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'Difficult for South Africa to be a long-term No. 1'

Geoff Boycott on the challenges ahead for South Africa, England v New Zealand, and why ground fielding has improved over the years (14:03)

Producer: Siddhartha Talya

February 28, 2013


Bowl at Boycs

'Difficult for South Africa to be a long-term No. 1'

February 28, 2013

Graeme Smith embraces Jacques Kallis after his sharp catch, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day, August 17, 2012
South Africa will find it difficult to sustain their dominance once Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith retire © AFP

Siddhartha Talya: Welcome to another show of Bowl at Boycs. I'm Siddhartha Talya and speaking to me today from Lake Taupo in New Zealand is Geoffrey Boycott. Geoffrey, we've just seen Australia being beaten quite comprehensively in the first Test, in Chennai. Was the result along expected lines, given they were batting on a turning track?

Geoffrey Boycott: I didn't expect India to win so comfortably. I thought they were a slightly better side than Australia at home. There have been quite a few changes in recent times in both teams. I always felt the Australian batting is a bit wobbly. It's not that good compared with the past. I think the Australian spin department is quite weak. I did feel Australia had an advantage in seam bowling. But when it came to spin bowling, turning pitches, in their own country, you've got to put your hand up and say India.

From a long way away, MS Dhoni's innings of 200-odd must have been outstanding. That must have been a real Man-of-the-Match performance because it swayed the contest by a long way.

ST: It was some double-century, and he got the runs in quick time as well, to change the match completely.

GB: You know my view. I've said it before: I think he is a fantastic character. I don't know him, I hardly ever speak to him, but I'm looking at it professionally. I like his spirit, his attitude, his character. There is something about his batting that is very effective. There are plenty of players that are more aesthetic-looking than him, but it's his effectiveness. It's no good having somebody who looks good in the nets but can't produce it in the middle. It's what you do in the middle and what you do under pressure in the middle, what you do in tight and difficult situations for the team, like his World Cup performance in the final. That's what makes an extraordinary cricketer. It's not just how you look. He seems to deliver when it matters.

Another thing I've said about him: he carries the pressure and the difficulties of captaining India so well. You think of the weight of expectation by people and the difficulty of handling the Indian media when the team doesn't do well. My God, any weak man would just fail under the pressure of it. But he's not [weak], he's a very strong personality. Being captain of India, especially when they don't do well in any matches, it's like doing a job with a sack of coal on your back. It's just going to weigh you down, but he seems to have the character, the heart, the temperament and mind to just take it all in his stride. Good luck to him.

ST: Coming to the questions, the first one is from Ashton in England about the series going on in New Zealand. He says: England's new-ball attack has impressed in the one-day series and Joe Root has looked superb as a batsman. England start favourites in the Tests but are there any areas in which you think New Zealand can pose a challenge?

GB: No. Man for man, England are far superior. If New Zealand are to shock England and win, I believe they have to play out of their skin, or they have to look at the weather conditions that affect the pitch and give New Zealand a big advantage, or England have to get complacent and bat very badly.

I watched New Zealand recently in South Africa. During the Test matches I was surprised by their poor batting technique against, let it be said, high-quality South African seam bowling.

England have quality bowlers. James Anderson is a superb craftsman, and Steven Finn, off a new, shorter, run, is very accurate, with great height and a tall, high action. He's been getting the ball at pace at an awkward height at the batsmen in the one-dayers. If he gets pitches with any bit of help in terms of pace and bounce, it's going to cause enormous problems for them. If they pick a slow and low type of pitch that we keep playing on, then the bounce, or the lack of bounce, will help the New Zealand batsmen contend with him. But if there is any bounce or pace, England can clean them up.

I haven't seen anything in the New Zealand bowling to concern England. I'm quite aware that New Zealand, at the moment, have one high-quality cricketer in Brendon McCullum, the captain. I think he is a very top-class cricketer. They are lucky to have Ross Taylor back - he is a good batsman. But having said that, New Zealand are going through a period without any high-end players. In the past they have had players like Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, who made a difference in the side. This set of players is very good, hard-working; they are decent cricketers. But for a country - I always say this - of five million people, they are doing splendid. But just at this moment, they are a more average side. They work hard, they'll compete hard, they are very good competitors, they'll field very well. But really, in terms of ability and technique, I would expect England to win.

