Jonathan Agnew column: Missed opportunities have cost England

By Jonathan AgnewBBC cricket correspondent
Jonny Bairstow is dismissed in Centurion
England lost three wickets for three runs in 18 balls before lunch

England are up against it in the final Test at Centurion, with South Africa 175 runs ahead, nine wickets intact and two full days remaining.

South Africa's 475 was simply too many, no team should have been scoring that on this pitch - 350-380 is about a par first-innings score.

So England's 342 probably felt a bit light and South Africa, with that dashing hundred from Quinton de Kock on day two, racked up a lot more than they should have done. That's where the disparity lies.

They had three batsmen that got in and scored hundreds, where England had three batsmen who got in but could not convert starts into hundreds.

Even if they have an exceptional day with the ball on Monday, England are going to be faced with a sizeable final-innings chase and you have to say the pitch is becoming quite awkward.

There is much more uneven bounce, the ball is spinning and bouncing, some are keeping low and some are rearing up into the splice area.

If there was someone with genuine pace playing it could be pretty brutal so this is deteriorating quickly, which makes South Africa's lead all the more significant.

There was some cheer for England as James Anderson drew level with Sir Richard Hadlee on 431 Test wickets
There was some cheer for England as James Anderson drew level with Sir Richard Hadlee on 431 Test wickets

Not Taylor's finest moment

That said there were clearly some wickets in which England didn't help themselves and James Taylor's dismissal, caught behind for 14, obviously springs to mind.

It was poor judgement to play a hook shot to such a high bouncer just before lunch when he could have gained nothing from it.

There was a man out in the deep, there was a man at short-leg and all he did was expose Jonny Bairstow who got a good ball early his innings - as can happen - and edged to the wicketkeeper for a duck.

Taylor should have thought and played for lunch and looked after his team-mates, so that was disappointing.

I thought Moeen Ali played very well for his first half century in 15 innings. He came through a very difficult 45 minutes when he was finding it pretty awkward around off stump, but, having fought through it, he really flourished.

Yet you just felt England were not going to get close to South Africa's total.

You would think that South Africa's lead is going to be too much for England and they should win the game from here.

Another new star for South Africa

The man largely responsible for the Proteas' strong position is 20-year-old Kabiso Rabada, who took 7-112 in only his sixth Test match to add to his five-wicket haul in the previous game at Johannesburg.

He's got a lovely action, but there are areas that can be improved. He can use his left arm more and he might put a bit more into his run-up which is surprisingly gentle really, a very slow approach.

But he is a totally natural swing bowler. People talk about him bowling at 95mph but that's nonsense, he doesn't bowl at anything like that speed but given he is only 20 they could get more pace into him if the right people help him.

For someone that young to come in and take seven wickets, without the experience of their main strike bowler Dale Steyn or Vernon Philander to help him, proves he is a tremendous prospect. In addition to young batsman Temba Bavuma who made that fabulous hundred in Cape Town.

I hate accusing teams of complacency and it is easy to say that has happened to England having already wrapped up the series.

Whether the tourists have somehow taken their eye off the ball slightly I don't know, but unfortunately it has been a case of missed opportunities here.

They are going to have to hope they really dig deep in the second innings, but I don't think the weather will save them as we can make up the lost time, so you fancy South Africa will get a consolation win.

Jonathan Agnew was talking to BBC Sport's Jamie Lillywhite

Top Stories