Proteas rise from canvas to fight on
Was it the reassurance that returned with Faf du Plessis, the emotion engendered by the plight of Russell Domingo, or the removal from the chain of weak link JP Duminy?
Whatever it was, it earned South Africa a crushing victory over England in the second Test at Trent Bridge yesterday. They were home with more than a day to spare, winning by 340 runs.
If the weightiness of the scoreline seems familiar, it is because England won the first Test by 211 runs inside four days at Lord's last Sunday.
Du Plessis, the cricketer most comfortable with captaincy, missed that match. He was at home marvelling at his and wife Imari's first-born.
Domingo, an increasingly revered coach, didn't see the end of it. His mother had taken a turn for the worse and died in the hours after the last wicket fell.
Duminy, as selfless a servant as a team could have, played what may be his last Test: seven innings without reaching 40, never mind 50, and only two centuries in his last 16 trips to the crease tipped the selectorial scales against him. Five days after they were laid low at Lord's, South Africa rose from that canvas to fight on.
Eight days on, they delivered the knockout blow by dismissing England - who were set what would have been a world record target of 474 - for 133.
The innings that lasted a touch more than three-and-a-half hours and no runs were scored as the last three wickets tumbled off four balls. The home side resumed with a solitary run on the board, and lost their first wicket to the 11th ball of the day when Vernon Philander bowled Keaton Jennings through the gate for three. Philander struck again to trap Gary Ballance in front for four, and England were 55/3 when Chris Morris yorked Joe Root for eight with a fine delivery that swerved past the bat and clipped the base of off-stump.
Morris then claimed the key wicket of Alastair Cook in the fourth over with a bouncer. The trend continued nine balls after lunch when Jonny Bairstow slapped a delivery from Keshav Maharaj into the hands of mid-on to go for 16.
England's last serious hopes were Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, but they were dismissed six balls apart for 18 and 27.
Philander and Maharaj took three wickets each, and Morris claimed 2/7 in six overs. The series, locked at 1-1, resumes at The Oval on July 27.