December 30, 2009

England in South Africa 2009-10

South Africa's mental block

Siddhartha Talya

South Africa committed some glaring, the most basic mistakes on the fourth day in Durban, and their display of non-resistance, especially after tea, revealed a serious mental block, says Simon Briggs in the Daily Telegraph.

But at least Australia tried to play the ball. For the South Africans, their display of non-resistance suggested a serious mental block. For players of this quality to make such basic mistakes, the whole dressing room must have entered a state of blue funk.

Nasser Hussain, in his daily dossier in the Daily Mail, lauds Ian Bell for his pressure-relieving century which set up the possibility of an England win. But Mike Norrish, in the Daily Telegraph, says Bell's had it easy when scoring hundreds, for they've usually come on comfortable tracks with at least one other England batsman having reached three-figures in the same innings.

Graeme Swann rattled South Africa with a three-wicket burst in Durban, and his success this year - he is the second-highest wicket-taker - is in some measure a consequence of some bold captaincy from Andrew Strauss, who has displayed more confidence in the art of spin than many of his predecessors, writes Patrick Kidd in the Times.

Like all great showmen, Swann grabs the attention early on. No easing into a comfortable routine. This is the man whose Test career began little more than a year ago with two wickets in his first over: big scalps, too, in Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid.

Swann particularly likes left-handers. Thirty-seven of his 60 Test victims have been left-handers and 24 of those were bowled, stumped or leg-before, the dismissals a spin bowler values most.

Lawrence Booth in his blog on the Wisden Cricketer website believes such has been Swann’s impact this year that he could probably ask to open the batting and bowling and Strauss would agree, without quite knowing why.

Vic Marks, in the Guardian, dubs Swann as a first-over specialist, given his tendency to answer his captain's call almost immediately after being brought on early.


Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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