LONDON – This was the kind calamitous day South Africa thought they’d gotten out of their system at Trent Bridge.
There they were controlled and disciplined, but at The Oval on Friday, they were the complete opposite as they collapsed to 126/8 in reply to England’s 353 all out.
The batting was wretched, even in conditions that were ideal for bowling. Shots were played and attempted that had no business being in the Proteas batsmen’s game-plan on a day like Friday.
It was dark and cool, and England were feeling really good about themselves after Ben Stokes had energised the ground with a bruising end to his innings by smashing three sixes to get to his fifth Test hundred.
Initially openers Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn had fought hard to keep the new ball at bay, and then came Toby Roland-Jones.
Tall with strong shoulders, he didn’t look to be doing anything special, but ran one across Elgar, which the left-handed opener feathered through to wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.
There were some questions about whether Elgar’s bat had struck his pad at the same time as the ball passed, but TV umpire Kumar Dharmasena stuck with his on-field colleague Joel Wilson.
At tea it was 18/1. A little more than an hour later, South Africa’s innings was in tatters on 61/7, The Oval a riot of noise as the Proteas batsmen trotted up and down the stairs from the field to the dressing-room.
Of those six batsmen dismissed post-tea, perhaps only Hashim Amla (6) could claim to have been gotten out – the ball from Roland Jones angling into the right-hander and leaving him enough off the surface to flick the glove, with Bairstow wrapping up behind the stumps.
As for the rest of the batsmen, there are some serious questions about judgement and application that needed answering.
Heino Kuhn (15) flung the bat across the line at a full delivery, Faf du Plessis (1) shouldered arms to one that seamed into him, Chris Morris (2) completed a horrible day for himself by patting the ball back to Anderson and Keshav Maharaj (5) played a back-foot swish that he edged to first slip.
The discipline and patience, such a hallmark of the batting at Trent Bridge, was nowhere to be seen.
It was a dreadful showing from the South Africans as they totally handed England the reigns in what has been a strange series.
The visitors will have to do what neither of the two sides have managed in the first couple of Tests of the series. Once one team had thrown the first punch, the opponent has collapsed and been trampled upon.
The Proteas’ bowling in the first half of the day was far too inconsistent. The loss of Vernon Philander (2/32 in 17 overs) proved a bigger hurdle to overcome than South Africa would have hoped.
He only bowled five overs in the morning, before leaving the field.
The medical staff had hoped that the ‘tummy bug’ which they thought was troubling him would have passed through his system by the morning, but he was throwing-up in the dressing room in the first session.
He was taken to hospital in the afternoon, where tests and scans were performed. He did not return to the ground.
In his absence the rest of the attack, especially Morris, struggled. Lines and lengths were wayward, allowing Stokes – who had bravely hung in against a seaming ball at the end of day one – to assert himself.
His innings of 112 (off 153 balls, 9x4, 4x6) gave England momentum, which Roland-Jones rode to smash over the South African top-order.
Temba Bavuma (34 not out) and Kagiso Rabada (30) shared a crucial stand of 53 for the eighth wicket, with Morné Morkel (2 not out) still at the crease at the close of play.
The Proteas have taken great pride in their tenacity. It’s an element neither side has shown hitherto in this series, but it will have to be at the forefront of performance for the remainder of this Test match.