Saturday 22 July 2017

England face mission impossible to halt South Africa's momentum

 

England's captain Joe Root misfields the ball on the third day of the second Test match between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge. Photo: Getty Images
England's captain Joe Root misfields the ball on the third day of the second Test match between England and South Africa at Trent Bridge. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Stocks

England will have to defy both cricketing logic and history to avoid defeat in this second Test against South Africa.

Having been set a notional 474 to win, they will resume this morning on one without loss in their second innings after openers Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings saw off four overs at the end of this third day.

Another 180 will have to be negotiated by a team who were dismissed out for 205 on the second day, a batting display that has left them staring down the barrel of a sixth defeat in eight Tests.

Things could be much worse, too, after South Africa, who finally declared their second innings on 343 for nine 20 minutes before the close, were awarded the prized wicket of Cook with the first ball of England's innings.

Cook played across Morne Morkel's opening delivery and was rapped on the pads. Umpire Paul Reiffel raised his finger, but the review came instantly from the former England captain. It showed the ball missing the stumps. Yet it was an indication of just how difficult England's task will be to save this Test.

In truth, that is a long shot. Indeed, taking this match into a fifth day would be an achievement of sorts.

To put what has been asked of Joe Root's team into context it is worth noting the record successful run chase in Test history is 418.

England have never successfully pursued more than 332 and the most runs chased down in Tests at Trent Bridge is 284.

If winning seems fanciful then drawing this match - and preventing South Africa from levelling the series at 1-1 with two matches to play - might be even more of a long shot given the weather for the final two days here is set fair. There is one precedent England might be able to cling to - Michael Atherton's famous rearguard against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1995.

Irish Independent

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