England’s Test side have made a promising start to life under Brendon McCullum but suffered their first setback since the New Zealander’s appointment last time out, losing by an innings and 12 runs against South Africa at Lord’s.
The team now trail 1-0 in the three-match series with the Proteas and will be looking to get back to winning ways when the teams reconvene at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Bazball backfires for England
It was all change for England’s Test team earlier this summer when McCullum was appointed as the team’s new head coach, and Ben Stokes replaced Joe Root as captain.
And it seemed the new combination had an immediate impact as England followed a comfortable 3-0 series victory over New Zealand with a win in a rearranged fifth Test against India back in July.
Following the four consecutive Test triumphs, McCullum and Stokes were praised for introducing an aggressive style of play labelled Bazball in the media, but in the first Test against South Africa, that aura of assertiveness appeared to have vanished.
McCullum criticised his team, who posted totals of 165 and 149 at Lord’s, for playing too cautiously last time out, and it is hard to predict what England team will show up in Manchester.
Questions remain over the strength of England openers
That said, one consistent theme of this England Test team is the frailty of their openers.
Zak Crawley and Alex Lees were poor at Lord’s, putting England on the back foot with 62 runs scored between them across both innings.
As a result, Crawley’s inconsistency at the crease has come under scrutiny in the last week and rightfully so, given the opener’s scores in Test cricket since the start of June read 43, nine, four, zero, six, 25, nine, 46, nine and 13.
If England are to bounce back at Old Trafford, they will need a stronger performance from their openers.
South Africa pacemen light up Lord’s
England’s batsmen were uninspiring at Lord’s, but South Africa’s pace bowlers deserve praise for their fine performances.
Between them, Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Marco Jansen took 17 wickets in the first Test at Lord’s.
Nortje was key to his side’s win, having claimed the scalps of Lees, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes in England’s second innings, and he is worth keeping an eye on at Old Trafford.
South Africa should be the more confident side heading into this second Test, given how the first match unfolded but England have a decent record at Old Trafford, having won 12 of their last 15 Test matches at the Manchester venue.
But while it is hard to call the winner, it is easy to pinpoint England’s main weakness – their opening pair.
With that in mind, South Africa can be expected to rack up a higher opening partnership while Anrich Nortje could take the most first-innings wickets for the Proteas.