As the sun’s rays lit up Durban on Boxing Day morning, few could have imagined that a disjointed England team were capable of toppling the World’s number one test team, South Africa.
With a reshuffled batting line-up, which has seen Ian Bell dropped, Moeen Ali temporarily tried as an opener and several others moved around the order, a victory was considered unlikely.
The shuffle also included a recall for Alex Hales and in truth the South African bowlers will have been licking their lips, instead, they are licking their wounds.
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To-a-man (Alistair Cook excluded), England batted resiliently, methodically drawing loose balls from the bowlers and taking runs when they came. A respectable first innings score of 303 followed by 326 in the second meant that as long as the bowling held up, England would coast to victory.
The bowling did hold up and as England sealed an emphatic 241-run win over one of their fiercest rivals; I thought I’d look at the figures in a little more depth.
With James Anderson, England’s leading wicker-taker and first choice strike bowler missing through injury, the jury was out on whether the others could step up to the plate.
In terms of where the pace and swing would come from in Anderson’s absence, that job was left to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. In the first innings, Broad seemed to pick up where he left off in this summer’s Ashes victory over Australia - taking 4-25 of 15 overs to bowl the hosts out for 214.
Finn also chipped in with a couple of wickets and the economy rates for both were pretty impressive too.
Into the second innings and the Proteas resumed on 136-4 where they were in search of a record-breaking 416 but by the time the influential AB de Villiers had departed on the third ball of the day, and South Africa lost four wickets for seven runs it was all over. Finn ending the day with 4-42 as the hosts were all out for 174 just before lunch.
With pace taken care of there has been much talk of how crucial a good spin bowler would be on this tour. In Moeen Ali, England have one of the most versatile in the world right now. The attacking nature of his batting means that he is seen an all-rounder but in this test he let his bowling do the talking. He took big wickets at the right time, notably that AB de Villiers wicket and finished with match figures of 7-116 from 51 overs.
The second of the four-match series begins in Cape Town on Saturday and I for one can’t wait to see how England press on from such an impressive win. The bowling looks disciplined and with Anderson still to return this could be a memorable tour away from home for England.
Do you think England can go on and win the second test? Let us know in the comments below.
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