England won the First Test against South Africa by 241 runs in a match staged in Durban, but two poor batting displays by the hosts were primarily responsible for their defeat. In scoring 303 and 326 in their two innings’, it could certainly not be described as a vintage performance by the tourists with the bat, but opener Dean Elgar was the only South African to amass a total greater than 50 runs when compiling a score 118 during the host’s disappointing first effort of 214, with England comfortably disposing of his team-mates without the injured fast bowler James Anderson.
For once there was no real batting collapse amongst the England team although there were ominous early signals when captain Alastair Cook departed during the first innings without scoring. Yet both James Taylor and Nick Compton produced decent middle order batting displays to offset the relatively early loss of Joe Root. Both Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad also provided adequate support but a modest first innings total of 303 was not viewed with any real satisfaction by England.
When Stiaan van Zyl was dismissed by just the second ball of Broad’s opening over as South Africa replied, and then Hashim Alma was caught behind the wicket for just seven runs, the tourists sensed that the hosts were not the formidable opposition portrayed in the media. Only AB de Villiers offered any meaningful support for Elgar when scoring 49 runs but for the remainder of the African players, their first innings was an embarrassment.
Compton, Taylor and Bairstow once again justified their inclusion with steady scoring in the England second innings as Joe Root returned to form with a confident 73 runs but South Africa were impaired by the loss of Dale Steyn after just three overs bowling due to a shoulder injury. Alastair Cook was content to allow the English second innings to draw to a conclusion rather than declare, and so the hosts were set the rather implausible target of 416 runs for victory.
Yet resistance was offered by the opening African batsmen. At 85-1, there was genuine hope that at least a draw could be salvage on the final day but two quick wickets for the underrated Steven Finn, including that of Elgar, virtually guaranteed England victory as South Africa eventually closed the fourth day on a total of 136-4.
Just 24 overs were needed on the final day for England to seal a win in the First Test with the hosts being bowled out for 174. Confidence will have been boosted in the English ranks ahead of the Second Test starting at the weekend, especially with the likely return of Anderson at the expense of Chris Woakes. However, any complacency should be avoided as the hosts are unlikely to produce such a similar dismal batting performance as in the opening test.
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