ST: Coming to South Africa now, who've beaten Pakistan 3-0 in the Test series. The question is from Nilesh in India. He says: South Africa seem ruthless at home, and they have won away as well, though not as ruthlessly as they have done in home conditions. The subcontinent remains a challenge but is this team set for a long haul as the best Test side in the world?

GB: South Africa are the best Test side in the world. They have superb seamers and many different types of quality batsmen. In South Africa, they are always going to be difficult to beat, because their pitches don't favour spinners. Seam-up is the key, and good technical batting, because some of their pitches, like Johannesburg in particular… Pretoria as well, and sometimes you can get pace and bounce in the first innings in Cape Town and Durban. That suits the make-up of their team, with strong seam bowling - Morkel has got bounce, Steyn is the best seam bowler in the world, Philander has been a revelation, and they've got one or two guys who can slip in and help them out when anybody's injured.

"In the short term, South Africa have all the attributes to stay at the top in Test matches. They are a very good fielding side, determined, but spin is always going to be a problem. It's about the pitches in South Africa. Who wants to bowl spinners on unreceptive pitches?"

Spin has always been a problem for South Africa and it is a problem now. They struggle to be as dominant in the subcontinent because of their lack of quality spinners. The balance of their team has been held for the best part of 20 years by the outstanding talent of Jacques Kallis. When Kallis plays, you have a quality, excellent seam bowler as well as an unbelievably top batsman. A good catcher in the slips as well. At the moment he is getting older, his bowling stints are shorter, he doesn't bowl as much, doesn't bowl as quick, but he is still giving them a bit of balance, a bit of extra seam, and picking up the odd wicket. But the crux is going to come when Kallis goes, Graeme Smith, the captain, goes, who bats up front. In maybe two years' time you're going to see one or both disappear. It will affect them a great deal.

So a long haul? No. In the short term, they have all the attributes to stay at the top in Test matches. They are a very good fielding side, determined, but spin is always going to be a problem. It's about the pitches in South Africa. Who wants to bowl spinners on unreceptive pitches? The kids in South Africa will learn it's a waste of effort, waste of time, so they revert to bowling seam-up. If they want more spinners, they'll have to give some encouragement to young kids. But in the short term I'm not sure a lack of spin is going to hurt them, except when they go to Sri Lanka and India, that's possible. They are so good with the seam-up and so good with the batting, they can perhaps get away with it a lot of the time.

ST: The unfortunate thing, Geoffrey, is that South Africa don't play Tests for a while now - not until November when they take on Pakistan in the UAE.

Coming to a technical question now, it's from Kiran in Australia. Kiran says: Geoffrey, I'm a pace bowler and I need your advice. My coach said when I release the ball, I bowl it out of the back of the hand instead of cocking my wrist. How should I fix it?

GB: How can you be a pace bowler with the ball coming out of the back of your hand? That's what I want to ask. I haven't seen you, I am just reading the words. Legspinners bowl it out of the back of the hand. So your coach is right.

First of all, the grip is vital. The first two fingers of your bowling hand, one either side of the seam, the thumb underneath resting a little to the side of the seam. Hold it in those three digits, lightly but firmly. Lightly but firmly, I repeat that. Do not keep it too tight or you will not be able to release it [properly]. And, as you bowl, the key to it is try to keep the wrist firm-ish, so that you propel the ball to the batsman with the whole of the palm of the hand facing the batsman. I repeat that: propel the ball with a firm-ish wrist, but the palm of the hand has to be facing the batsman. Practise it without a batsman. You don't want the discomfort [of thinking] that the batsman is going to whack the ball for four in the nets. You just need to practice it without him. And do it at medium pace. Don't try to bowl too quick. It will feel funny at first because you've not been doing it right. But back of the hand, won't work.

