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Second Test v South Africa 2017

After England’s strong performance in the first Test at Lord’s, there was no surprise they kept the same side for Trent Bridge. However, South Africa made three changes. Skipper Faf du Plessis was available again and came in for J-P Duminy; Kagiso Rabada was banned for a match and his place went to Duanne Olivier, making his second appearance at this level. Perhaps because of his inexperience, Chris Morris was brought in to bolster the bowling, though the all-rounder perhaps offered almost as much as Theunis de Bruyn with the bat, too.
Du Plessis won the toss and chose to bat, with overhead conditions suggesting it would not be an easy task to begin with, but they reached lunch on 56 for one, by which stage Hashim Amla had gone past 8000 Test runs. The afternoon session was even better for the tourists, who went to 179 for two, with Amla still there and Quinton de Kock showing positive intent after being promoted up the order to four. There was a long final session during which Vernon Philander became the third South African to pass fifty, after Amla (78) and de Kock (68), to take his side up to 309 for six and marginally on top.
It seemed the balance had swung back to England early on the second morning when Jimmy Anderson rattled through the tail to finish with five for 72 on a ground where he has had so much success in the past. It was Anderson’s 22nd five-wicket haul in Tests, but his seventh at Trent Bridge, and his second-best figures against South Africa. All out for 335, when they might have hoped for a total nearer 400, South Africa’s bowlers knew they needed to perform with their main suit, and within 25 deliveries both England’s openers were out. Skipper Joe Root seemed to be playing on a different pitch to everyone else, and he and Gary Ballance rebuilt the innings, taking England to 85 for two by lunch. Honours even. Although Root raced to 78 off 76 deliveries, there was little else of significance from the England batsmen, and they were dismissed for a total of 205 that left them in deep trouble. Chris Morris bowled with real pace, and his figures of three for 38 were the best of his Test career.
England needed to make early inroads before the close of the second day, but South Africa were 75 for one by then – effectively 205 for one – and in complete control. The pain got worse as Dean Elgar (80) and Amla (87) put on 135 for the second wicket. Du Plessis batted on for most of the third day, eventually declaring on 343 for nine, leaving England just over two days to chase down the 474 they needed to win the match. It was never likely to happen. Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings saw off the four overs till close, but even that was not without alarms, Cook having to call upon DRS to save him first ball.
The fourth day was a rout for South Africa, as England fell away, showing as little fight in the fourth innings as their opponents had shown in the first Test. Bowled out for 133 in just 44.2 overs, England were beaten by a mammoth 340 runs, an astonishing swing of 551 runs between the two Tests. It was South Africa’s second-biggest winning margin by runs over England, just 16 runs behind their 1994 win at Lord’s, and their second-biggest winning margin away from home.
Fortunately for England, there was a break before the third Test at The Oval, which would enable them to refocus and perhaps alter the balance of their side, with Liam Dawson’s position under particular threat. The top order also seemed weak, with Alastair Cook needing better support, and with Gary Ballance likely to miss the Test because of injury there would surely be changes there. And there would need to be, because South Africa’s formidable attack would only get stronger with the return of Rabada.