Ben Stokes' England were found wanting against South Africa.
Ben Stokes' England were found wanting against South Africa.

“The opposition seem to be doing a lot of the talking at the moment about it. We just concentrate on what we do,” Ben Stokes had replied to Dean Elgar’s comments a day before the Lord’s test between England and South Africa reached its start. 

The ongoing series against South Africa was always going to be crucial for England. More so, after RSA skipper Dean Elgar had discarded their BazBall approach as something sans ‘longevity’. 

Days ahead of RSA’s tour of England, Elgar had said, “The New England style is quite interesting. But I do not see that there’s longevity in brave cricket because I see things evening out over time in Test cricket. I think it can go one of the two ways for them and it can go south very quickly.”

It did go pretty ‘south’ for Stokes and co. in the first test against the Proteas. 

Put in to bat first for the first time since their adoption of the BazBall approach, England never had a clue. 

On a Day 1 deck with overcast conditions, the English batters were exposed against the pace quartet of Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje

England were bundled for 165 in the first innings as Rabada claimed 5 by his bowling trickstery and Nortje took three scalps, including that of in-form Jonny Bairstow who played all over Nortje’s rocket of an in-swinger that shattered his stumps. 

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Jonny Bairstow failed to fire in both the innings and had no answer to the searing pace of Nortje (Photo Credit: AP)

Though the SA bowlers definitely put on a class act, England’s overly attacking theme also turned out to be a major cause of their downfall. The dismissals of Crawley, Lees, Bairstow, and Stokes were rash. 

England’s second innings wasn’t much better either as the side could only manage 149. Once again, half the cause of demise was the attacking intent: Crawley got LBW while sweeping off a full ball, Foakes poked at a delivery very far off the stumps, and Ben Stokes launched Kagiso Rabada straight to long-on. 

Obviously, there was some probing bowling from the SA pacers during the hosts’ 2nd innings. Nortje and Marco Jansen, in particular, orchestrated some testing spells. 

Regardless, it was the never-back-down style of England even during these testing phases that caused their disgraceful downfall. Not once did the batters collectively try to save their wickets and respect the bowlers (something they did both against NZ and India). 

Except Ollie Pope in the first and Lees in the second innings, none of the knocks from the English camp lasted more than 30 balls. 

Death by BazBall: 165 all-out off 45 overs in the first outing (3.67 rpo), and 149 all-out off 37.4 overs in the second (3.96 rpo). 

South Africa outperform England with the bat

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Dean Elgar led with example with his tone-setting 47 (Photo Credit: AP)

Sandwiched between the double-bust from England was a sensible batting clinic that the Proteas staged. 

Elgar –who had spoken so much before the game– showed that he could talk with his bat as well. Combining with Sarel Erwee, the southpaw added 83 runs for the opening wicket before getting undone by Anderson on 47.

Thereon, Sarel Erwee (73 off 146) held one end up as every batter contributed a little from the other end. 

However, at one point, they weren’t much ahead in the game at 192 for 5 and a long tail ahead. 

But Stokes read too much into his bouncer that dismissed Sarel, and the team strategy started to revolve around bodyline bowling. South Africa’s lower-order smartly made use of the loose deliveries on offer as Jansen and Maharaj batted attackingly to score 48 and 41 respectively. 

England eventually did realize they should’ve bowled fuller, but by that time, Elgar and co. had already run away with the match, putting 326 runs on the board. The total was enough to help them win the game with an innings and 12 runs.