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Johannesburg – The Proteas experienced another chastening day in the field in Canterbury, getting an extra taste of ‘Bazball’ in their tour match against the England Lions on Thursday.
The Lions continued to pound the Proteas bowling, racking up a first innings total of 672, while scoring those runs at a rate of 5.74 an over. Some of the young English players sent head coach Brendon McCullum a clear message, that they would delight in being part of the revolution he’s helped create with the Test side.
McCullum had, according to reports in the UK, met with the Lions players before the match, where he encouraged them to mimic what the senior England side had done earlier in the season in chasing down totals of more than 270 in the final innings of the four Tests they played.
Aiden Markram, who picked up 6/91, said the Proteas weren’t surprised at the Lions approach.
“I thought the wicket played well and they earned the right to play with that freedom. We know it will be much of the same throughout the summer. We bowled some bad balls that they capitalised on and they hit some good shots off some good areas,” Markram remarked.
“Their Test team has been playing that brand of cricket for the last while and done really well playing that way, so it was nice for us to be put under similar pressure today and to see how the guys responded to it.”
Conditions have certainly helped – a fast paced outfield, flat pitch while the match has also been robbed of first class status, because of the South African team’s request to field 13 players.
South Africa will start the final day of the match in trouble on 59/3, still trailing England’s second stringers by 180 runs.
Both Dan Lawrence, who made a run-a-ball 97 on the second day and Craig Overton, who picked up a five wicket haul in South Africa’s first innings, have said how they took heed of McCullum’s call and knew that in order to crack the senior England side, they needed to play aggressively.
On Thursday, 23-year-old Harry Brook, who has been included in England’s squad for the first two Tests against the Proteas, scored a hundred, finishing on 140, which came off only 170 balls and included 16 fours and six sixes.
Then Ben Duckett, who last played an international match in 2019, and was better known for off-field shenanigans, made 145 off 168 balls to further compound the visiting team’s misery.
The South Africans will argue that the match is ultimately meaningless, and it being devoid of first class status, probably renders it thus, but it serves as a loud wake up call less than a week out from the first Test.
“The guys put a lot of effort in, bowled lots of overs and every now and then our execution let us down, but that is part and parcel of building up to the Test series,” said Markram. “A lot of the bowling attack hasn’t played much cricket of late so it’s completely understandable and I think as time goes on they’ll hit their straps closer to the Test.”
While Markram, whose bowling in Test cricket is very much of the part time variety, the frontline spinner, Keshav Maharaj, conceded 169 runs in 22 overs, taking just one wicket. Given the presence of Simon Harmer in the squad, and should the selectors decide to play just one spinner at Lord’s, it could be a lively debate for Victor Mpitsang and his panel.
Marco Jansen bowled 25 overs and took 1/111 and while the concession of that many runs won’t please him, the fact that he bowled that many overs will stand him in good stead for the Test match.