June 8, 2023

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Three things we learned from the 1st Test between England and South Africa

Three things we learned from the 1st Test between England and South Africa

South Africa overwhelmed England by an innings and 12-runs inside three days in the first Test at Lord’s.

Friday’s victory meant the Proteas inflicted England’s first defeat under a new leadership duo of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum following four successive wins.

Below AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the opening match of a three-Test series.

Rabada on the road to greatness

South Africa fast bowler Kagiso Rabada took a superb 5-62 as England slumped to 165 all out in their first innings

His impressive return meant the 27-year-old became the first South African to take five wickets in a Test innings at Lord’s since Vernon Philander in 2012.

It was a classic display by a new-ball bowler, with Rabada removing both openers before polishing off the tail.

“He’s an absolute machine when it comes to rising to the occasion for big matches,” said South Africa captain Dean Elgar of Rabada.

Since Rabada’s Test debut, against India at Mohali in November 2015, he has taken more Test wickets –- 250 in 53 matches at an exceptionally low average of 22.1 — than any other fast bowler in the game.

The most Test wickets taken by any paceman is James Anderson’s 658 from 173 matches, with the 40-year-old England great still going strong.

But Rabada’s chances of getting near that mark have not been helped by the International Cricket Council’s recently published Future Tours Programme, with the Proteas scheduled to play just 28 Tests from 2023-2027.

Crawley conundrum

England opener Zak Crawley’s miserable run of low scores continued as he was dismissed for nine and 13 at Lord’s. He may have got a good ball from Rabada in the first innings, but the way he was lbw on the sweep to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj on Friday, looked the desperate act of a batsman trying to hit his way out of a slump.

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In 35 innings as a Test opener, Crawley averages 22.25.

Only two openers in Test history have a lower average from at least as many innings — Australia’s Alick Bannerman, who played in the 19th century, averaged 21.44, and Bangladesh’s Javed Omar 22.07.

And yet England seem determined to carry on selecting Crawley regardless, as if dropping him would be a sign of weakness rather than a kindness to a talented shot-maker still young enough at 24 to return a better player.

Team management, however, clearly hope an innings to match Crawley’s stunning 267 against Pakistan at Southampton two years ago is just around the corner, with assistant coach Paul Collingwood saying: “We don’t necessarily look for consistency with Zak. It’s about being able to do special things.”

South Africa can get better

South Africa ensured England suffered a first innings defeat in a home Test in seven years without any of the Proteas’ batsmen making a hundred.

Indeed opener Sarel Erwee’s 73 was the lone South Africa score above fifty in a total of 326.

In their most recent 12 Tests, four South African batsmen have scored one century apiece and at Lord’s they also dropped several slip catches as well.

But that they are still top of the World Test Championship table despite these issues should be a source of excitement, rather than concern, for them.