ST: Geoffrey's favourite question for this show comes from Gul Laghari in Pakistan. It's about fielding. Gul says: The quality of ground-fielding has improved exceptionally over time. What would you put this down to? Is it better fields to dive on, or more athleticism in the field, generally?

James Anderson at an England training session, West End, June, 14, 2012
"The best athletic fielder I've seen among fast bowlers" © Getty Images

GB: I think it's definite that the quality of ground fielding has improved out of all recognition because of one-day cricket. Let's be clear, I say ground-fielding. Slip catching, close-in catching of any kind, was always of a high standard in my career and, from what I understand, it's been pretty good throughout the game. For a long time, maybe not in the 1890s or the early 1900s, but going through the '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, right through it's been pretty good, of a high standard. But for fielding, ground fielding, in the outfield, one-day cricket can take all the credit for the brilliant athleticism that has evolved and improved over the years.

Going back to my playing days, when I started playing cricket, it was frowned upon if you had a grass stain or a dirt mark on your creams. You should always look immaculate, you were told, so nobody dived around, nobody got dirty or got grass stains on. Only by accident. How times have changed.

With fielders trying to save runs, that puts batsmen under pressure. Batsmen try to play a good shot. If a fielder can stop it, [the batsman] is under pressure; he is not scoring in a one-day match. If you save runs on the boundary or anywhere, it can help win matches by a few runs. That has been the norm through one-day cricket. It has just got better and better.

It has now become vital that bowlers have to be as good as batsmen [in the field]. This has been a huge and outstanding improvement in cricket. There is talk, in the 1930s, going through the '40s, Bill Bowes, playing for Yorkshire, he was a fast bowler, 6'6", he used to stop the ball with his boot on the boundary. And then pick it up and throw it in. That's never going to happen now. You've got some brilliant fielders around. James Anderson of England, as a fastish bowler, lively fast-medium, he's not slow, not real out-and-out fast, he's quite sharpish… he is a brilliant fielder anywhere - catching, slip, outfield, dives around. He is the best athletic fielder I have ever seen [among] fast bowlers. It's become a norm now that everybody has to be able to do it. So one-day cricket can take the credit.

ST: There you are Gul. Thanks a lot for that Geoffrey, that's a wrap on today's show. Do keep sending us us your questions using our feedback form and Geoffrey will be back with us in a couple of weeks, from Wellington. Thanks for joining us.

Posted by dandi23 on (March 2, 2013, 4:59 GMT)

I reckon people are overplaying the Kallis retirement and lack of spinner. Yes SA doesn't have a spinner that will run through a batting order like Ajmal but Peterson is a perfectly serviceable spinner who takes his fair share of wickets. He's not just holding up an end like Harris did a couple years back.

Kallis has at least 3 more years and Smith just turned 32. Don't know why Geoff even mentioned Smith really. As for Kallis, the answer is already playing. JP Duminy. He's not Kallis, no one is. But he can do what Kallis does in his current form, except he's a spinner of course. I'm not convinced SA will go tumbling down when Kallis retires as most are.

Posted by armchairjohnny on (March 1, 2013, 12:48 GMT)

I don't understand why people feel the need to belittle South Africa's achievements. Comparing them with sides from earlier eras serves no purpose since the comparison will always be skewed (Batsmen had it tougher in the 70's and 80's, but the converse is also true -- bowlers had it far easier. Bowlers like Holding and Marshall could bowl on worn tracks, were lucky that they got to bowl with batsmen without helmets, and could increase their wickets tally by rasily dismissing rabbits-for-tail-enders who didn't know one end of a bat from the other.) South Africa are the best team in the world today and others would be better off trying to improve their cricket rather than worrying about how long (or short) South Africa's reign at the top will be for. Let's also enjoy Steyn whilst we can, I've no doubt he will be regarded as one of the all time great bowlers when his time is up.

