NOTTINGHAM: South Africa will hope the return of captain Faf du Plessis leads to a revival in their fortunes in the second Test against England at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge starting Friday.
The senior batsman missed the series opener following the birth of his first child but returned in time to see the Proteas suffer a convincing 211-run defeat inside four days at Lord’s as England went 1-0 up in the four-match series.
Dropped catches and wickets off no-balls cost South Africa dear, while their second innings collapse to 119 all out showed how much they could do with Du Plessis’s customary resilience with the bat.
Their task in levelling the series in Nottingham has been complicated by pace bowler Kagiso Rabada being ruled out as he serves a one-game for swearing at Ben Stokes after dismissing the England all-rounder in the first innings at Lord’s.
South Africa now face some tricky selection decisions made all the more complicated by the fact that since the end of the first Test, coach Russell Domingo’s mother has died from the injuries she suffered in a recent car crash.
South Africa could select both all-rounder Chris Morris and young seamer Duanne Olivier — or stick with the same balance, with the struggling JP Duminy in line to make way for du Plessis in any event.
“Losing KG (Rabada), do you look at playing a four-seamer attack, because you’re losing quite a high-quality bowler?” du Plessis said after South Africa’s loss at Lord’s.
“That means a batsman would miss out. Obviously, that’s one option.”
South Africa twice gave Joe Root reprieves early in his first innings as England captain, with the new skipper marking the occasion with 190.
“We made a lot of basic mistakes that we don’t normally do as a team,” said du Plessis.
“That will cost you, if you’re playing against a strong team like England.”
– ‘Lead from the front’ –
It was a point echoed by fast bowler Morne Morkel, now the holder of the unwanted record for most wickets chalked off for no- balls in Tests. His tally hit 13 after an over-step cost him the dismissal of Stokes at Lord’s.
“It’s not acceptable, it’s controllable,” he said of the no-balls.
There will be an even greater responsibility upon Morkel, the most experienced bowler in the attack with 260 wickets in 75 Tests, in Rabada’s absence.
“I still have a role as a senior player in the team to lead from the front,” he said.
Root had a dream start as skipper, a point emphasised by former captain Alastair Cook.
“For Joe Root to get off and win a game by 200 runs and get 190, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Cook, still in the England side as an opening batsman.
England are set to field an unchanged team after off-spinning all-rounder Moeen Ali took 10 wickets at Lord’s and scored 87 in England’s first innings, with Hampshire left-arm spinner Liam Dawson likely to retain his place.
Doubts persist, however over Gary Ballance’s role at number three while Trent Bridge will be a chance for fast bowler Mark Wood, beset by ankle problems throughout his career, to prove he can stand the strain of back-to-back Tests.
“We have bowlers waiting in the wings,” said Wood. “Probably if they were fit, I wouldn’t have played.
“Chris Woakes had a great year and it will be interesting to see what happens when he’s back playing,” added Durham quick Wood, who took the Ashes-clinching wicket at Trent Bridge two years ago.
“The challenge becomes to prove to you guys, to my team-mates and the coaches that I can play three (matches) in a row.”
South Africa have not lost an away Test series for 10 years and Cook said England were ready for a backlash in Nottingham.
“They have a very good record away from home. They will be hurting,” he warned.