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England Secure Impressive Win Over Saffers

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After a difficult series against Pakistan, England showed they are a team on the rise in Test cricket after securing a comprehensive victory over South Africa. Although South Africa had a dismal series against India, they were expected to be a different proposition on home soil and pose a real threat to England. However, a combination of poor play from South Africa and excellent individual performances from England saw them win the first match of the four Test series.

After losing the toss England were put into bat, with South African skipper Hashim Amla keen to take advantage of favourable bowling conditions. Although captain Alistair Cook and debutant Alex Hales fell cheaply, Nick Compton, who had been out of the side for two years, made a score of 85 to hold the innings together. Joe Root couldn’t add anything significant to the innings, but James Taylor again showed he is more than adapt to play Test cricket with a timely 70. The middle order struggled as Morne Morkel ripped through the England line up. Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes both made starts but were unable to pass fifty, while Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes were both dismissed for ducks. With England faltering Stuart Broad scored a breezy 32 to see England past 300 and in a strong position.

South Africa’s batting line up has underperformed this year and they were unable to buck the trend in their first innings. With Stiaan van Zyl, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis all falling cheaply, it was up to Dean Elgar and AB de Villiers to hold the South African innings together. When de Villiers was dismissed by Broad on 49, the lower order quickly tumbled. Elgar carried his bat, finishing unbeaten on 118 as Steven Finn and Moeen Ali ripped through the South African tail. Broad was the pick of the English bowlers, finishing with figures of 4-25 as the hosts were dismissed for 214.

With a commanding lead, there was little pressure on the English batsmen in their second innings. Cook again fell cheaply, but Hales looked more assured as he made 26. Compton fell one short of his second fifty in the match and Taylor chipped in with a useful 42. After his disappointment in the first innings, Root batted well in his second turn with the bat, making 73. Stokes fell cheaply but a blistering Bairstow innings of 79 saw England take the game away from the side ranked number one in the world. Moeen and Woakes supported Bairstow well, and to make matters worse for South Africa their talisman Dale Steyn pulled up injured. South Africa spinner Dane Piedt performed well, picking up figures of 5-153 as England ended their second innings with a lead of over 400.

Although the South African reply started well enough, once openers Elgar and van Zyl were dismissed the innings quickly fell apart. Moeen and Steven Finn ripped through the South African middle order as it again revealed its frail nature. There had been doubts over Finn’s fitness, but his figures of 4-42 showed he was more than ready for the match. When Moeen got rid of de Villiers early on day five, it was clear the end was nigh. South Africa slumped from 88-2 to 174 all out, handing England a win by a margin of 241 runs.

England can expect South Africa to improve as the series goes on, although it seems that the once invincible Proteas are starting to show cracks. The injury to Steyn will be a major blow, while it is thought de Villiers is unhappy at being asked to keep wicket. While England are still a developing side, a win over South Africa on their own turf has reiterated they are on the right path, and if they continue to improve throughout then further victories could be on the horizon.


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