Newlands and ended the day when he was ready for bed. That wasn’t the final surprise of the day as Hashim Alma resigned the captaincy, the usual excuse that it’s affecting his batting given, which it clearly had although he was a token ethnic captain and rubbish in the job to be fair.
===The 3rd Test Johannesburg===
Its flack jacket and shooter time as the circus arrived in Joburg, the crime capital of Africa, if not the world. It’s a horrible place, to look at, walk around and live in, racially divided and a war zone. Poor old Monty Panesar was on holiday there and got mugged outside of The Wanderers Stadium on his first day in Africa. I suffered the same fete. When the grounds packed for an ODI it’s pretty safe but test match crowds are around 8,500 and the stadium in the dangerous city bowl.
The game began under a cloud as news of a domestic match fixing probe broke around their domestic T20 competition, the Ram Slam, an ex South African player named as the fixer, Gulum Bodi, who played a couple of one-dayers for South Africa in 2007, a so-called affirmative action Cape Indian selection. He was the guy who ousted KP from his state side and forced Kev to come to England. He doesn’t seem to have many good qualities this Bodi chap. This story could explain why South African players may have been off form for a while.
In not the best conditions for batting with cloud overhead and Africa’s quickest wicket having licks of green, new South African captain de Villiers chose to bat first. It looked a good call as Elgar (46) took the venom out of the England bowlers to sit at 117-1 mid afternoon. But Amla (40) got out soon after and regular wickets fell to close on 267-7, Bairstow being the first England keep since Jack Russell to take the fist four catches in the innings.
Day two and 300 is the target, only one team scoring that in the first innings of a test in eight matches here at altitude. If you face a good opening pair of quickies on this I’m not surprised 6000ft up in that thin air produces low scores. Bairstow took the first two catches to move to six but shelled the world record leveler 7 when he dropped Morkel as RSA passed that 300 score for 313 all out. It would be the first ever test innings to have all 11 players in double figures and the lowest differential innings, ranging from just 46 down to 12 scored by each bat. It was the highest ever test innings without a half-century.
===RSA First Innings==
313 All Out
De Villiers 36
England slumped to 28-2 with both openers out cheap in reply and then 91-4 at lunch. But enter Root and Stokes, a Bothamesque acceleration from the big all-rounder seeing England hit a 100 partnership at 7 an over to sit 181-4 at tea. Root completed his century before Stokes slogged out for 58. The day closed on 238-5 as a storm rolled in, debutant pace bowler Viljeon the first test cricketer for 80 years to hit his first ball for four and take a wicket with his first ball.
Day three and England didn’t last long in the morning, dismissed for 323, Root 110 and 5-76 for young Rabada, a promising quickie. If RSA have to play three blacks this guy solves a lot of that conundrum. Bairstow’s 45 means he has the highest batting average for any England keeper for 10 innings or more, when batting averages are officially active.
===England Ist Innings 323===
South Africa took the lead in the game but had another horrendous afternoon session and plunged to 78-8 at tea. Broad got it going again and took 5 for 1 in 31 balls for 6-15 with Taylor taking some brilliant short leg catches. Stokes finished the job off after tea for 83 all out with 2-24 setting England just 76 to win, which they duly did for the loss of just three bats for the seven wicket win with captain Cook taking them up to the tape with 43 and a rare away series victory. South Africa’s 83 was the lowest score at home since their reintegration. Broad moved into third place in the all time test wicket takers for England with 330 and now the world’s top tanked bowler. Bairstow’s nine catches is only the third time an England keep has done that, Bob Taylor and Jack Russell the others.
James Andersen 429 wickets
Ian Botham 383 wickets
Stuart Broad 330 wickets
Bob Willis 325
Fred Trueman 307
Derek Underwood 297
Graeme Swann 255
===South Africa 2nd Innings===
83 all out
===England 2ND Innings===
===England win by 7 wickets, and so the four match series===
===The 4th test: Pretoria===
January 22nd – 26th
The dead rubber saw South Africa change five guys (the first time since 1949) and England rotate in Woakes. A few pundits were surprised young Footit wasn’t given a chance with his genuine pace but Woakes it was and duly smashed around as South Africa piled up 200 for the second wicket. Amla (109) worked a lovely faultless hundred alongside debutant Stephen Cook’s ton, the son of country cricket run machine Jimmy Cook. He ground out 115 in 5 hours (218) balls and looks good replacement for old cap Graeme Smith. But at 33 after a 15-year apprenticeship perhaps a victim of affirmative action, clearly a top class white cricketer who has been held back by the fact RSA have to play four guys of color. He had 35 first-class hundreds going into the match; the ninth highest for a test debutant. It was the hundredth test hundred on debut and sat RSA at 237-1 just after tea. But England had a great last hour and closed the day on 275-5 with De kock starting to biff it around a bit.
Day two and the news that Jonathan Agnew and Henry Blofeld were robbed by cops looking for bribes opened up the days comment. They laughed it off in a very BBC way but if that country and the black cops don’t want to return law and order after apartheid then what hope is there in the world’s most violent country.
Bavuma (35) added 50 with De Kock as the keeper bought up the 400. De Kock added 50 more with Klyle Abbott (19) to bring up his rather clumsy maiden first-class century (dropped three times) but boundary packed, before Morkel nicked out to Stokes to close the innings on 475.
===RSA Ist innings===
475 All Out
De Kock 129*
Hales (15) was out cheap again and now averaging 19 in Australia as an opener. He is an attacking player in country cricket but looks confused on his role here and simply waiting to get out. Cook found rare form for 76 and young Root (79) joined him and settled things down with a hundred partnership on day three. But England wobbled against the impressive pace of young Rabada and lost three wickets before lunch to rock at 211-6 after little Taylors dreadful waft caused the problems. Stokes knocked it around at a run a ball 33 to bring the score close to the follow on with 7 down before Moeen Ali did his thing with the tail with 61 to take the score to 342 all out. Rabada helped himself to that tail with a record 7/112, the youngest South African test player to take 7. With no bent arm spinners around this is a 300 test wicket player.
===England 1st Innings===
342 All Out
After bad light RSA took to the crease to exploit their 133 run lead and closed on 44/1. Day four still threatened rain as RSA slumped to 49-3, De Villiers only the second South African captain to bag a pair. Amla put on 50 with Duminy (29) and then 100 with Bavuma before being caught behind on 96. It was a tricky declaration to call for De Villiers as he was one bowler down after Abbott pulled a muscle. Bavuma finished on 78* and they came off in bad light at 248-5 declared, setting England 382 to win.
===South Africa 2nd Innings===
248- 5 declared.
England had a tricky 10 overs to face on a pitch keeping increasing low with cracks opening. 18-3 suggested they were not up for the fight at the close of day four.
The final day and England looked disinterested, most of the batsmen swiping at deliveries, the overnight 52-3 tumbling to 101 all out, their second lowest score ever in South Africa, 89 in Cape Town in 1899! Rabada destroyed England with 6-32 for 13 for 144, the best bowling by a home bowler on South African history and second only to 13-132: by Makhaya Ntini v West Indies, Port-of-Spain, 2005. He is also the youngest RSA bowler to take 10 wickets in a test.
===Best Match Figures for RSA===
13-132: Makhaya Ntini v West Indies, Port-of-Spain, 2005
13-144: Kagiso Rabada v England, Centurion, 2016
13-165: Hugh Tayfield v Australia, Melbourne, 1952
13-192: Hugh Tayfield v England, Johannesburg, 1957
===England 2nd Innings===
101 all out
===South Africa win by 280 runs==
===ENGLAND WIN THE SERIES 2-1===
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