Captain Fantastic: South Africa dearly missed their captain at Lord’s, and the reason was evident at Trent Bridge. Faf du Plessis was always two steps ahead of the game, made intelligent bowling changes and field placements, and lifted the team by his mere presence. His runs in the second innings didn’t hurt either.
Amla the rock: By his lofty standards, the Mighty Hash has had a lean time of late. But his innings of 78 and 87 in the second Test were worth their weight in gold. He blunted the England attack when the going was tough. Batting order reshuffle. Getting rid of the misfiring JP Duminy and promoting Quinton de Kock was long overdue. The wicketkeeper-batsman’s quickfire 68 in the first innings snatched the initiative from England on the first day.
All-round expertise: South Africa were without the suspended Kagiso Rabada, but Vernon Philander and Chris Morris compensated, with both bat and ball. Philander looks a proper Test all-rounder, while Morris came into his own in England’s second innings with the wickets of Alastair Cook and Joe Root.
Spin vision: England underbowed their spinners, even Moeen Ali who had a 10-wicket haul at Lord’s. Puzzlingly, they went out of their way to specify that rookie Liam Dawson was their lead spinner. South Africa’s Kehav Maharaj outbowled them by a distance, getting spin and bounce, scalping six wickets in the match.
Top-order wobbles: England’s top order has been anything but reassuring. Cook has not got a really big score yet, while Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance are little more than walking wickets in the series. It puts a lot of onus on skipper Root to guide the innings.
Mindset is key: The hosts’ new-found daredevil approach in limited-overs cricket seems to have seeped into the Test side as well. In the second innings, batsmen one after another were dismissed going for big shots.
A batsman short?: England seem a batsman short with too many all-rounders. Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali are in the side for two skills. Surely, there is an argument for another specialist batsman.