Day two saw England’s Lions drive home their advantage in their three-day tour match against a Gauteng Invitation XI in Soweto. They closed day two having established a lead of 307 runs with seven second innings wickets still remaining.
Day one had essentially been batting practice for most of the English batsmen as they gained early tour confidence with a number of notable scores. Openers Adam Lyth (106) and Sam Robson (109), both vying for the opening Test spot with Alastair Cook, produced a fantastic 176 opening stand to give the tourists the perfect platform to their innings.
Yorkshire’s impressive youngster Alex Lees then hit 82 in an unbeaten fifth wicket stand with fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow (32*) as England closed day one on 361-4.
Yorkshire grit forms core of squad
Yorkshire had no fewer than six players in the side and, with the exception of Sam Robson, it was their batsmen who scored the majority of the runs to impress.
However, James Vince (7) and captain Jonathan Trott (6) failed to join in on the run fest but will have more opportunities to do so on tour. Despite Trott only scoring six runs it was great to see him back in an England shirt after a turbulent time.
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Bowlers asked to continue momentum
The second day’s play did not start as planned for the tourists as a series of wickets fell as England crumbled to 443 all out, losing their last five wickets for just 50 runs. Only Jonny Bairstow (62) was able to add any significant runs before he retired.
It was then the bowlers opportunity to impress and they did just that. With an attack spearheaded by Yorkshire’s County Championship winners Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks England’s bowlers took control from the outset.
Both openers grabbed a wicket in their opening spells to leave the hosts in trouble on 11-2. As they slumped further to 104-6, with Boyd Rankin and Mark Wood capturing their first wickets of the match alongside another wicket each for Plunkett and Brooks, it looked like a one-sided contest. However, a seventh wicket partnership of 65 between Brian Barnard (39) and Nono Pongolo (36) held England up and provided them with a sterner challenge.
Eventually the Lions, through leg-spinner Adil Rashid, made the breakthrough when Barnard was dismissed and then young Mark Wood (4-29) mopped-up the tail as Gauteng finished on 179 all out.
England’s bowlers will have been happy with their outing as they bid to gain match practice. Aside from Wood both Plunkett (2-17) and Brooks (2-34) were the other leading wicket-takers.
Trott steps up his comeback
With a lead of 264 England’s batsmen had a comfortable lead so time in the middle was the number one priority for them. Sam Robson departed early but that allowed Jonathan Trott to promote himself to the number three spot as he looked to continue his comeback.
Trott (10) was still there at the end but England had lost the further wickets of Lyth (25) and Vince (6) to end the day's play on a disappointing 43-3. However, they move into day three in a commanding position.
Although not classified as a first-class match the Lions were treating it very seriously as the side contained a number of individuals who have a very realistic chance of making the England Test team for their tour of the West Indies shortly after the World Cup. The added incentive of an Ashes series during the summer will no doubt be an extra motivation for the players as well.
All in all the game so far has given England’s squad, both batsmen and bowlers, a very good exercise in order to remove the rustiness from their game. Day three will hopefully see England’s batsmen, particularly Trott, and bowlers gain more quality match practice as they ultimately push for a comfortable victory.
The Lions next game on tour will be an unofficial Test match against a South African A side starting on the 11th January.