Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 24, 2012

England vs South Africa First Test – England Report Card

England’s bowling faces up to South Africa’s batting at The Oval

Andrew Strauss (0 and 27) – And it had all been going so well – at least it was against Darren Sammy and chums. He won the toss and batted, as he should have done, but might have preferred to have lost the toss the way conditions panned out over the next couple of days. Got a good one early on from Morne Morkel in the first innings to become one of the three openers dismissed for a duck on a flat track – these things happen. What shouldn’t happen is a wanton wasting of a careful playing in when attempting to save a match. The hard work counted for nothing scrapped by a shot of such poor judgment that a schoolboy would have hung his head. In mitigation, Imran Tahir had spun a few and Strauss had been chasing leather for two days, but the sweep? Again? In the field, he looked short of ideas, but Smith, Amla and Kallis batted so well that a Brearley/Jardine megabrained captain would have been scratching his giant head.

Alastair Cook (115 and 0) – Had the purists purring and statsguru groaning on Day One, as he registered his 20th Test century playing as well as he has ever done, defending positively, leaving judiciously and attacking classically. We wondered if we would see a better innings all summer – only to see three better knocks in the next three days. Out to a slightly tired shot on the second morning and he got a good one from Philander in the second innings. Will have admired Amla’s concentration, Kallis’ pacing of an innings and Smith’s leadership from the front. He has all those qualities and they’ll be needed at Headingley and Lord’s. 

Jonathan Trott (71 and 10; 4-0-12-0) – Was in very early and settled any nerves against his bogey team by punching his first ball for four. He then played the conditions to keep Alastair Cook company for four hours, before chasing one he could have left. Never looked at ease second time round, with the Saffers much more pumped up. He might just have left the one that got him, if he had 20 on the board, but he had 10 up and was still feeling for the sound of leather on willow. He can expect to be made unwelcome at the crease for the rest of the series.

KP (42 and 16; 3-0-13-0) – Gave it away in the first innings and gave it away (twice) in the second innings. The Saffers know that he will play his natural game in any conditions, so they are cunningly feeding it knowing that he’ll be unable to resist the temptation of extending his domination as far as possible. Hence he was out on the hook in the first dig and bowled, horribly, middle stump, hanging back expecting to be hooking, in the second. He’ll say that his methods have worked in the past – and they have – but he needs to play less like KP and more like a Number Four – any Number Four. Especially, his opponents’ Number Four. 

Ian Bell (13 and 55) – Outsmarted by Kallis’ three card trick first time round, leaving the inswinger that trimmed a bail, he fought longer than anyone for the draw on Day Five, but fell to Dale Steyn’s second new ball. If his colleagues had played like him in the second innings, the match would have been saved.

Ravi Bopara (0 and 22; 18-1-78-0) – Waited so long to get back in the XI and then looked like a man for whom Jim had fixed it to have a go at Test cricket while playing a non-shot to be caught off a periscope bat. He bowled capably, causing as many problems as any Englishman, but then battled through, only to give it away again in the second innings. His doubters, not short of numbers, gained a few new recruits.  

Matt Prior (60 and 40) – Allied his talent to the nous he has acquired through experience to play well in both innings, falling in the first when going for runs with the tail and in the second when he had done as much as anyone to give his team hope. Kept his standards up wonderfully well through the ordeal of the South African innings and won the extras count 82-13.

Tim Bresnan (8 and 20*; 37-2-140-1) – Kept running in and getting his right shoulder round to deliver the ball in that uncomplicated way he favours, but looked short of the hostility and craft needed to discomfort, let alone remove, batsmen confident and set on a flat wicket. Got the bouncer out, but it was looping over helmets rather than shooting into ribs. Couldn’t really bowl dry either on as tough a two days as England’s bowlers have ever had. Might want to study how Vernon Philander, an inferior bowler in many ways, managed to outbowl him with a tighter line and just enough movement in the air and off the seam.

Stuart Broad (16 and 0; 34-6-118-0) – He will want to write this Test off as an aberration, as his key threats – bounce, swing and seam from a fullish length – were emasculated by a flat pitch, bright sun and outstanding batsmanship. Great bowlers, in whose company Broad aspires to stand, find a way, and I expect that the conversations with David Saker will go on for some time. Though all four of England’s highly rated attack were made to look ordinary, Broad looked the least likely to break through on the ground where he looked unplayable for a spell vs Australia just three years ago.  

Swanny (15* and 7; 52-10-151-0) – Gruesome figures in a difficult season for England’s spinner. But he will bowl much worse and get more wickets in the future, maybe in the next Test if he can get at Duminy and the tail. He spun plenty, sometimes quite sharply, but he was never able to get the steep lift his wrist-spinning opposite number induced, nor was his skidding quicker ball such a threat on a slow wicket. It won’t have helped that in Kallis and Amla he has two opponents’ whose demeanors make Mount Rushmore look like Dale Steyn after taking a wicket. Given so little to work with, Swanny looked like the sort of England off-spinner he seemed to have buried – admirable, but largely unproductive.

Jimmy Anderson (2 and 4; 41-7-116-1) – Did part one of his job by shooting out an opener with the new ball, but part two – getting wickets once the shine had gone and the seam was flattened – proved much more difficult. As befitting of his status, Smith, Amla and Kallis never really got after England’s attack leader, but the long hours between appeals and the roar that greeted his beating of the outside edge on Day Four, showed how little real threat was carried by England’s champion.   

You can read my other columns on this match below this post with still others available here. You can tweet me @garynaylor999


  1. Is that Tim Bresnan’s first loss?
    At least England can take heart in knowing Australia don’t have the patience to bat like South Aftrica.

    • It is Bres’ first loss. Bubble burst!

  2. This series has dragged me out of the ocean depths of the Australia football season.

    Really pleased for SA, their move towards greatness is long overdue and perhaps they will finally realise it. Was a joy to watch Smith, Amla and Kallis bat.

    England should not overreact, they are a very strong side and will come back hard. No need to hit the panic button. Finn is the question l guess, nothing as powerful as a strike bowler.

    Nice to read about it here too, dropped by The Guardian and the comments fell away quite sharply…

    • Cheers Brett. I was there for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and it was a real working over. Very hard to think that any pair could bat as well as Amla and Kallis did. So one-sided that it did grate at times, but one has to admire play like that.

      Enjoy the football!

  3. Ah those would have been long days indeed. l still remember all my great armchair Captaincy during Dravid-Laxman before finally conceding defeat and simply applauding.

    • We were thinking of Swampy and Tubbs too.

      It was marvellous to see everyone on their feet when Amla went past 278. There was no announcement prior to the shot – everyone knew what it meant, not just as an individual score but because it was being scored by a brown man with a beard about to be embraced by a white man and applauded by the white men whose three scores he had passed (Kirsten 275, Smith 277 and de Villiers 278).

      In a wider sense it means nothing, but in a little corner en route to the Rainbow Nation’s future, it was a genuinely touching moment.

  4. Bresnan much superior to Philander ??

  5. Good summary.

  6. I thought England were outplayed and showed human failings rather than totally giving in. They will be back at Headingley.

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