Posted by shaolinfist on (March 1, 2013, 11:55 GMT)

Look, West Indies of the late 70s and 80s were a genuinely great team. They played when batsmen didn't have protective armour and restrictive rules to protect them from the bowlers and when they played, all teams, Australia, England, India,Pakistan etc. also had some of their legends of the game. Australia was strong in the 2000s as barring India, other teams were weak. Further, barring Australia, the quality of other teams bowling from 2000-2008 had majorly gone down. India was briefly strong for two years albeit not a typical no.1 because everyone else was rebuilding. South Africa is no.1 now because barring England, everyone else is in transition or rebuilding. South Africa is still a better no.1 than England and India were in recent time and to be frank, there is nothing wrong or missing with the current South African side, but there is nothing exceptional about them either. I personally feel that Cronje's team of late nineties was stronger.

Posted by   on (March 1, 2013, 11:29 GMT)

@Jayzuz. Not only are the current SA bowlers better than anything doing the rounds at the moment but he bowling depth of SA at the moment is way better than anything else on offer from any other team. That is matter of fact. Kleinveldt had his 1st test in Aus and you are breaking him down? Ridiculous!Abbot had his 1st test against Pak and already you are making assumptions? Again, ridiculous! Sounds like you are bitter and envious of the Saffers at present!! Don't worry, many are and should be as well!

Posted by BillyCC on (March 1, 2013, 10:19 GMT)

@jayzuz, if you read the rest of my post, I explained that by saying that South Africa played poorly in the first two tests against Australia. Philander averages 17 but relies on the pitch too much? Fine, I'll take some of that. @smahuta, the fact is, South Africa have only been number 1 for only one year, so please, none of your nonsense that they've dominated for the past four years. Dominance is winning home and away against all oppposition for an extended period of time.

Posted by UK_Chap on (March 1, 2013, 10:10 GMT)

There is no doubt South Africa are a fanatastic side, they have great batsmen and some great bowlers. The play as team very well and that masks any deficiencies they may have. I look froward to see how well they do in a few months time in the UAE.

Posted by Jayzuz on (March 1, 2013, 9:17 GMT)

@billycc, SA has a quality pace attack with depth? You obviously didn't watch the series vs Australia. Steyn is the best. Morkel is very good, but inconsistent - he averages 30 - even Siddle beats that comfortably. Philander relies on the pitch far too much, as we saw clearly in Australia. Kleinvelt is barely test standard, and got humiliated in Australia. As for their new guy, one test on a green wicket vs a subcontinent side is too easy a ride to make any definite conclusions. The other issue with SA is that they are no better than other teams in the other formats, which is why their overall record vs Australua is still poor - 4 wins in the last 12 internationals. If their depth was so great, this would not be the case.

Posted by Jayzuz on (March 1, 2013, 8:01 GMT)

Most of England's players are the wrong side of 30, and they will need to find a whole heap of newbies in the next few years. So expect a period of decline for them beginning in about 2 years time. Australia has mostly youngsters, and they will be coming into their dominant years just as England is going the other way.

Posted by philvic on (March 1, 2013, 7:18 GMT)

West Indies were not tested too much in the 70s and early 80s. England were generally weak and the Aussie batting was nothing special in the 70s and their bowling was weak in the 80s. The Indian bowling was also substandard outside India. The strongest other country at that stage were SA who couldn't play Tests because of apartheid. I am not disputing that WI were a great side but often things look even better with hindsight. Test cricket is probably as strong and competitive now as it ever was; I just wish there was more of it instead of trivial T20 rubbish.

Posted by Smahuta on (March 1, 2013, 7:06 GMT)

The fact of the matter is, SA have not lost a series for 4 years already, another 2 years of dominance is already a long period of time no matter how you look at it. You think the great Aussie side won every test match? no in fact they seemed to have penchant for losing a dead rubber when they were 4 nil up. SA would be an even better side if they played more test cricket. When was the last time they played a 5 match series? I cant remember myself, but with a dull10 match ashes series coming up between to ordinary sides, it makes me wonder what the heck is going on with the administrators these days.

