In his first Test in charge Joe Root oversees big win over South Africa
England win by 211 runs on day four at Lord’s, a great start for their new captain
England’s Joe Root and team-mates walk off for tea during day four of the First Investec Test match at Lord’s, London. Photograph: PA
This was an astonishing day for all concerned and it ended with England one up in the series and the tourists in some disarray. In his first Test in charge Joe Root oversaw an incredible victory, by 211 runs. Any consternation comes not so much from the margin of the win, but the speed with which it was attained: it won’t always be quite so easy.
The game accelerated incredibly with 19 wickets falling for 233 runs on a startling Sunday.
On Saturday night Joe Root may have wasted much time contemplating the timing of his declaration. No such declaration was necessary as England were bundled out for 233, losing their last nine wickets for 94 runs. Although an unusually dry pitch had been spotted there was no great expectation that England’s spinners, the makeshifts, would then slice through the South African lineup as if they were reincarnations of Jim Laker and Tony Lock. Moeen Ali became the first English spinner to take 10 wickets in a Test match at Lord’s since Derek Underwood in 1974.
Likewise in the morning session Derek Brewer, the cheerful chief executive of the MCC, was considering what would be his pricing policy for the final day; this also proved to be a futile exercise. And spare a thought for the freelancing stewards.
On the only previous occasion that Moeen, who would finish with match figures of 10-112, comfortably his career best, and Liam Dawson were in harness along with Adil Rashid, against India in Chennai last December, England conceded 759-7. It was turning a bit there as well, since Ravindra Jadeja would take 7-48 in England’s second innings. Hence there was some doubt that these two spinners should cause such havoc.
The Lord’s pitch, which has a reputation for obstinately declining to deteriorate, acquired some demons on the fourth day and there were times when those demons became exaggerated in the minds of the batsmen. However the ball did bounce and turn spitefully, especially when propelled by Moeen from the Nursery End. Earlier in the day the ball also stayed low for the pacemen, as Ben Stokes experienced when he received a shooter from Kagiso Rabada. Batting was tricky, but not quite as tricky as the scorecard suggests.
Despite that shooter Root was eager to put his faith in his spinners. How they repaid him. Throughout the game he was quick to introduce either Moeen or Dawson – or both – and they clearly enjoyed being the bowlers of last resort. On Sunday, straight after the tea break, Root decided to remove Mark Wood from the attack even though the paceman had just dismissed JP Duminy with the last delivery before the interval. He tossed the ball to Dawson, who dismissed Hashim Amla lbw with a fine delivery, a mini masterstroke.
So England’s spinners grew in confidence on a surface that offered them so much help. Moeen offered the greatest threat, in part because he was so miserly. He has seldom, if ever, bowled four consecutive maidens for England. The batsmen felt trapped, the venomous deliveries lingered in their minds. Moeen would allow no escape and the batsmen became desperate: most fell to attacking strokes as they tried to regain the initiative. Moeen sat back, maintained his line and length and watched the dominoes fall.
Moeen was the man of the match, which was hardly surprising since he had also scored 87 in the first innings. The other contender would have been Root himself, given that he scored 190 on a surface that those who came to the crease at the weekend reckoned to be untrustworthy. But he won’t be bothered about that. He could not have hoped for a better start to his reign.
There was little indication of such a dramatic clatter of wickets at the start of Sunday’s play. Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance pottered along for nine overs and 20 runs in the morning and there was mild speculation about a teatime declaration. Then the dismissal of Cook, caught at cover off Morné Morkel, started the stampede. Ballance soon followed and Root was the first to fall to a spinner, Keshav Maharaj, bowled off the inside edge.
Next, Rabada intervened with that shooter to Stokes, after which a high full toss splattered the stumps of Dawson for his third consecutive Test duck. England were grateful to Jonny Bairstow, and to Vernon Philander for dropping him at long off on 7‚ to ensure a target beyond 300. Bairstow gave free rein to his attacking instincts as the batsmen came and went and Mark Wood hit a handy 28.
By tea South Africa, needing a distant 331 for an unlikely victory, were three down, though the first wicket to fall, that of Heino Kuhn, owed little to the vagaries of the pitch. Against the most ill-directed delivery in Jimmy Anderson’s opening spell he edged down the leg side and Bairstow diving to his left took an excellent one-handed catch.
Thereafter the catches kept sticking. Moeen accepted a firm straight drive from Dean Elgar off his own bowling, as well as an inappropriate pull from Duminy at square leg to ensure that when tea was being sipped the England players could contemplate drinking something stronger later in the evening.
Quinton de Kock was promoted – understandably – and forged a little partnership with Temba Bavuma, and they represented South Africa’s last hope. But both were bowled trying to attack Moeen, something which no one could do with impunity on a crazy Sunday afternoon.