Joe Root continued to shrug off the burdens of captaincy with yet another half-century in the fourth Investec Test but South Africa once again exposed frailties in England’s top order.
Root made 52 of the hosts’ 260 for six day one at Emirates Old Trafford, inking his name into the annals as the third youngest batsman to pass 5,000 Test runs and equalling John Edrich’s English record of 10 successive games with a half-century score.
The 26-year-old has clearly not suffered any dip in form since inheriting the blazer this summer but the failure of newer faces around him mean England routinely need more than mere 50s from him to make up for other shortcomings.England’s assistant coach Paul Farbrace on Keaton Jennings being under threat from Haseeb Hameed: “If you’re in the England team there is always, and should always be, someone knocking on the door for your place, whether they’re here at the ground breathing down your neck or doing it in the championship. We’ll be keeping a close eye on his (Hameed’s) championship game (against Hampshire) on Sunday and we want him to make runs. Hopefully he’ll be pushing contention to get back into the team at some point.”
Tweet of the day
South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock had a shocker when he decided to let Root’s edge sail past him in the evening session but earlier in the day he moved to a century of Test dismissals in classic fashion. When Tom Westley nicked Kagiso Rabada there was plenty of work still to do, but De Kock hurled himself to the right to scoop up a brilliant catch – his 93rd at this level to go with seven stumpings.
Stat of the day
At 26 years and 217 days old Root became the third youngest player to 5,000 Test runs, lagging only Indian great Sachin Tendulkar and his own predecessor as England skipper Alastair Cook. In terms of innings played he is further back, with his tally of 105 good enough for joint 14th. At that top of that list is Donald Bradman, head and shoulders ahead of the pack on just 56.
The England and Wales Cricket Board were moved to issue a statement during the day’s play denying there had been any formal approach from their opponents for bowling coach Ottis Gibson. Leading the Proteas is a highly attractive proposition, though, and it would no surprise if he is eager to leap at the chance. England may yet win the series and lose a key lieutenant.
South Africa will sleep easier after Rabada castled Ben Stokes with a brilliant yorker late in the day. With the ball still relatively new and Morne Morkel surely due a slice of luck after earning scant rewards for his efforts on day one, the Proteas will have high hopes of taking four more wickets in the morning session.
For England the presence of Jonny Bairstow at the crease and Moeen Ali still to come means 400 is still in play if conditions even out.