Cricket: Proteas too good as fans enjoy another ripper Test


The South Africans are on top of the world Test rankings and deservedly so. They have just completed a convincing 2-0 series victory over England at Lord’s after an enthralling Test match, and can now look towards their trip to Australia in November with confidence. Michael Clarke’s men have much to ponder.

Test cricket got another positive shot in the arm from the events of the five glorious days at Lord’s. An outstanding pitch set the tone, and the players produced a tough, competitive contest which had all the ingredients and ramifications you hope for in a good sporting event.

England didn’t go down without a fight, and at one stage, as Prior and Swann were thrashing the bowling to all parts, a boilover loomed. The Kevin Pietersen affair had been an unwanted distraction going into such an important fixture, but his replacement, Jonny Bairstow, provided the spark in what might just be the forerunner of a highly successful international career.

But in the end the Proteas were just too good in all departments. Their batting and bowling has tremendous depth, and they caught far better than did a sloppy England. We know about Smith, Kallis, De Villiers and the sublime Amla, but Rudolph and Duminy did their bit too. Steyn was outstanding as always, Morkel had his moments and then there was Vernon Philander, currently cricket’s hottest all-rounder.

Have we ever seen a bowler hit the seam more regularly? I doubt it. His bowling is as good as his incredible record would suggest – lively, probing and constanly asking questions. And he should be every bit as good here as he has been in both England and his homeland in his brief but successful time at the top level.

This is another great triumph for the belligerent Smith. Appointed his country’s captain at just 22, he has led from the front in typical fashion and gelled together a cosmopolitan and talented outfit.

As for England, it is certainly not the team it once was. Mere statistics tell us that  –  they’ve only won one series in the last four, and that against the hapless West Indies  –  and there are certainly a few worrying signs. Despite cashing in against the Windies in May and June, captain Andrew Strauss is having a worse trot than Ricky Ponting had before last summer. Dismissed without offering a shot in his final innings of the series, he seems tired and worn down by the job.

The bowling has definitely lost its zip of the previous couple of years, and has done so ever since Pakistan beat them in the winter. Broad has lost pace, Anderson looks weary and Swann is being played well by all opposition batsmen. This has created a situation where Steven Finn was more or less the go-to man at Lord’s. The signs were there against the West Indies, and then the depth of the Sth African batting became simply overwhelming.

Then there is the Pietersen issue. This goes back some years to when he first started jumping up and down about not being able to play IPL, resulting in the embarrassment of the ECB going to bed with the disgraced Allen Standford in organising a 20 million pound winner-take-all T20 match. He has been England’s most influential cricketer ever since he took it up to Warnie in his very first Test series in 2005, but he is hard work and there is no clear-cut solution to the current stand-off. As noted by Michael Atherton over the week-end, the better he plays the more difficult he becomes to live with.

What does all this mean for Australia, just one point behind England in the rankings and four behind the Proteas? Provided we can keep our pace bowlers fit there’s now not much between cricket’s greatest rivals. We need Ponting and M. Hussey in next year’s Ashes team, but the South Africans might have a say in whether that actually happens when they arrive here in November.





  1. Excellent article Brendan … but we expect nothing less from a former bushranger.

    PS. I once stumbled upon your father while watching a shield game some time in the early 80’s. You were having a good day out on the G., and he couldn’t yapping about how proud he was. Really nice bloke.

  2. Brendan,
    You are correct – Philander was phenomenal. But I found it interesting that Steyn was regularly used at first-change. I watched him closely, and at times thought that he was not quite the Steyn of old. Carrying an injury perhaps? Or just wishful thinking on my part? I look forward to seeing him in full flight in November.

  3. Thanks Brendan.
    I love these Tests from England. The timeslot is kind and the coverage magnificent.
    Sth Africa were indeed outstanding.
    “The Philanderer” apparently responded to praise by confirming that stats “don’t lie”!
    A spinner, as usual for SA, looks the main weakness despite Tahir getting the big Bairstow scalp.
    Maybe it was asking too much of England to have an inexperienced middle order, especially when the openers fell cheaply. It was the first time I’d seen Taylor – under his cyclist’s lid he had so many of Derek Randall’s mannerisms. Wish he had batted a bit longer but he was too fast and eager for an old pro and ball watcher like Trott (who I’d thought was sure to grind out a ton).
    One tactic of the visitors that confused me was their use of a night watchman…surely it risks putting JP too far down the order? Better just to swap he an AB if they need a rock.

  4. Great article Brendan, South Africa look scary coming into the November Test series. Agree with crio that their spinner is the main weakness, can’t see Tahir being much trouble on Australian pitches. Their depth in batting and fast bowling though is reminiscent of Australia in the mid to late nineties.

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