If the fourth day of the first Test at Lords on Sunday had been played out in the boxing ring, a merciful referee would have surely intervened, spared South Africa further punishment and advised the punch drunk Proteas players a prolonged lie down in a darkened room.
England’s dismantlement of South Africa in their second innings – the shell shocked tourists were skittled out for just 119 in less than 37 overs – was nothing short of brutal and the scars inflicted by their 211-run defeat will take time to heal.
Sadly for the Proteas, time is their enemy.
And with the second Test in Nottingham starting on Friday, it’s back to the trenches sooner rather than later.
The scale of South Africa’s humiliation is reflected in the outright betting for the Trent Bridge encounter. England were 19/20 to win at Lords but have shortened to 13/20 for the second Test while the visitors were 51/20 to begin the summer with a victory but are now 4/1 to get back on track in Nottingham. The prospects of a draw have also lengthened, going from 11/4 in London to 3/1 this week.
England have named an unchanged squad for the rematch.
And all eyes will be on skipper Joe Root and Man of the Match Moeen Ali after their stellar performances at the home of the cricket.
The captain’s stunning 190 in the first innings at Lords was the highest ever score by an England skipper on debut – a display which took him back up to second in the ICC Test batsman rankings – and the Yorkshireman is the 5/1 favourite to repeat the trick and top score in the first innings once again.
Alastair Cook is rated 13/2 while on the back of his gutsy half century in the second innings last time out, Jonny Bairstow is 12/1.
Moeen’s magnificent contribution with both bat and ball in the first Test – 94 runs and 10 wickets for the first time in his career – confirmed his status as a genuine international all-rounder.
The Worcestershire star’s heroics took him past 2000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests on the same day and in the process he leapfrogged team-mate Ben Stokes into fourth in the ICC all-rounder rankings.
His lowly seventh place in the England batting line-up however sees Moeen a relatively long 22/1 to top score in the first innings at Trent Bridge while he’s 9/1 to make the majority of the English inroads into the Proteas batting.
Jimmy Anderson is priced 9/2 to emerge as the home side’s top bowler in the first innings with Stuart Broad 11/2 and Mark Wood 7/1.
The return of skipper Faf du Plessis to the fold after his paternity leave is welcome news for South Africa.
But losing seamer Kagiso Rabada to suspension after a microphone caught him effing and jeffing at Stokes is a bitter pill to swallow. Rabada took six wickets at Lords and with Dale Steyn still nursing a shoulder injury, the Proteas have been stripped of two of their three bowlers in the ICC Top 10.
Vernon Philander, currently ranked 10th, is available and is 9/2 to emerge as South Africa’s best bowler in the first innings at Trent Bridge while Morne Morkel, fresh from his seven-wicket haul at Lords, is 11/2.
Hashim Amla was uncharacteristically off colour with the bat in the first Test, accumulating a modest 40 runs, but remains the shortest priced South African to top score in the first innings in Nottingham at 6/1.
The captain du Plessis is 15/2 to hit the ground running after his absence and make the most runs while Temba Bavuma, top scorer for the Proteas at Lords, is 14/1 to continue his stubborn resistance with the bat.
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