LONDON – For practical reasons, England’s cricketers hit the underground on Saturday morning, foregoing the police escort and the comfy bus to get here using transport most of this city’s citizens use on a daily basis.
It was different, it was fun and according to James Anderson, an eye-opening experience for Stuart Broad, who’d apparently never used the tube before.
There’s a large cycling event in London this weekend, which has meant road closures, and while the England team have made use of the efficient tube system, South Africa have stayed above ground.
For now, that’s where the Proteas still find themselves as far as this third Test match is concerned.
Their heads are above ground, but they will have to dig very hard to extricate themselves from the hole their batsmen have put them in during this Test.
Thanks mainly to Temba Bavuma they avoided the follow-on, but it’s going to take a monumental effort to save the game – winning it, Bavuma acknowledged, was probably unlikely.
Anderson feels England will leave themselves four sessions to try and bowl South Africa out a second time. “There are signs that the pitch is deteriorating, some of the bounce has been inconsistent,” he said on Saturday after play.
“There is plenty there with the seam movement, and I don’t think that is going to change much, even if the sun does come out.”
How the pitch reacts with some extended sunshine on it is one of the mysteries that will be answered in the next two days.
When it hasn’t shone – as has been the case for the majority of the first three days – batting has been hard.
Bavuma played in some of the worst of the conditions, which only serves to elevate the quality of his innings of 52 even further.
He came to the crease with the Proteas on 43/4 and played through the loss of three more wickets, before partnerships of 53 for the eighth wicket with Kagiso Rabada and 47 for the ninth wicket with Morné Morkel steadied the innings.
“I’m enjoying the challenge actually. I’ve never gotten to experience conditions like this before.”
Bavuma once again showed excellent fighting qualities, something that has become a feature of his career thus far.
“The position that I bat in, in the middle order, I will find myself in those kinds of situations. Mentally, I look forward to them,” Bavuma remarked.
“When the heat is on, the pressure is what it is, you have to try and stay calm, whether you fake it or not. You must stay true to the game plan.”
That game plan involves keeping the bowlers out there for as long as possible, Bavuma explained. That will be the plan for all of South Africa’s batsmen in the second innings.
“We will probably have to bat four sessions in our second innings, and we back ourselves to grind it out for those four sessions.”