Proteas snatch momentum but positives for England

Chris Tremlett
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South Africa v England - Second Test: Day Five
England dodged defeat, but there are still positives (Source: Getty)

It was a gruelling Test match but the aching bodies will hurt less in the South Africa camp after the Proteas wrestled the initiative from England in the final few days in Cape Town.

The hosts will go into third Test in Johannesburg, which starts on 14 January, with a little bit more momentum than England but the key for the tourists is to take the positives out of the second Test and forget about the rest.

England need to remember that they are 1-0 up and just one win away from a series victory against the No1-ranked Test side in the world in their own backyard. That would be some achievement for a young and emerging side.

I wouldn’t read too much into England’s batting collapse yesterday. I know it has been levelled at this side that they have a tendency to collapse but any team is susceptible to that, especially one that is still growing and developing.

England were in the field for more than 200 overs, which would have been exhausting, so it is understandable that levels of concentration were not at their maximum. It is another instance from which to learn.

I don’t, however, buy the excuses emanating from the England camp that it was difficult to see at the Newlands ground and therefore made fielding hard – ten catches were dropped in South Africa’s innings. It was sloppy and just a bad day at the office in that respect.

safe and secure

The major positives from the game were the phenomenal double century from all-rounder Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow’s maiden Test ton, while the bowlers did a good job on a flat wicket.

Stokes and Bairstow will walk away from this Test with a lot of confidence and with a heightened belief that they belong in Test cricket. Such performances help cement places in teams.

It’s a massive help when you feel secure in the side and you’re not worrying about selection. Once you feel safe in the side and everyone in the XI is clear on their role, the knock on effect can only be good for the team.

Getting that big score under your belt is crucial and it helps you to go out and play your natural game. It was good to see opener Alex Hales get a half-century in the first innings. He is in the side to be an aggressive opener although I think he is in two minds how to play.

But despite the last couple of days, England have been the best side in the series overall, while the conditions should offer more help to the bowlers in Johannesburg.

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