Brilliant Bairstow leads the way against South Africa

Jonny Bairstow shone as England made light work of South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday afternoon.

Bairstow’s brilliance takes the morning away from Proteas

England started the day on 260-6 with Toby Roland Jones on nought and Johnny Bairstow on 33 following the previous days cricket. With blue skies and an ageing ball England were hoping to push on and firm up yesterday’s solid batting performance.

With Bairstow starting brightly, Roland Jones echoed this confidence and hit a beautiful drive through the covers to get off the mark. However, the next ball he got too ambitious and tried mirroring his previous shot, which ended with him driving straight into Temba Bavuma’s hands at cover.

Having added only 11 to their overnight score, England were now 271-7 and hoping that Moeen Ali was going to come in and start a big partnership with Bairstow. And much like Bairstow, Ali came in confident and got off the mark with a beautiful punch down the ground.

Much too quickly though, Ali’s patience wore thin and he played at a wide one, edging very kindly into second slip’s hands. Having put on 32 with Bairstow, and the two looking very positive together, it was a shame to see Ali, the hero from the last test, so carelessly playing away from his body when England should have been looking to get near to 400.

Up steps Broad

Next came Stuart Broad, who had been in decent form with the bat this series and with England needing at least another 50 to feel comfortable, the pressure was on for him to try and re-activate his previous ability shown so often in his early career.

However, shortly after his arrival at the crease he had been bowled through the gate by Morne Morkel for 7. England were 312-9 and South Africa would have been happy with their mornings work. Around all these falling wickets however, Bairstow was playing wonderfully. Knowing exactly when to leave and when to play and showing the top order how to bat when the going gets tough.

With England still on 312 however, the Proteas dropped him whilst he was still on 53 and this proved costly with what was yet to come. With England 321-9 at drinks the game was finally balanced and it needed a stand out performance to take it by the scruff of the neck. And Bairstow did just that.

At the Anderson end

Continuing his fine form from before drinks, he batted and toiled with James Anderson at the other end, onto an incredible 99. A very important innings for England at a crucial time. With England now on 362-9, the Old Trafford crowd were hoping for a quick single to take Bairstow to the ton he so desperately deserved, however it wasn’t meant to be.

Going down for the sweep, he was trapped on his pads and given out LBW. A review couldn’t come to his rescue, however this could not take away from what was a magnificent innings. With England 362 all out, Joe Root will have been happy with his side even though Bairstow will have been bitterly disappointed.

Proteas batting weaknesses exposed yet again

Following a good morning's cricket for England, South Africa will have been keen to start well and nullify the early threats. Anderson bowling from the newly named James Anderson end had other ideas. With the blue skies now cloudy, and the ball swinging a lot, Anderson caught Dean Elgar on his pads, right in front of middle stump. Whilst he asked his colleague at the other end whether or not to review it, the decision was final and he accepted his fate. With South Africa 2-1, England were in high spirits.

Their jubilation was carried through till lunch where the Proteas were 12-1 with both Hashim Amla and Heino Kuhn looking uncomfortable. After lunch though, the conditions had calmed down and Amla and Kuhn played well, guiding South Africa into the 40s until Amla was caught behind playing his trusted leg-side flick.

A great catch from Bairstow meant that both his and England’s day was getting better as South Africa were reduced to 47-2. Again, South Africa battled on, with Bavuma coming in at four him and Kuhn added another 37 before another wicket came.

This time, it was Kuhn whose luck had run out, as he edged Ali to Ben Stokes’ safe hands at first slip. Kuhn hasn’t looked confident or comfortable at test level all series and today was no different as he played away from his body, searching for runs. With South Africa 84-3 and Kuhn’s ability having been fully tested this summer, it’ll be interesting to see if his selectors continue with him into their next series.

South Africa compose themselves

The South African’s soon recovered after this early wobble with Bavuma and Faf Du Plessis batting well and scoring at a good rate. They put the pressure back onto England and batted through the 100, Bavuma playing himself in, and Du Plessis showing his skill which hasn’t been witnessed too many times this year.

Old habits die hard however, and unfortunately for Bavuma, the tale of his series came true once again as he played himself in and then got out. Having batted very nicely for a hard fought 46, he got caught leaving a straight one to James Anderson which knocked the bail off of his off-stump.

With South Africa 131-4, once again the test could go either way. Only a couple of balls later though and the South African skipper, Du Plessis got bowled by Anderson. Taking a huge Inside edge, Du Plessis was unlucky to have played on, however by leaving a big gap between bat and pad, the risk of this is always there. A solid 27, his team were now 132-5 and looking in danger of losing control of the test on only the second day.

A few dropped catches later and it looked like the evening session was changing and South Africa were able to pull away from their previous misfortune. But once again, Anderson came to the rescue forcing Theunis De Bruyn to play at one which he edged to Root at second slip. South Africa’s day had gone from bad to worse and were now 146-6. Although the batsmen could have shown more application, it must be recognized that Anderson’s bowling was back to its best, and on a day like today, at his own ground, even the world’s best would have struggled.

As the conditions at Old Trafford changed, so did England’s method of attack and almost as soon as he was brought on, he got Keshav Maharaj out LBW. Maharaj played back to a spinning ball, and missed the ball getting caught plumb in front. South Africa were 167-7 and in danger of being all out before the end of the day. Quinton De Kock however, with the aid of Kagiso Rabada attempted to stop this from happening as they stubbornly batted on into the evening.

It was Broad who stopped this counter attack though as he got De Kock out caught behind late on into the evening to leave the Proteas 189-8. After this came a period of excitement for South African fans as Morkel and Rabada took the game to England and attacked swiftly and impressively.

However, the fun had to come to an end as Rabada was caught at slip by Stokes, as the day ended with South Africa 220-9 and England ahead by 142. The day was England’s and with that, the test, and therefore the series, is within touching distance for the Lions.