South Africa did a straight swap where they replaced Duanne Olivier for Kagiso Rabada. Olivier’s performance was well below standard. His economy rate was very high. His strike rate was good but you would expect it to be significantly lower. He just gave too many runs. Of course it can be argued that it really did not matter at the end of the day because South Africa had a big lead. While this could be justified for the second innings where he gave 7.5 runs per over; you really can’t justify his first innings economy rate where he gave 5.57 runs per over. These are closer to what would be acceptable in One Day Internationals and T20’s and not in tests. The result was that South Africa started 4.1% higher than where they finished.
England made a few changes. Gary Ballance was dropped and Tom Westley was brought in at number three. Michael Wood got injured so Toby Roland-Jones was brought in to replace him. Liam Dawson was dropped and interestingly Dawid Malan was brought in to replace him. These changes made the English team look better. It also removed the illusion that Moeen Ali was their second spinner. I was sceptical about Moeen Ali wearing the hat of a spinner early on in his career. However he has improved heavily over the years and definitely deserves the title of the main spinner. These changes meant that England started 22% lower than South Africa.
The headlines may have been about Moeen Ali’s hat trick but this was definitely Ben Stokes games. A fast century and a quick fire 30 along with wickets in both the innings made sure that the deal was sealed. England excelled in their batting and bowling. Westley did reasonably well. I did wish that Malan would have done better. His performance with the white ball recently has been magnificent to say the least. I do hope he is given more chances. For the bug scores England are largely dependent on Cook, Root, Stokes, Baristow and Ali. There are still problems with the opening pair. There is no serious middle order that can be spoken of. Due to the weakness in the batting, the partnership that are essential are Root and Stokes, Stokes and Baristow and finally Moeen Ali with the tail and either Stokes or Baristow.
With this victory we have another all rounder playing an instrumental role and England regain their lead and are 9.3% ahead.
Cricket at the end of the day is a game analysed by numbers and stats but lives because of passion. Moeen Ali’s hat trick was the first in the Oval. It was the third hat trick to finish a test match in the history of test cricket. The last being in 1902. It was the first where all the batsmen who got out were left handlers. History was made. This hat trick will probably be excellent of spin bowling in England because it was done by a person who has come from the Indian subcontinent. The fact that the hat trick was achieved by a spinner in England makes it more valuable than if a seamer would have achieved it.