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July 19, 2012

South Africa in England 2012

Cricket, the England way

Jarrod Kimber
Hashim Amla looks on as Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott take a run, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 1st day, July 19, 2012
Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott did what they so often do  © AFP
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"That's the Chicago way" said Sean Connery as Malone in The Untouchables.

England are no Al Capone. In fact, they're probably the opposite of the hot-headed mobster. Unlike Australia or West Indies of previous generations, England's style is not that of domination or brutality. England do what English cricket teams have done since cricket was first civilized. They take the shine off the new ball, take no undue risks, keep all the good balls out, and make sure that by the time the middle order come in their job is to simply cash in on stale bowlers and an older ball. They just do it far better than almost every other English cricket side before them. It's cricket the England way.

To beat England you either have to play them in the subcontinent, or get past their top three.

It seems easy when written on paper, but in English conditions it's like running through Buckingham Palace naked carrying a black bag.

It seemed like South Africa's main plan, or their only plan, was to bowl wide of off stump. Repeatedly. Perhaps that was hoping that England would chase them. Maybe it was to test their patience. A whole day of that kind of bowling resulted in only one wicket from that plan. In the process they let England put together another one of their large grinding game-shaping efficient partnerships, and completely run away with the game.

If you blurred out the faces of the South Africans, you'd have had no idea if England were playing India, Sri Lanka, West Indies or Australia. All England's home series look pretty damn similar. It's all just a blur of Jonathan Trott working the ball off his pads for two and Alastair Cook refusing to sweat.

In almost every way South Africa looked lifeless. Dale Steyn was exhausted and during his first spell leant on the fence like he needed it to stand up. The fielding looked unathletic and slow. Imran Tahir runs like an old woman trying to catch a bus, and has unsuccessfully turned himself into a stock bowler. Jacques Kallis yawned his way through a few spells before waking up for KP. Morne Morkel started well and then had trouble staying on his feet. AB de Villiers did his best, but South Africa would have preferred him to be in the field. And Vernon Philander couldn't live up to his strike rate on this flat pitch.

And this is a flat pitch. If Mark Ramprakash turned up and The Oval pitch looked like this, he'd take a bed out with him.

That's more of a reason, than an excuse for how South Africa played. This Test series promised so much and, when Morkel bowled a straight one early on, it looked like it might actually live up to the hype. Then someone at the ECB put an old tape in the VCR.

It's not all lost for South Africa, bad days happen. And watching the Untouchables could give South Africa some more clues as to how to beat England. "You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way! And that's how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?"

Everyone knows exactly what England are going to do, it's just up to South Africa to do better.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by bloggs on (August 30, 2012, 17:49 GMT)

Just in passing, Jarrod: apropos paragraph 2, ever heard of Bodyline?

No, didn't think so.

Posted by keith on (August 29, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

Hahahaha idiots,never even saw it coming,this england team wil not be at no 2 for long before sliping down,best import more s a players,and get kp back in team,but there stil a prob with that,that there wil always be les than 11 s a players in the eng team and s a wil always have a full complement

Posted by Anonymous on (August 27, 2012, 8:07 GMT)

@NickT - Sour grapes! And what do you and Aakash Chopra have to say now about Philander's 5/30 at Lords? We are number one in the world and England are NOT (you don't want to hear that)and that is the bottom-line. England supposedly have such wonderful fast bowlers and spinners, who couldn't do a thing at The Oval, so much so that they deservedly dropped Swann and then Bresnan Swann in particular has been treated with much respect by certain batsmen but in my opinion is over-rated.

Posted by frik on (August 23, 2012, 19:50 GMT)

The critics are silenced

Posted by ck marais on (August 20, 2012, 22:37 GMT)

I was laughing myself SICK when I finally got a chance to read this comments.One good day in the first test for the English batsmen and all of a sudden SA bowlers were all useless

Posted by john james on (August 8, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

The ECB began their farce when they INVITED Pietersen to be captain and then SACKED HIM WHEN HE FELL OUT WITH the inadequate coach Moores, WHO HAD NEVER PLAYED A TEST MATCH. Not just Pietersen but other players had the same opinion of this second rate coach. (It was also unfair to Moores to give him the job anyway!)

