England vs South Africa 2017, fourth Test match, Day 2

Taylor Byrd
August 6, 2017

Honours conferred on active sportsmen don't always work out as their instigators might have intended - Sir Andy Murray, for one, hasn't had much to cheer about since being asked to arise in the New Year's Honours.

It is one thing to make a statement like that, and quite another to put it into practice at the next opportunity. "Ideally you always want 400 in the first innings of a Test match, if we can get ourselves 350-plus I think we'll be reasonably happy because it has been tough". Its importance to England can not be underestimated, as he led by example, showed his teammates how to bat in testing circumstances and set them on the path to victory.

It took James Anderson just three balls to strike from the newly named James Anderson End at his Lancashire home ground when England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker had Dean Elgar lbw for a duck in the first over of South Africa's innings.

It continues a spate of various physical ailments to have afflicted him all summer, beginning with an ankle problem which pre-dates South Africa's arrival in mid-May, taking in a badly-bruised finger in the first Investec Test at Lord's - before the tummy troubles which left him on a hospital drip overnight mid-match last week.

Hashim Amla looked in good shape, but after making 30 runs off 35 balls, he edged a leg-side delivery from Roland-Jones to Bairstow. In Roland-Jones, that vital cog in the wheel may well have been found.

"Test cricket is a harsh world to come into and the tough thing for him is that there is talk about players being found out at worldwide level". England skipper Joe Root scored a patient 52 and the innings received late boost from Ben Stokes' 58, before he was cleaned up by old nemesis Kagiso Rabada. And, as he has done so many times before, Alastair Cook stepped up and played a near-perfect Test opener's innings to establish the ideal platform for Stokes to capitalise on. When the ninth England wicket fell he was on 53. Yet he was able to find a hint of reverse, and as he moved the ball one way and then the other, the South African batsmen were left guessing. He defended well on both occasions, hardly played any reckless shots and exuded calmness throughout his patient accumulation of runs.

99 and out. Bairstow became the unlucky 13th England batsman to fall just a single short of his hundred in Tests.

England are also facing a battle with South Africa to hold onto their prized bowling coach Otis Gibson before the Ashes begin. But then he edged to second slip off fast bowler Rabada. "There's been a bit spoken about how this team has responded to winning games and trying to stop that up-and-down nature of results", he said. "They got 100 runs too many".

Keshav Maharaj (1-54), though, made a major breakthrough early in the afternoon session, using the persistent breeze to elicit enough of a nick from Cook.

England twice had to dig deep, when they were 92-3 with Tom Westley's departure, and then at 187-5 when Root was lbw for 52 to Duanne Olivier.

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