England v SA, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day

'We can take 20 wickets' - Strauss

David Hopps

July 23, 2012

Comments: 275 | Text size: A | A

England's bowlers took only two South Africa wickets in the first Test at The Oval but their captain, Andrew Strauss, backed them to take ten times as many in each of the final two Tests at Headingley and Lord's to win the series and retain their No. 1 Test ranking.

England's place as the top-ranked Test team in the world could not look more precarious after South Africa pulled off victory by an innings and 12 runs in an extended afternoon session to go 1-0 up in the series - a win described by former England captain, Nasser Hussain, on Sky TV as "an annihilation".

England were bowled out a second time for 240, with fast bowler Dale Steyn finishing with 5 for 56 and the legspinner Imran Tahir 3 for 63. It was England's first defeat by an innings at home since they lost to Australia at Headingley in 2009 - and Leeds is next up.

But Strauss said: "We have an outstanding bowling attack. You have to give South Africa credit for how they batted but I still back our bowling attack's ability to take 20 wickets on most Test match surfaces.

"Our bowling attack has huge reserves of confidence. They have taken 20 wickets pretty much every time they have played for the last two years and this game doesn't change that for me."

England were kept in the field for nearly thirteen-and-a-half hours and two key members of the attack had needed injections before the game to ensure their fitness, but Strauss suggested their gruelling experience had left no long-term side-effects.

"They are all fine," he said. "They are a bit weary having spent two days in the field, but there are no causes for alarm at this stage."

England's bowlers went straight from a five-match one-day series against Australia to the Test series, but Strauss refused to accept that as an excuse for a defeat that has caused reverberations around the cricketing world.

"Our preparation was fine," he said. "No excuses. We have to win the next two games. I believe we can do that. I didn't think our bowlers bowled that badly, but we didn't get the ball swinging conventionally or reverse.

"You have to give credit to the South African batsmen. They got in and they went big. South Africa played some outstanding cricket and deserved to get on top of us. The concentration they showed with the bat was outstanding. There is a lot of frustration but there are lessons to be learned and we will learn them."

Strauss conceded that England, having lost four wickets on the fourth evening, were up against it on the final morning as a large fifth-day crowd packed into The Oval hoping to witness a great escape.

"The odds were always against us having lost four wickets last night," he said. "The wicket was still pretty flat and we are frustrated that we didn't make it harder for them in those conditions. I suppose South Africa had a bit of a psychological advantage with us having been in the field for a period of time. We did not react well enough to that and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth."

England now have some difficult decisions ahead of the second Test. Ravi Bopara, whose Test batting place has never been secure, will again come under scrutiny after a double failure at The Oval and there will be calls for Steven Finn to add some aggression to the pace attack. The approach of this England set-up would make it a major surprise if they made more than one change.

Strauss also had an answer for those wondering just how highly this defeat ranked on the scale of England disasters. "I don't sit there ranking defeats," he said.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 26, 2012, 19:48 GMT)

@Harmony111 on (July 26 2012, 12:45 PM GMT) re " But an Eng bowler is never labeled as a Green Top Bully if he doesn't do well in Indian Conditions" . We get loads of comms to that effect. As for Jimmy is it just India which counts re alien conditions? Just that he did pretty well in UAE and SL?

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 26, 2012, 17:25 GMT)

I don't recall any England fans saying we are the greatest team ever, and that our bowlers are better than McGrath, Warne, Steyn... The media tends to do that for us, and EVERY country is the same. I seem to recall Kahn and Sharma being tooted as the greatest opening bowler combo of all time, after only one or two successful series at home. Almost immediately after that, Zaheer Kahn was injured more often than not, and Sharma didn't pick up any wickets and was dropped/injured since.

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 26, 2012, 15:42 GMT)

@Meety: Looks like you have forgotten Harbhajan Singh. Ofc he has not been in good form of late but not for nothing did he take 300 wickets in Tests. There is still plenty of time for him to get back in top groove. And in India teams tend to lose wickets in heaps against spinners. Your whole theory of Eng's UAE debacle is not quite stretchable to India's case. In India teams have had a good opening and yet have collapsed against the spinners. The other spinners may not be as good or famous as Harbhajan but I guess it is good that you have not heard of them. The reason why Eng bowlers can't rip through Indian batsmen is the Oval test. Your bowlers are toothless on a wicket that was labeled sub-continental by Saker and there will be more of those here. Add to it Eng's record in India. 0-5 the latest and failure to beat India since 1984. SRT and VVS may not be in their prime now but they can still prove to be more than enough for Eng though I doubt if VVS will be playing anymore.

