Match Preview – England vs South Africa, South Africa in England 2022, 2nd Test


Has England’s B… B… bubble burst? At this point, and despite recent evidence, it’s safe to say, no. And Brendon McCullum will no doubt be saying, “I told you so.”
McCullum, England’s head coach, did warn that his side’s new risk-versus-reward Test style would bring ups and downs. In facing a quality South Africa side – leading the World Test Championship table and boasting a fierce pace attack featuring Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, who did the most damage during the visitors’ innings victory at Lord’s – the hosts were down after some pretty heady highs earlier in the summer. So it’s also safe to say they won’t be changing their ways vastly.
Nor will South Africa, who hit on a winning formula with Rabada and Nortje sharing 13 wickets for the match, well backed up by Marco Jansen, Lungi Ngidi and spinner Keshav Maharaj. While only Sarel Erwee reached a half-century for them, eight other batters made it into double-figures, with Jansen and Maharaj sharing a crucial 72-run stand for the seventh wicket.

With the prospect of chasing taken away at the toss, England were forced to find another way and failed, which will not have escaped the attention of South Africa captain, Dean Elgar. That said, the England squad arrived in Manchester on Tuesday, having attended the premier of the moving documentary Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes the previous evening, determined to rally round their talismanic captain, who delved deeper into the personal and mental health issues he has faced. That, combined with coming off such a heavy defeat, could further galvanise the home side.

For South Africa’s part, however, they’ll know they have the chance to take an unassailable lead in the series, albeit at a ground where they have struggled to beat England, and confidence will be high. So there you have it, we’ve made it this far with a few “B” words but not “Bazball” – oops!

England LWWWW (most recent first)
South Africa WWWWL

Fourteen innings without passing fifty – amongst all that, seven single-figure scores and two ducks – leave Zak Crawley facing yet more questions over his spot at the top of the order. His century against West Indies in Antigua in March and half-century during the Sydney Ashes Test went some way to answering similar queries. But, even taking the arrival of England’s new coaching and captaincy regime as a starting point, two knocks in the 40s haven’t had the same effect and nor has a Test average of 20.06 – make that 16.40 this summer. McCullum’s assertion that Crawley’s “skill set is not to be a consistent cricketer”, like it’s a good thing, raised eyebrows. The best thing Crawley can do is to raise eyebrows himself by either laying a solid foundation or producing the match-winning knock McCullum says he wants him for.
It emerged after the first Test that Kyle Verreynne had batted in the most difficult circumstances, coming in at No. 7 after his grandfather became seriously ill in the stands at Lord’s. He managed 11 during a 31-minute stay in the middle after Jansen was sent in ahead of him and made an impressive 48. Having gone five innings since his unbeaten century against New Zealand in Christchurch and not passed 40 since, he will be seeking runs. Verreynne took three crucial catches in England’s second innings to remove opener Alex Lees, the dangerous Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes for a duck as the home side crumbled inside 38 overs and, after an excellent performance behind the stumps at Lord’s, he was practising his glovework with a vengence at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
England have made one change to their XI, bringing in Ollie Robinson for Matthew Potts, who took 2 for 79 in the first Test. It will be Robinson’s first match for England in more than seven months, since England’s fifth-Test defeat at the hands of Australia in Hobart, where back spasms limited his involvement, leading to bowling coach Jon Lewis calling on him to work harder. More back issues, dental problems and a bout of Covid severely curtailed Robinson’s English summer, although his five wickets for the match as England Lions romped to victory in the warm-up for this series signalled his readiness to return.

England: 1 Alex Lees, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Jonny Bairstow, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Ollie Robinson, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Jack Leach, 11 James Anderson

Despite Ryan Rickelton spending a lengthy time batting in the nets on Tuesday, South Africa have stuck with the same squad for the second Test, leaving them with a choice between four seamers and two spinners. If they go spin-heavy, it could come down to a choice between Ngidi and Simon Hamer, who was 12th man at Lord’s.

South Africa (possible): 1 Dean Elgar (capt), 2 Sarel Erwee, 3 Keegan Petersen, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Rassie van der Dussen, 6 Kyle Verreynne (wk), 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Lungi Ngidi/Simon Harmer

A covering of green grass two days out appeared to be diminishing 24 hours before play.

After rain during the week and with more forecast through the night on match eve, finer conditions are expected along with temperatures in the low 20s Celsius for the duration of the match.

“What happened in the first Test was something amazing. We played really solid, sound cricket. Our hunger was up there. And our hunger is still here. We want to play a brand of cricket that everyone loves back home. We know it’s going to be a lot tougher. England were hurt and I know they are coming back. I hope we can play another solid game of cricket. We know we have to start again.”
Dean Elgar backs his side against a wounded opposition

“What we’ve learned from ourselves is that you can’t always go out there and perform how you want to perform. But it’s not something that we’re going to take backward steps from. South Africa were better than us in that Test match and that’s fine. Sport’s set up for someone to be a winner and someone to be a loser and we’re going to be focusing on this game.”
Ben Stokes on turning things around


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