And welcome to live coverage of day two of the first Test between England and South Africa from Lord’s. There may have been time before the deluge for only 32 overs of play yesterday but we were privileged to watch a terrific performance from the touring side’s pace quartet, from the attack leader’s relentlessness from the Nursery End to the breathless pace of Anrich Nortje, penetratingly precise once he had switched to the Pavilion End to replace the height and prodigious swing of Marco Jansen. That’s not to overlook Lungi Ngidi’s nagging opening spell. He may be wicketless so far but he will take plenty in the series if he maintains that line and length with such bite.
Ollie Pope was the one bright bat for England, playing with pluck and skill to make 61 valuable runs and the onus is on him this morning to help England towards a respectable score. Five years ago at the Oval, England bowled South Africa out in their first innings for 175 and if they can do something approaching that again, we ought to have one of those tight ‘nipper’ matches at which England have generally excelled for years. But to do that they will need a score that means they do not concede too heavy a first-innings lead and with England’s long tail that will be a tall order for Pope and his maturity.
There was plenty of condemnation last night for England’s batting and the manner of their dismissals. I’m not sure all that much of it was justified in very helpful bowling conditions exploited by an expert, balanced attack. Yes, Jonny Bairstow played a loose stroke but that was out of character for him this season and he deserves some slack. Joe Root’s was a tight call, Ben Stokes may have batted frenetically as has become his habit but he was undone by a wonderful delivery and the long-standing problem with the openers remain. It’s more about selection than character in their case. There is still time for redemption though it will be down to the bowlers to dig them out of this hole.