Day 4 of 5
England 362 and 243; South Africa 226 and 202
England won by 177 runs and the series 3-1
MANCHESTER – Despite all that talk of not having one foot on the plane, that’s exactly where the minds of the South African players seemed to be on Monday in the final Test against England.
Except for a two-hour period when Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla were together between lunch and tea, the Proteas showed little stomach for this fight – it was a pathetic capitulation.
It has been – the second Test at Trent Bridge aside – a very poor series for South Africa and shows that the cracks which had been papered over in Australia, New Zealand and against Sri Lanka now required proper fixing.
Dean Elgar needs a new opening partner. There needs to be some clarity over the middle-order – who plays where – and Vernon Philander’s fitness needs to be sorted out so that he can extend his career and not just play half of a series at full tilt.
AB de Villiers, Morné Morkel and perhaps even JP Duminy need some clarity to be provided over their futures, and of course the big question mark relates to the new coach, who will have a hell of a lot on his plate when he steps into the job, hopefully later this month.
In terms of this series South Africa, with the exception of Quinton de Kock’s first innings at Trent Bridge, never dominated England’s bowling.
It always felt like they were too timid to take on an admittedly strong England attack. While Heino Kuhn’s selection was justified given his performances in domestic cricket and then for the SA A side who toured here in May, he was ultimately out of his depth against James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.
Hashim Amla lacks the consistency of years past, flickering only briefly in this series, and while it’s important he remains while this side is still in transition, he needs to find the kind of form that made him the world’s best players in 2012.
Of course, five years older, that will be a very hard task.
And then the likes of Du Plessis, Temba Bavuma and De Kock now need to step to the fore and score more heavily, and in the case of Du Plessis and Bavuma, a tempo that puts pressure on the opposition bowlers.
It was a worrying statistic that the last time South Africa’s bowlers were able to put their feet up for an entire day was the first day of the second Test at Trent Bridge.
The bowlers were remarkably consistent over the course of the series – they had themselves to blame for the no-balls at Lord’s, but there was little they could do about dropped catches in the fourth Test here.
The player of the series says hello! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yezjz8OwKx
They would also be right to question their captain’s tactics on the second morning of the final Test when Jonny Bairstow was allowed to take control of the match and turn it in England’s favour.
Morkel was gutsy throughout, claiming 19 wickets, while there was not enough of Philander in conditions that suited him.
There are concerns about his mindset, and the new coach will have to add that to the list of areas that require fixing.
Keshav Maharaj has come in leaps and bounds in this series and has quickly established himself as a vital member of the squad, providing control while his skill and guile has made him a wicket-taking threat as well.