Cricket: England v South Africa

Geoffrey Boycott: South Africa were much more aggressive

Helped by overhead conditions and having overs under their belt, South Africa's bowlers were a different proposition on day two

Geoffrey Boycott: South Africa were much more aggressive

South Africa’s bowling was transformed on the second day of the Test match. They took three wickets all day on Thursday, but took the last seven for another 118 runs on Friday.

We must remember that they have not played any competitive international cricket since March in Wellington. In racing terms they were short of a gallop.

They had a camp in Switzerland and practiced hard, but net practice is not the same as playing hard, competitive cricket. The two practice matches they had against the English counties were interfered with by rain.

By bowling on the first day, all the bowlers had a few overs behind them so that helped them on the second day.

The second reason they were so much better was that the atmospheric conditions changed. On the morning of the second day it was murky and heavy and the ball swung in the air.

The greater threat was obvious from the start of the day. The pitch was just as slow, but the South Africans were much more aggressive and competitive in their intent. Helped by the overhead conditions, they got the ball through more to the keeper.

Steyn opened the bowling with the new ball, which he didn’t do on the first day when Smith threw the ball to Philander. He ran in hard and bowled beautifully, swinging the ball at pace. When he got the breakthrough by bowling Cook, the whole tenor lifted for South Africa.

The best bit of bowling, though, came from Jacques Kallis whose sequence of three fantastic deliveries to Ian Bell was worth paying money for. First he bowled him two beautiful outswingers, then Bell padded up to the third one which came back off the seam to hit the off bail. You could not get more perfect bowling.

After Ravi Bopara went for a duck, England were under pressure all of a sudden. Bopara is a compulsive hooker and he has got away with it in the past. When he made his first Test century against West Indies in Barbados in 2009, Fidel Edwards struck him on the head with a bouncer early in his innings. He was eventually out on the hook in that innings, too. 

There’s still a question mark against him as a Test match cricketer. As a one-day player he will get picked every time. But In Test cricket, it’s not just about technique, it’s also about your mental approach.

In one-day cricket there can be an excuse for getting out because you may get in with very few overs left. You have to keep the tempo up to six or seven an over so you have to take risks. In Test match cricket there’s no excuse because there's always plenty of time and that brings far more pressure.

That’s probably why he did not commit to the hook shot. He wanted to play it but feared getting out so he was caught in two minds and got himself in a tangle.