Posted by: tootingtrumpet | January 18, 2010

South Africa vs England – England Series Report Card

The great cricketer and brave man for whom the trophy South Africa deservedly retained is named - in his spell as an Englishman.

Andrew Strauss (170 runs at 24) – Out of sorts, probably a reaction to his Man of the Series performance in The Ashes, though he certainly didn’t lack motivation in the land of his birth. After two high intensity Test series, he will probably sit out the Bangladesh tour and enjoy a low key English Test summer before attempting to retain The Ashes in Australia and write his name in history – he won’t want to get four starts and a top score of 54 Down Under.

Alastair Cook (287 runs at 41) – Silenced whispers about his place with a crucial ton in England’s Durban win, but is still fighting his technique rather than settling into it. Still only just 25, he will either have the captaincy in Bangladesh or will spend time explaining why he doesn’t have the captaincy. What he needs is time in the middle scoring tons against decent, but not international, county attacks and re-discovering what it’s like to feel at ease at the crease.

Jonathan Trott (190 runs at 27, 0 wickets)– Number Three in his second Test and then paid the compliment of the South African hierarchy targeting him upset about his scratching away at the crease. If he was under any illusions about Test cricket, this series will have disabused him of them.  A couple of centuries against weaker opposition will set him up for The Ashes, but won’t want to hear the name Ravi Bopara very often, not because Ravi is the obvious replacement (he isn’t), but because he went from Number Three to nowhere very quickly, just six months ago.

KP (177 runs at 25, 0 wickets) – In a slump and, as with every thought that goes through his mind, shows it in his demeanour. Where he used to find extraordinary ways to score runs, he now finds extraordinary ways to get out. Probably one century away from the KP we know, and many hate, but needs to get it soon or he’ll become what he least wants to be in the world – ordinary.

Colly (344 runs at 57, 0 wickets) – Had you read that Colly would fail to score a ton in the series, you would probably have thought that it was a tour too far and he’s finished. On the contrary, in Test matches tailor-made for his brand of attritional, scrapping cricket, he was one of only two players who leaves SA with his reputation enhanced. Certainly the main reason why England drew the series and will be desperately disappointed that too many other frontline bats averaged twenty-something and not fifty-something. Pouched 8 catches – underlining that the eyes, reflexes and concentration are still there.

Belly (313 runs at 45) – Like a microcosm of his career, two very good Tests were topped and tailed by two failures. Might never silence his critics, but looked very impressive for longer than he usually does. The Trumpet would like to see England bite the bullet and play him as an opener (moving like Langer, Katich, Watson and Dilshan from an unfulfilled career in the middle order to opening) with a view to Cook dropping to Three and Trott to Six in The Ashes.

Matt Prior (158 runs at 23, 12 catches) – Infuriatingly seems to be locked in a zero-sum game in which he can only improve one facet of his game by damaging the other. Looks a proper, if not accomplished, keeper, but his batting has become nervy and fragile – doesn’t look an option at Number Six in the immediate future.

Stuart Broad (76 runs at 11, 13 wickets at 33) – If you’re going to be as grumpily obstreperous as Glenn McGrath, you’d better back it up with Pidge’s numbers, and Broad doesn’t. Did bowl some very good spells and played some classy strokes,  but this series probably came a bit too soon after The Ashes for a player who is still only 23 and has more to learn than he thinks.

Swanny (171 runs at 29, 21 wickets at 31) – Is still full of the verve he showed the moment international cricket re-opened its door to him and is still scoring vital runs and taking big wickets. Perished in pursuit of quick runs with the tail, so his batting is really too good for Nine. If Strauss does sit out Bangladesh, England could do a lot worse than hand the captaincy to an ex-immature boy who has grown into a man – there’s one of those breaking captaincy records just now, isn’t there?

Jimmy (56 runs at 14, 16 wickets at 34) – Eventually completely outbowled by Steyn and Morkel and you won’t win many Test series when your strike bowler is bested by two opposite numbers.  In South Africa’s last two innings of the series, he had aggregate figures of 3-209 at an economy rate of 4 – much room for improvement.

Graham Onions (11 runs no average, 8 wickets at 46) – His figures do him no justice, as he regularly showed that he has the heart and the skill required of a Test cricketer. Dropped in favour of Ryan Sidebottom for the final Test, not something I expect to write again.

Ryan Sidebottom (15 runs at 8, 2 wickets at 49) – Never looking a natural athlete, he no longer has the pace for Test cricket and I don’t expect he’ll play again. That he was on tour at all is an indictment of the dearth of young quicks available to Strauss.

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Responses

  1. If England don’t pay Bangladesh the respect they deserve at home they will find the going tough and will likely find themselves welded to fifth place in the rankings for some time to come.

    I’m of the opinion that the talk of a need for a rest is hubris in disguise. They have six weeks off between now and the first match in Fatulla. That’s more than enough time to freshen up.

    Underestimating your opponent often leads to failure as India discovered yesterday. Siddons will have Shakib and his young team primed for England and on performances in 2010 I fancy Bangladesh’s chances if Strauss and especially Collingwood have their feet up at home.

  2. Point taken, but Strauss looks shattered and Colly is getting on a bit. I’m critical of the need to rest as much as is said, but England have played nine Tests against Aus and SA since July. I want to see some new talent blooded in Bangladesh, who have an outstading player in Shakib and one or two others, but should be bearable by a mix of England old and new.

