South Africa would hope that the return of Faf du Plessis, the regular captain, leads to a revival in their fortunes in the second Test against England at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge, starting on Friday (July 14).
Du Plessis missed the series opener at Lord’s as he went home for the birth of his first child, but returned in time to see South Africa suffer a convincing 211-run defeat inside four days as England went 1-0 up in the four-match series. Coming as it did after South Africa had lost the preceding One-Day International and Twenty20 International series by identical 2-1 margins.
Dropped catches and wickets off no-balls cost South Africa dear at Lord’s, while their second-innings collapse to 119 all out showed how much they could do with du Plessis’s customary resilience with the bat.
England (final): Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings, Joe Root (capt), Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mark Wood.
South Africa (likely): Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (capt), Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (wk), Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris/Duanne Olivier.
Their task in levelling the series in Nottingham has been complicated by Kagiso Rabada ruled out as he serves a one-game ban for swearing at Ben Stokes after dismissing the England batsman in the first innings at Lord’s.
South Africa now face some tricky selection decisions, made all the more complicated by the fact that after the end of the first Test, Russell Domingo, the coach, has lost his mother. She passed away from injuries suffered in a car crash.
South Africa could select either Chris Morris and Duanne Olivier – or stick with the same team balance, with the struggling JP Duminy in line to make way for du Plessis in any event.
“Losing KG (Rabada), do you look at playing a four-seamer attack, because you’re losing quite a high-quality bowler,” said du Plessis after South Africa’s loss at Lord’s. “That means a batsman would miss out. Obviously, that’s one option.”
South Africa, led by Dean Elgar, twice gave Joe Root reprieves early in his first innings as England captain, and Root marked the occasion with 190.
“We made a lot of basic mistakes that we don’t normally do as a team,” said du Plessis. “That will cost you, if you’re playing against a strong team like England.”
It was a point echoed by Morne Morkel, now the holder of the unwanted record for most wickets off no-balls in Tests. His tally hit 13 after an over-step cost him Stokes’s wicket at Lord’s.
There will be an even greater responsibility on Morkel, the most experienced bowler in the attack with 260 wickets from 75 Tests, in Rabada’s absence. “I still have a role as a senior player in the team to lead from the front,” he said.
Root had a dream start as skipper, a point emphasised by Alastair Cook, the former captain.
“For Joe Root to get off and win a game by 200 runs and get 190, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Cook, still in the England side as an opening batsman.
England are set to field an unchanged team after Moeen Ali, the offspinning allrounder, took ten wickets at Lord’s and scored 87 in England’s first innings, with Liam Dawson, the left-arm spinner, likely to retain his place.
Doubts persist, however, over Gary Ballance’s role at No. 3 while Trent Bridge will be a chance for Mark Wood, beset by ankle problems throughout his career, to prove he can stand the strain of back-to-back Tests.
“We have bowlers waiting in the wings,” said Wood. “Probably if they were fit, I wouldn’t have played. Chris Woakes had a great year and it will be interesting to see what happens when he’s back playing.
“The challenge becomes to prove to you guys, to my team-mates and the coaches that I can play three (matches) in a row.”
South Africa have an excellent away record in Tests, having lost only once – in India in 2015-16 – in the last ten years, and Cook said England were ready for a backlash in Nottingham. “They have a very good record away from home. They will be hurting,” he warned.