Sunday, January 17, 2010

Honours Even

It's no use playing the more stylish cricket, making the tons, and topping the stats lists if you can't do the basics. Australia discovered this to their detriment in the Ashes, and until the Johannesburg test it looked like South Africa might go the same way.
But after two frustrating draws delivered by the unlikely champion Graham Onions, South Africa totally outplayed Andrew Strauss's England and handed them a crushing innings defeat.
Yes, Graeme Smith took advantage of a shocking review decision to play another fine innings of 105, but Strauss isn't going to hold that up as an excuse. The English batsmen didn't do their job, and against the class of the South African bowling they were lambs to the slaughter. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel showed themselves to be a fantastic pace duo, picking up 14 of the 20 wickets in the test between them.

Yet again, Paul Collingwood played two gritty, determined innings. For me, Colly deserves the man of the series award on the English side - Onions may have been the headline hero, but England would have lost the two drawn matches by a country mile but for Collingwood's determination. He's not always pretty, but he's not going to let you down temperament-wise.

For South Africa's part, they were clinical. The pitch was a good one to bowl on, but they still managed 423 declared, and they didn't waste time in the field. Paul Harris was left out after a disappointing series, and unless he develops something interesting in his bowling Mickey Arthur will be on the look out for a new spinner.Mark Boucher batted superbly all series and was unlucky to miss out on a century to cap it off. Smith got his game going in the final two tests, and once he sets up the Protea innings, it's very difficult to beat them.

1-1. England will be satisfied enough given the fact that they were outplayed bar the one match, and South Africa will be glad they didn't lose a series that they shouldn't have.
Where next? South Africa head to India for a series that has all cricket fans licking their chops - the one thing we need is for some decent pitches - no one wants to see another couple of 700-run innings. They are the two best teams in the world at the moment, and we can hope for a compelling tour.

As for England, well, they have some issues to think about. Ok, they won one game, but they never threatened in the other three. Once a batsman came in and played patiently - Amla, Kallis, Smith, Boucher, they found it impossible to dislodge them cheaply. Swann bowld very well all tour, but I still maintain that the four-man attack was the wrong option - you just don't have enough diversity to take 20 wickets.
Kevin Pietersen will be a slight worry, averaging just 25 in the series, but let's be realistic - he's only just returned to the test arena; any player needs time to get back into form. He won't be gone for too long. On the flipside, Ian Bell made some useful runs, including the best century of his life, and has made quite the case for holding his spot. Bell's batting troubles aren't over yet, but at least he can't be ignored any more, and if he can get into a good run, he's a wonderful player to watch.

England's next series is in Bangladesh who, if you ask India right now, are no pushover, and I don't think the mutterings about leaving out Strauss are all that wise - the last thing England need is a defeat to a resurgent minnow team.

We were treated to an enthralling series in South Africa this year, and while South Africa played some great cricket, Collingwood and Swann in particular deserved England's 1-1 result.
Both teams have a lot to think about going forward, and it looks like 2010 is going to be a fantastic year of cricket.

1 comment:

  1. What a series! Exceedingly frustrating from a South African point of view. If Steyn had been fit from the get-go, is there any doubt that we would have won the match 2, if not 3-1. Did you see the awards given for Lifetime Achievements? Ntini for his 100 tests, Kallis for 150 catches, Prince for 50 tests and Boucher for 5000 runs! they all got crappy little Castle fridges!