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (March 1, 2013, 4:52 GMT)

@Arron Dore - "...Eng would've have won the second test and squared the series had it not been for the weather...". Oh course, say whatever makes you feel better about losing a home series two nil when you were suppose to be #1. Suddenly you're a sage, the only reason we lost wickets to Broad (the most overrated bowl in the world) in the second innings is because we wanted to declare. And we have been tested on a green top, many times, I think you'll find in one of them we bowled Aus out for 49 that day :). In fact I'd back our bowling attack against any other on a green top. We have played in India and UAE and haven't lost a series their since 2006 , so we'll see how that pans out in the future. We're not great but we've played well so don't try and under sell the teams achievements.

Posted by BillyCC on (February 28, 2013, 22:35 GMT)

South Africa has a strong case to be a long term No.1 simply because of the bowling attacks: South Africa have a quality pace line up with depth. No other side has that quality, in fact, no other side has even one consistent great fast bowler. When the West Indies were the long term No.1, they had fierce competition from New Zealand, Australia, England and Pakistan, but they were just marginally better in all the departments. When Australia were the long term No.1, they had fierce competition from South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies towards the beginning of their reign, England towards the end of their reign. Today, South Africa have England, that's it. I think Australia are far behind, but they got close recently because South Africa played poorly in the first two tests. Man for man, South Africa are better in every department, except for Clarke as the No.5 batsman. Basically, South Africa and England will fight it out for the next four years.

Posted by maddy20 on (February 28, 2013, 21:47 GMT)

Tell me why SA can't be long term no.1 Mr.Boycs? Solid batting line-up, fantastic and fit bowling attack, marvelous fielding side. Our team is in for a real treat when they tour there later this year!

Posted by Mitcher on (February 28, 2013, 21:22 GMT)

@Josh: Pretty confident SA haven't won 22/23 series in past six years. Maybe 'haven't lost' in 22/23 series. I think that's prob their one downfall is not winning enough series at home. To be great you've got to be a bit more ruthless - which they've shown signs of this summer. I think they're a fantastic side but a bit to achieve yet. That lack of home dominance is why they've only been top dog for about 12 months.

Posted by philvic on (February 28, 2013, 20:47 GMT)

Aussies in denial. Australia have one test class batsmen who they are lucky is currently in the form of his life. The rest of the batting lineup is a substandard and the bowling is ordinary. They were lucky that injuries, weather and umpiring helped them in the first two tests against SA but class won out in the final match. I think England will nail them again in the Ashes - and SA have all they need to stay the best for a couple of years to come. Beyond that is anyone's guess.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2013, 19:42 GMT)

*SIGH*....England took stick in 1 test and 1 test only and did not take an 'absolute pasting'...good grief the 2nd & 3rd test were closely fought contests and thanks to KP's amazing knock where he made the SA attack look extremely ordinary, Eng would've have won the second test and squared the series had it not been for the weather.......SA have not been tested in 'alien' conditions...i.e against a top class team on a green top, and a top class team on a bunsen burner.....when and only when they can beat teams in those conditions can SA be considered great.....At the moment, they cannot hold a candle to the WI side of the late 70's and 80's, and the Aussie side from 97-2007

Posted by Hardy1 on (February 28, 2013, 19:23 GMT)

Sorry did Monsieur Boycott just imply that McCullum's a better batsman than Ross Taylor? Come on now this isn't a T20 series for SA staying on top, it's really hard to predict these kinds of things & the loss of Kallis will be huge, but even without him they'd have a solid core in ABDV, Amla, Steyn, Philander & Morkel (Smith too probably, can't see him retiring within 2 years). Du Plessis, Pietersen, Peterson & Duminy have all done well of late, along with the one-offs like Abbott & De Lange. Sometimes when a team's on an upwards slope it's very easy to come into the team & do well though so you can't say for sure that these players will become regulars.

The clear challengers right now are England, with India & Australia both in transition right now it's hard to see them doing so, although after 2 years time both may have more settled teams so we shall see.

