The Cape Town Test between South Africa and England may have ended in a high-scoring draw. But, the hosts would like to believe that they have a slight advantage going into the third Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. To turn a match around completely after conceding 600 plus in the first innings needs some special skill. South Africa achieved the same, and England only just survived an embarrassing second innings collapse. Alastair Cook's men though still have a crucial 1-0 lead which means the advantage remains with them even if the momentum may not.
The Proteas will be mighty pleased with their first batting effort of the New Year. Their fortunes certainly changed as their key underperforming batsmen got back among the runs. The biggest relief came for Hashim Amla, who celebrated his double hundred in a unique manner, by giving up the pressure of captaincy. Amla has definitely been relieved of a burden, and the Proteas would hope that he now returns to his best. At the same time, it would interesting to view how AB de Villiers handles the challenge of Test captaincy. This, even as Faf du Plessis returned to form with a resolute knock at Cape Town.
Unfortunately for the hosts, they would miss the services of Dale Steyn at Durban as well. In his absence, Morne Morkel has been doing a wonderful job, and will be expected to continue with the same. The other pacers are a concern for the South Africans though. Vernon Philander is still not available while Kyle Abbott too is unlikely to be fit in time. In their absence, the Proteas might have to stick with Kagiso Rabada, who hasn't brought his ODI form into the Tests, and Chris Morris, who had a forgettable debut with the ball. They would be pleased with the success of their main spinner Dane Piedt though.
For England, the Cape Town Test was mostly about one spectacular show of big-hitting from Ben Stokes. It will be too early to term the knock as a coming-of-age one. But, there were glimpses of greatness nonetheless. The innings should give Stokes the much-needed confidence to perform against the best at this level. The match was also significant for Jonny Bairstow, who finally notched up a much sought after hundred, after falling short a few times recently. Nick Compton also continued to look good even as Alex Hales brought up his first half-century, playing in only his second Test.
Although England are 1-0 up, they do have some woes to encounter, one of the prime concerns being the form of their skipper Alastair Cook. The opener has been underscoring for a while now, and that isn't helping his leadership. England's fielding at Cape Town was also abysmal. Who knows what the situation of the match would have been had they held on to the number of catches that went to ground. Also, apart from Stuart Broad, no English bowler made much of an impression on the South African batting though they were under pressure. England may have a tough job as they look to maintain the series lead.
-- By A Cricket Analyst