Do the leaders of the ECB not have any morals? or for that matter any MANNERS? Pietersen is entitled to an APOLOGY from the ECB.

Posted by Sahib on (July 23, 2012, 19:37 GMT)

When two good teams are battling,we should opine with patience;)

Posted by Ian Crichton on (July 22, 2012, 16:34 GMT)

@NickT: Care to comment further on how well South Africa play against a top notch test team?

Posted by Hazel on (July 22, 2012, 9:56 GMT)

Reading this now I find it very funny and irrelevant. Well lemme tell you this, Strauss got 0 in 4 balls well Peterson got it in 8. Cook got 115 , Smith 131 you feel me. He he

Posted by Jurie on (July 21, 2012, 19:12 GMT)

Yip, with subsequent events this is now the worst article ever written! England look like the team of the past, maybe Smith can get a hat trick of England captains on his list of achievements!

Posted by Patrick on (July 21, 2012, 0:06 GMT)

@Owen: The point I am making is not that a T20 approach is what champion test teams and champion test cricketers display. It is that the current England team is by and large too regimented, too disciplined, too monosyllabic in their cricket to inspire the neutral, or even ingratiate itself with non-English fans. Lauding a leave for its skill is commendable - however, it nowhere near approaches the awe induced by Richards hooking Lillee on a Perth flyer.

The point I am making is that this England team have an abundance of talent, and should be doing more with it. Instead of bowling maidens and grinding their way to a century of 200 balls, they should be looking to demolish teams by aiming at the stumps and at the throats, and scoring centuries that provoke gasps instead of yawns. For a general reaction to Trott and Cook's performance on Thursday, see the Two Chucks.

Posted by Two_Chucks_Fan on (July 20, 2012, 17:17 GMT)

Can we get the two chucks coverage on England vs SA please? I thought it would be available during the England vs. Australia tour but didn't see it there either.

Bring back the Two Chucks and extend it by doubling the time to add some serious commentary to it. In addition to all the unconventional bits.

The greatest thing about two chucks is its unpredictability of the material and the very "raw" nature of commentary devoid of obligatory praise. Please don't change it.

Posted by James on (July 20, 2012, 15:38 GMT)

Too early to conclude Eng even as a very good team. England, following their tradition, never goes out and win mataches. It's in their own yard where they blossom. SA has in it all to upset England. SA are thick enough to combat and dont get forget they play an extra batsman. TO win against SA, Eng has to score runs quickly. They dont even score at 3.00 although they were only 3 down by EOD.

Posted by NickT on (July 20, 2012, 15:29 GMT)

Ryan, if the best you can do is whine about umpiring decisions and imply some sort of bias, that's beyond pathetic. South Africa chose not to review the decision - remember? I say again that South Africa bowled ONE good delivery on the first day and were lucky to get two gifts from Trott and KP.

Posted by jackhammer on (July 20, 2012, 14:02 GMT)

Now just look at the 2nd day's play.. It's all SA.. England isn't a very comprehensive team as you said.. But South Africa have done better in all test playing nation's home soil. to my mind, South Africa is a very good pack rather than the English who they always expect 1st three to pile up the runs.. You might feel now this comment is upside down of your well prepared article towards England..

Posted by Ryan on (July 20, 2012, 12:42 GMT)

@NickT: Or you could've noticed the wicket taking ball that Morkel bowled to Trott when he was only on 14, hitting the pads, hawk eye shows it was going on to hit the stumps, given not out by London born Steve Davis.

