England v South Africa: third Test, day five – live!

Key events


Adam Collins

Adam Collins

Four months ago, it looked like England’s men had an awful summer ahead of them. Over the winter, their thrashing in Australia was the worst in a bad bunch over the last 20 years. In the Caribbean, after a mini-reboot, it was little better. Joe Root said enough. There was no coach, let alone assistants. Off the field, the chief executive was a lame duck (and would subsequently step down) and there hadn’t been a chair since the previous summer. No high-performance boss. No selectors. Every genuine fast bowler injured. No batter averaging 40 since Root’s debut a decade earlier.

New Zealand were first up, who had hammered England when they were in town during the previous summer before going on to win the World Test Championship final, also in this country, against India. A couple of changes since they lifted that trophy but essentially the same team. Then India, to complete their strange series, returning with the same bowling lineup that ruined England routinely in 2021. Then South Africa, a Test team quietly on the rise under Dean Elgar with a fast bowling group who looked born to play on sporting surfaces. The whole thing was so grim.

As the county season started, at the peak of all this flux and still a couple of months away from the Tests, I advanced the view that, given all of the above, the best move would be for Stuart Broad and James Anderson to take over as caretaker skippers of sorts. The argument ran that given they were likely to be smashed, don’t ruin the next captain and let this be one of the veterans’ parting gifts – help England get through without having their pants pulled down quite so embarrassingly.

Well, we know what happens next. A series of inspired appointments, from Rob Key to Brendon McCullum to Ben Stokes, all in the space of a couple of weeks in May. Days leter, they started their staggering run of four successful chases in a row, all record-breaking in their own ways. And this morning here at The Oval, within about 20 minutes of resumption on this third/fifth morning, they will finish the season having won six of seven in emphatic fashion. There’s probably a book in it.

So that’s where we’ll begin our conversation in the time that we have together on the final day of the Test summer. Of course, there’s shade as well as light – there’s an argument that this is the least competitive series, in terms of balance between bat and ball, we’ve ever witnessed between bigger nations. This isn’t good, nor is it that South Africa doesn’t return to England through the entirety of the next Future Tours Programme period. The fears for their medium-term Test future, acknowledging the extent to which they are about to be influenced/funded by IPL owners, isn’t without justification. Anyway, let’s crack on while we can. Drop me a line or a tweet.

source: theguardian.com