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Ben Stokes says England won’t slow down in second Test against South Africa

  • Ben Stokes says England won’t slow down on attack in second Test against South Africa.
  • Hosts lost by an innings and 12 runs to the Proteas at Lord’s last week.
  • Brendon McCullum says England’s problem was a lack of attack rather than cavalier cricket.

England’s captain, Ben Stokes, says the team won’t slow down on attack as they try to get back on track in the second Test against South Africa, which starts on Thursday.

The Proteas beat the hosts by an innings and 12 runs in three days at Lord’s last week, giving them a 1-0 lead in the three-game series. This week, the hosts played at Old Trafford in Manchester.

That was their first loss since Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took over as leaders. Before that, they had won four games in a row using an aggressive style called “Bazball.” This style is characterised by attacking batting, which helped England beat New Zealand and India in the fourth innings when they had set high goals.

England, however, had no answer for a strong South African pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada at Lord’s, where they were out for just 165 and 149 in their two innings. However, a lack of domestic red-ball cricket since last month’s win over India may have been more to blame for a clatter of wickets than “Bazball.”

And Joe Root’s unusual double failure meant that England have never won a Test when their best batsman hasn’t made a fifty in over two years.

All-rounder Stokes took over as captain after his close friend Root led the team to only one win in 17 Tests. After just one loss, Stokes wasn’t ready to make a change.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “We know well that when we perform to the capabilities that we’re capable of, then we can go out and put on an incredible performance, like everybody’s seen in the four games before.”

Former New Zealand captain McCullum said England’s problem at Lord’s had been a lack of attack rather than too much cavalier cricket.

“I think they were perhaps a touch timid,” he said. “We approach the game with a clear mentality about the way we want to play.

“It’s not always going to work. As we said at the time, you’ve got to buckle up for the ride. It’s not nice at times like this but we’ll come back strong.”

There are, however, real concerns about opening batsman Zak Crawley’s form. After two more low scores at Lord’s, he now has a season average of 16.4 in 10 Test innings.

England, on the other hand, seems set on keeping the 24-year-old Kent right-hander. McCullum, the team’s coach, backed this decision in a strange way when he said, “I look at a guy like Zak and his skill set is not to be a consistent cricketer.”

As for their bowling, England may suggest recalling Ollie Robinson in place of Matthew Potts to a seam attack that totally lacks sharpness and penetration at Lord’s, where South Africa solidified their position at the top of the World Test Championship chart.

No Proteas batsman scored a century in the game, but the team as a whole, led by the opener Sarel Erwee, put up a good score of 326.

Aiden Markram is an undeniably talented batsman, but his average in his last 10 Test innings was less than 10 before this game.

If Markram is dropped, Ryan Rickelton, who has never played for South Africa but is in good form for the English county team Northamptonshire, could get his first Test.

When asked on Tuesday if the Proteas’ win in the first Test was a psychological blow to England, spinner Keshav Maharaj from South Africa said, “I’d like to think so.”

The left-armer added: “I think England have played some really good cricket and fought themselves out of tough situations to win Test matches and series in the last year.”

Even though England is getting a lot of attention for “Bazball,” South Africa’s captain Dean Elgar said before the series that he still believed in the basics of Test cricket.

Elgar also showed good tactical creativity when he brought on spinner Maharaj early in England’s second innings. The move paid off when Maharaj took two wickets in the top order.

Since Elgar took over as captain 18 months ago, the Proteas have become a very good Test team.

“I think we know what to do and go about our business a lot better,” said Maharaj. “And there’s more clarity and role definition within the team.

“I think that’s been Dean’s mantra from the time he’s taken over as the Test captain.”

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