At the risk of sounding too critical – the Proteas fought very hard to save the 2nd Test and deserve credit for that – 3 major brain farts on the final day from their three most senior players cost them match.
It all started with a ridiculous slog sweep from captain Faf du Plessis when he had got himself in and when it was clear that the side no longer needed runs with the chase having already been given up.
Why play a high risk shot at that time?? A captain really should know a lot better and it set a very poor example. Faf, to his credit, took complete responsibility at the post match press conference but to be honest this should not have happened in the first place. Another problem is that Faf is really not leading by example when it comes to contributing to the side. He has not made any meaningful runs for a long time and his captaincy has been very poor for the most part but that is a story for another day. At this point there are very few quality batsmen around to take his place.
Next came an equally ill advised slog pull off a long hop from part-timer Joe Denly by Quinton de Kock. Again, it’s very easy to criticise from the comfort of your sofa, but guess what? That is our job. His job, which he gets paid very well for, is to perform under pressure for his country. QDK is actually by far my favourite player in the team and I love his talent, but it must be said, that was another shot that just had no common sense attached to it. Repeat, we did not require a single run further … if the Proteas had not made another run it would have been fine as long as they remained at the crease. It was not a complicated requirement to comprehend at that stage of the match.
Vernon Philander, playing in his final test at Newlands … what a legend of a player … what a clueless decision not to take a run and rotate the strike away from Duane Pretorius who was struggling against Ben Stokes. Stokes had made it clear to all that he was targeting Pretorius and had previously shrieked in frustration when a single had taken him off strike. You would have to been on another planet not to have recognised that. Surely someone of Philander’s experience would have picked that up?
All this without even mentioning the next most senior player in the team, Dean Elgar, throwing away his wicket in the first inning at an absolutely crucial moment.
On the other side of the fence, England captain Joe Root, managed his team with skill and brains. He constantly mixed things up, tried new fields (placing a leg slip in for Rassie van der Dussen and getting him next ball was genius), put the Proteas under pressure. He never gave up. And they played smart.
South Africa is an inexperienced team and therefore it was up to the experienced players to deliver when it counted most. They failed miserably when the chips were down.