  3. I can’t see why Strauss needs a rest, but he isn’t a wuss so if he thinks he does… but Colly yes as he played the 20/20 World Cup as a reluctant captain and never gets a break, plus he has carried the English batting in the series, admirable man that he is.

    • Lou – Strauss probably doesn’t need a rest in the true sense of the word, but he’ll be better for it. You can see the fatigue in his face. The only cricketers I feel are pushed too far are fast men and captains. I see he is rested from the squads.

  4. I thought Graham Onions out bowled both Broad and Anderson apart from that excellent spell of Broad’s at Durban in the first 2 matches. He got no luck but the batsmen had to watch out for themselves all the time.

    Strange that he has now been dropped for less than useful replacements in the last 2 series. That can’t carry on surely. The Harmison myth has been debunked and Sidebottom may never look properly fit again.

    • Lou – I agree 100%, though the calls for Harmy are growing.

  5. Good grief…..why are you not the Cricinfo.com English correspondent? Then I could read the truth about the side we are playing against, rather than some fantasy version.
    A month of following Andrew Miller’s one-sided commentaries have left me wondering how it is possible that South Africa are allowed to participate on the same pitch as the mighty England! That’s not meant to be offensive to the England team, just to Miller’s cinderella version of it.
    As you quite rightly point out, there was actually far more daylight between the two sides than a drawn series might indicate.
    Judging from what I saw, I concur with your player summaries wholeheartedly. Wonder whether you would like to have a go at the same exercise for the South African team; it would be good to get your point of view about individual performances in this series, strengths, weaknesses and the road ahead.

    • Big John – Thanks for the kind words. I wasn’t looking as closely at your boys, but I’ll essay a few words on them over the next few days.

      Test cricket is a funny old thing, as England’s last two series have shown. SA delivered, man-for-man across the series as a whole, much better performances, but I feel England as a team, deserved their draw. There were two resounding victories for either side and two matches in which England clung on after collapses. Now the ability to cling on after a collapse is a very useful thing to be able to do and England deserve credit for it.

      SA nearly won 3-1 and nearly won 2-1 and England were nowhere near 0-1 and I think that’s the best way to look at it.

      • I agree with that summary of the drawn series. If there was an error of judgement made it was by the Proteas in not declaring a little earlier in Capetown. By setting a target well in excess of 400 they were inviting England to bat for a draw.
        I look forward to your summary of the Protea squad. Two or three guys teetering on the brink of selection for India?

  6. I doubt cricinfo.com could pay Toots his true worth! And I second the request for a review of the Proteas.

  7. England Squads for Bangladesh.

    Test squad
    Alastair Cook (C)
    Ian Bell
    Stuart Broad
    Michael Carberry
    Paul Collingwood
    Steven Davies
    Graham Onions
    Kevin Pietersen
    Liam Plunkett
    Matt Prior
    Ajmal Shahzad
    Ryan Sidebottom
    Graeme Swann
    James Tredwell
    Jonathan Trott
    Luke Wright

    One-day squad
    Alastair Cook (C)
    Tim Bresnan
    Stuart Broad
    Paul Collingwood
    Joe Denly
    Eoin Morgan
    Matt Prior
    Kevin Pietersen
    Liam Plunkett
    Ryan Sidebottom
    Ajmal Shahzad
    Graeme Swann
    James Tredwell
    Jonathan Trott
    Luke Wright

    No Panesar or Rashid. Two off-spinners may be a bit of a muchness in Dhaka and Chittagong. They might regret not having more variety by series end.

    • No Rashid is very disappointing. Monty needs to reconstruct his game a bit. Tredwell hasn’t Swanny’s personality, but he’s very similar as a bowler and batsman.

      • I would really like to see Liam Plunkett get a run at some form of the game.
        Plunkett has a good action and should have improved greatly and lord knows he is quick.

        • Plunkett can offer a lot and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get another go soon. He’s still very young and, though no Number 6, could become a handy 7 especially in ODIs.

          • You don’t need a no 7, or at least he’s sitting at no 9 in test and ODI teams. Is there some idea that it might hurt Broad if Swann batted above him and they don’t want his confidence dented? Cos he could do with being pulled down a peg or two.

            • I agree, though it’s an unusual characteristic for an English cricketer – too aggressive!

  8. What can you tell us about Shahzad Toots? Is he really the next best quick in the country?

    • I’m afraid I don’t know – he’s a bit of a pick out of the blue and a gamble, but why not?

  9. Toot,

    I’m interested in your thoughts about Bell opening. While I think he could do it (?), I’m not really sure what benefit comes from dropping Cook down to three apart from giving you the left-right hand opening combination. Are your options at 3 so dire that you will look to solve that problem by potentially creating another one?

    • I can’t recall a decent Three since Gower, so it’s a problem that might need a radical rather than pragmatic solution. I like a right and left combo at the top of the order and, with Cook having a few technical problems, an occasional shelter from the new ball may do him good. If Cook can continue to average 43 at Three with a ton and two fifties every five Tests, that’d improve things a lot for England. And placing Bell in the most exposed slot of all might just make or break him and we really need to know. It worked for Langer and Katich and seems to be doing so for Watson.

      • If I may offer a comment against Bell opening, it didn’t work with Ramps who had the same accusations of not having the proper temperament for Test Cricket. Certainly Langer and Katich (arguably to a lesser extent) appear to be made of sterner stuff. I fear all we would do is break Bell just when he seems to have found a slot in the order and some fight in his game.

        • It’s a good counter-argument Adrian, but if he could blossom as an opener and fulfil all that potential, we’d have a much improved batting order for it.


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