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 26, 2012, 13:45 GMT)

@JG2704: And neither am I saying that Eng have a poor attack - just that they too will struggle when they bowl outside their comfort zone. That is a correct statement anyways. What irks me the most is that Indian batsmen are quickly labeled as FTB the moment they fail to score away. But an Eng bowler is never labeled as a Green Top Bully if he doesn't do well in Indian Conditions. JA is the prime example. He struggles a lot in these conditions yet he is hailed as one of the best bowlers in the world. The yardstick should measure the same for both sides but it doesn't look like. Also, I don't see much in Eng being 103/4 in 2nd innings. It happens in the pressure of Tests. Once Eng scored only 385 it was diff for Eng bowlers to bring their team back and so their fate was sealed though I did not think the victory gap would be so huge. You would find my 1st comment was along these lines. SA/Eng def have a better attack than Ind but not yet close to WI or Oz.

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 26, 2012, 13:26 GMT)

@JG2704: You are more than welcome to post on any article. No one is questioning that right, certainly not me. I have never said that Eng do not deserve to be #1, have I? All I have said is why is the Eng team being catapulted to Himalayan Heights when it has barely started to jump 3 feet? Why label Eng bowlers as comparable to McGrath and Warne's rank? I don't doubt the class of some of the players and I have said that in the past too that IMO Bell is the most accomplished of all the Eng batsmen. He looks graceful, is fluent, plays spin and swing well and has a good technique. I doubt of any other Eng batsman has all these attributes. This must be the nth time I have praised Bell here. But when I hear Anderson>Steyn and Swann~Warne and Eng~WI/OZ then I got to say something. Yes, stats are useful at times but easy to twist but even on stats Eng hardly come close to WI/Oz. Finally, post anywhere at your will, I never objected. I love Cricket more than I disagree with a Pom.

Posted by   on (July 26, 2012, 10:15 GMT)

I don't know how Strauss' men are going to fulfill their captain's wish of taking 20 wickets in a single match...against this formidable crusher team SA...even though they will surely get a green top to play on...still when ENG played SA on that flat track in this first match, while they were able to capture ONLY 2 of SA wickets, SA sent all 20 Englishmen back to the pavilion. I mean...SA beat ENG by 18 wickets and 12 runs! That was an annihilation! And on the green top at Leeds...Steyn, Morkel and Philander would simply massacre the English, the match should end WITHIN four days...and there would go down the drains that much hyped ENG's Numeo-Uno ranking! As an SA fan, can't really wait for the match to start next week.

Posted by JG2704 on (July 25, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

@SirViv1973 on (July 23 2012, 21:31 PM GMT) Why do England need a number 6 for god sake? I've not done the stats but as far as I can see in recent years our number 6 has made no difference to any of the test results. I challenge you to give me an example of where our number 6 in the last 2 years has played an inns in which Eng's number 6 has made a difference to the result. As long as we had 11 fielders we would still have won the games we won , lost the game we lost if we totally scrubbed our number 6s contribution

Posted by JG2704 on (July 25, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

@maddy20 on (July 23 2012, 16:53 PM GMT) They've not actually lost the number 1 spot yet although the likelihood is that they won't retain it after this series

Posted by JG2704 on (July 25, 2012, 23:16 GMT)

@Harmony111- As for you comms re Eng fans/Indian fans - I can only speak for myself here but I only ever mention India in response to Ind fans on these threads and rarely go on Indian threads. If I do I'll put constructive points across as I did during the Aus series where believe it or not I felt sympathy for India. Obviously there would be nothing to stop me from going on the Indian threads every time they lose and posting similar stuff and we can all give different stats to make our teams look good or bad but what's the point? Life's too short surely?

Posted by JG2704 on (July 25, 2012, 23:16 GMT)

@Harmony111 -Very mature as always there . As you mentioned me and my opinions. Yes I have always said that I believed we have the best bowling attack in the world or at least on a level with SA and it's not a boast. I said on other posts , helpful batting conditions aided by superb batsmanship from SA and before you say anything about helpful conditions and our batting , I have not tried to defend our poor batting and this is one bad test for our bowlers so does that suddenly make them bad? And yes I thought we did have the side which could (notice the word COULD) dominate for years but obviously we've gone off the rails and that now looks unrealistic

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David HoppsClose
David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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