Five-fer: Day two, Lord's


We pick out the five key points from the second day's play between England and South Africa at Lord's.

We pick out the five key points from the second day's play between England and South Africa at Lord's.

<b>1. 'Phillinder' Fills His Boots</b><br>Before the series, as everyone weighed up the two sides and tried to work out who had the upper hand, England's strong tail was cited as an advantage for the hosts.

South Africa were seen as having a bit of a long tail, what with Vernon Philander batting at eight, and with an average of 12.77 from his first nine Tests it did look as if he was a place too high.

However his maiden Test fifty has shown that he's no mug with the bat, even if he's a bit short of being a genuine all-rounder. His first-class record reflects that assessment – he has two centuries and six fifties in 86 games, and averages 25.

We're still wondering though… who is this 'Phillinder' chap that Shaun Pollock keeps talking about?

<b>2. Swinging In Roundabouts</b><br>It's pretty clear where an intriguing and rather well-matched Test match is likely to be won and lost, and it's portrayed in a simple statistic.

Twelve wickets have been taken with new balls (if we regard a 'new' ball to last 25 overs), while just three have been taken in the rest of the match.

With the sun now shining and the pitch proving even-paced, the importance of making the most of the brand new cherry has been drastically increased.

However what's also important is to keep things tight in between those new balls and ensure that the batsmen aren't able to turn the pressure around.

All of which makes for absorbing cricket, even in the quiet patches when the wickets aren't tumbling.

<b>3. Head Banging</b><br>When Tim Bresnan said this week that England would miss Kevin Pietersen, "but we've got Jonny Bairstow" with a straight face on Tuesday, more than the odd cricket fan must have wondered whether he might have a career as a stand-up comedian in him.

But credit where credit is due, because Bairstow has clearly spent his time away from international cricket working on his issues with the short ball. He now wears a chest guard, but importantly he appears to have learnt to both evade the bouncer and hook it.

If there was a criticism of the South African bowlers, it was that they were too predictable to Bairstow – Sky showed a stat that 56% of all the deliveries bowled at Bairstow before tea were short of a length, and they continued to bang it in from around the wicket after the interval.

Yet if you watch Bairstow's dismissals against the West Indies, the reason he got out was that they took him by surprise – rather than it being a case of getting worked over.

South Africa would do well to remember that for next time, but it's a story which often applies to teams who think that an opposition batsman has a weakness against the short stuff.

<b>4. Straussy's Mission</b><br>Morne Morkel continues to torment Andrew Strauss. The England skipper seems to have no answer to the lanky pace bowler's deliveries, and today was another example of that, with Strauss finding his bails in the air with his score on 20.

The Proteas bowlers had sent the short stuff in at the Middlesex man's ribs for much of his innings, all 20 runs of it, and even whacked him in the ribcage once or twice. Then, just as all good strategies do, it came off, and Straussy found himself in no-man's land in the over before lunch.

This series has not been good for the England head honcho, off-field drama aside. He's not yet made a score over 37 in five innings, and in this, his 100th Test, he'd have wanted to make a big score, just like Graeme Smith did in his 100th at The Oval.

South Africa must beware though. There's another innings to come, and tradition dictates that when Strauss is under pressure to perform, he does just that. Ask the West Indies (ok, so they're not the Proteas pace attack, but still) for evidence. The first of his two tons against them in May, the 122, was at Lord's, his home ground.

Before that he hadn't scored a ton since November 2010, and people were beginning to cough "Cook" when the captaincy came up. He responded with vigour, and will certainly do the same when next called upon, if only to avoid becoming yet another skipper to resign post-Proteas visit.

<b>5. Growing In Stature</b><br>The difference between AB de Villiers behind the stumps in the first Test to now at Lord's is quite noticeable. It's not like he was a rookie keeper before this series, like putting a defender between the sticks when the goalie's sent off, but he didn't have much Test experience, and his natural athleticism has served him well.

De Villiers is an extremely talented sportsman, with hand-eye co-ordination that could see him play almost anything to a high level, and this was evident today. An especially athletic diving save off Steyn's bowling, one which Mark Boucher may not have reached (sacrilege!), showcased this well.

He hasn't given away any byes yet in this England innings, where he conceded 13 in the first Test and seven in the second. Whether that has anything to do with the Proteas bowlers being more disciplined is possible, but he's looked far more comfortable standing up to the stumps to Imran Tahir than he did in the first two matches.

Spare a thought for Thami Tsolekile though. He's been on tour since Boucher's injury, playing in the county matches to good effect, and can't get time on the field aside from when a bowler needs to go off for a comfort break, or someone is injured.

<b>Tristan Holme and Lindsay du Plessis</b>