The England vice-captain, Joe Root jumped to the defence of the England bowlers after the first day of their dead-rubber fourth Test with South Africa, insisting their early struggles with the ball were down to human error.
Since wrapping up the series at The Wanderers last Saturday, the tourists have made all the right noises as they look to end a run of six dead rubbers without a victory, with the captain, Alastair Cook, reminding his players that places are up for grabs before the visit of Sri Lanka in four months’ time.
But with only one wicket before tea, and South Africa’s Stephen Cook and Hashim Amla dropped on their way to centuries, it was hard not conclude that, once again, the intensity had tailed off. Root denied that, pointing to the four wickets in first half of the evening session.
He said: “It was a great comeback from our lads. We missed our lengths at times, especially early on, but the way we fought back and came into the game was a really good effort. The start of that last session is our benchmark for tomorrow morning.”
“It’s Test cricket; you don’t go in thinking it’s just another game ... That’s slightly unfair. Even though they’ve got fantastic records, our bowlers are human. They do make mistakes and the most important thing was how we came back and reacted.”
While the first day of the finale was tough going for Cook’s attack, there was some mirth to be drawn from their initial breakthrough in the morning when James Taylor, standing at short-leg to the off-spinner Moeen Ali, caught the opener Dean Elgar between his legs.
Taylor’s effort was slightly less elegant than his two stunners in the same fielding position in Johannesburg, retrieving the ball from his backside like a freshly-laid egg.
Root, who was standing at mid-on, credited his team-mate for not ducking away when the batsman went on the charge. “From where I was standing it did look a bit bizarre where he plucked it from, but the reaction from him was brilliant. You look at people standing at short-leg and when someone runs down the wicket not many players go with it.
“Look at the way he’s fielded there all series, he’s done a fantastic job. But that’s the pick of the catches, especially to a spinner when someone is looking to be aggressive. The first reaction is to drop your head or try and get out of the way. Credit to him for the work he puts in during practice.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010