Then you get alex: "To beat england you have to take TROTT out early. Problem is the bowlers do not know how to bowl in this conditions"

Posted by DeePee on (July 20, 2012, 10:02 GMT)

things can be concluded nicely. every test playing nation is good at their own soil..article clearly states about English conditions, flat pitch and at which England proves effective..at the same time England looked like Zimbabwe at UAE & in Srilanka..we have to admit the fact there's no unbeatable team in this era of cricket. also we have to give due respect to India, Srilanka, Pakistan when they dominate in the subcontinent.Folks don't tell their batsmen a flat track bullies when they torment English kind of bowlers or don't cry when test match finishes in 3 or 4 days due to the wickets gone to the spinners !!!

Posted by Owen on (July 20, 2012, 9:40 GMT)

If anyone wants a better example of how T20 may end up ruining test cricket, just read Patricks post. As much as I like T20, it would appear that people are expecting test cricket to basically be a 5-day T20 match. To the purist, watching Cook/Trotts patience and skill at leaving the ball, sparks the same admiration as watching Waugh's driving. And given the records he has already broken, I am pretty sure we will be talking about Cook for a long while!

Posted by Andrew on (July 20, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

@Patrick: I dunno, perhaps the same people that still - completely justifiably - talk about Steve Waugh's captaincy? And his batting? Or Rahul Dravid's? Or Shiv Chanderpaul's? Or Boycott's, or Inzamam's, or Yusuf's...etc?

Test cricket is about way more than just flair, but Pietersen, Bell, Swann and Anderson (and if required, Prior and Broad) provide plenty of that in this England team. And personally, I think the way Cook and Trott made the bowlers give them the balls they wanted to hit was some of the best that Test batting has to offer.

Posted by alex on (July 20, 2012, 6:58 GMT)

To beat england you have to take TROTT out early. Problem is the bowlers do not know how to bowl in this conditions.

Posted by Anonymous on (July 20, 2012, 4:07 GMT)

Nice written, England is not as brutal as WI or Aus at their top, But certainly unbeat able in their own conditions

Posted by dark knight on (July 20, 2012, 3:10 GMT)

eng are again on their way; running away with the 1st test. their top 5 are in amazing form and if the bowlers click, saf's would be having a hard time in england!!

Posted by Neeraj on (July 20, 2012, 3:07 GMT)

Why can't they take the shine off the new ball in subcontinent? Why can't they take no undue risks, keep all the good balls out, and make sure that by the time the middle order come in their job is to simply cash in on stale bowlers and an older ball.

Why England Can't be England in Subcontinent? Why? They are good only in their home conditions. They are not good in subcontinent or after they loose thier first Top 3.

Conclusion : They are not great team.

Posted by Missing_2_Chucks on (July 20, 2012, 2:09 GMT)

Insightful and funny as usual Jarrod! On a unrelated note, are we going to see the 2chucks cover the ongoing series?

Posted by NickT on (July 20, 2012, 0:41 GMT)

So far, after watching the South African bowling, it's tempting to ask Graeme Smith: "Is that all you've got?".

Philander is learning that bowling to a top-notch Test side is a bit harder than taking easy wickets against New Zealand or at home on spicy South African wickets.

By my reckoning, South Africa bowled one wicket-taking ball in 90 overs and were lucky when Trott and KP gave it away.

Posted by Patrick on (July 19, 2012, 23:28 GMT)

Jarrod makes a very good point regarding England as a No. 1. side. They are efficient. "The game is about glory" Danny Blanchflower said about football, and it is similarly applicable to cricket. World champions need to play with flair and aggression. Pietersen for his pizzaz and Bell for his complete talent, who genuinely excites the neutral among English batsmen? But who is going to be writing about Trott's short-armed leg-side shovels in twenty years the same way they do about Greenidge's hook? Or Mark Waugh's square drive? Who is going to be writing about Strauss's captaincy in the same awed tones as they speak of Imran Khan?

For England supporters seeing their team win, this is a minor quibble and may appear bordering on churlishness. However, neutrals need more than efficiency to comprehend greatness. They need flair and a bit of derring-do!

Posted by Anonymous on (July 19, 2012, 22:24 GMT)

brilliantly .. artistically written ....

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