Posted by Josh1942 on (February 28, 2013, 18:12 GMT)

In the last 6 years South Africa have played 23 series and lost only 1 (to Australia early 2009). They have won 22 series - home and away - during the past 6 years They are already as dominant as past great sides. And their margin of victories is truly dominant. Let them enjoy their success.

Posted by siddiqi3456 on (February 28, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

Truly, S.A has been blessed to have a player of Kallis's caliber who is at home on these greeny wickets, can bowl fast than most of bowlers who spearhead their respective attacks. S.A is bestowed to have a captain like Smithy,whose technique may some argue but against all attacks and in different conditions have scored runs which is what matters most. Take my word they are going to be as dominant as west indies in 70 and 80's .

Posted by MrGarreth on (February 28, 2013, 16:44 GMT)

I didn't see Warne making a difference for the Aussies in India and he was a legendary spinner. And our record speaks for itself in the sub-continent.

Posted by Protears on (February 28, 2013, 15:53 GMT)

South African selection pool is very deep and plentiful with bowlers, batsmen and allrounders whom are starting to arise non more so than Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott whom were not that long ago unknowns. Stiaan V Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Elgar are going to be good players in the future.

Posted by FighterKallis on (February 28, 2013, 15:30 GMT)

Well southafrica will be on top many more years . list of double hundred and triple hundred records will be broken down by devillers or hashim . kaliis will play more years to the surprise of many people.Steyn will spit fire and philander will get wickets anywhere because he does the basics.Faf and duminy can play a pivot role in building the innings.Smith adjusts his batting and gets to a fifty somehow. Elgar goes out when duminy comes in.The weak link now is alviro and robbie.But even robbie has learn what to do to stay in the team . I think Mckenzie can be given a last series in Uae .He plays spin very well. Also Imran Tahir . Well we need a spinner in subcontinent atleast to support fastbowlers.In Uae England begged Pakistan but Southafrica flourished with centuries and the MOS is not ajmal or rehman but kallis. Aus is hunting for a spinner after the so called Warne academy failed miserably to produce a quality one. So no day dreaming and Southafrica will be on top for years.

Posted by Gamla on (February 28, 2013, 15:29 GMT)

How short the memory is sometimes...give SA the due that they're due...

@Blokey: gee guy, 1-0 Aus a fair reflection? South Africa won by 309 runs in the last test and Oz threw everything at them in the other 2 tests and got nowhere? 309 runs victory is still a "wallop" in most books!

@Arron Dore: SA vs Eng 2012: 1st test: South Africa won by an innings and 12 runs - Hashim Amla 311* place where they have 'taken stick'...

This will not last forever but they have been impressive since 2008

Posted by MrGarreth on (February 28, 2013, 14:37 GMT)

I didn't see Warne making a difference for the Aussies in India and he was a legendary spinner. And our record speaks for itself in the sub-continent.

Posted by Blokey on (February 28, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

I was very surprised by how ordinary SA were in Australia recently. Only a fluke breakdown of an opposition bowler saved them. I have never seen a side outplayed by that degree and still win a series. 1-0 to Australia would have been a fair indication of the series, and even 1-1 would have flattered SA.

Posted by Nuxxy on (February 28, 2013, 13:27 GMT)

South Africa never has a flood of young spin bowlers, but the odd one pops up now and again. Currently, there is a young off-break bowler named Prenelan Subrayen. He is only 19, but is already doing quite well, considering he plays in Durban mostly. Duminy has potential as a decent spin bowler, more of the containing mold, but not too far off being as-good-as or better-than Robin Peterson. If he can step up it will definitely help offset the loss of Kallis.

Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (February 28, 2013, 13:03 GMT)

In response to the poster - Posted by FB on (February 28, 2013, 11:07 GMT) and to the question; I cannot think of one place where they have 'taken stick'... The answer to that question is England. The English bowling attack took stick in England last year against the Proteas. They underestimated their opponents, believed their media's hype, and took an absolute pasting. Broad, Anderson, Bresnan, Finn, Swann et al were given a lesson. I admire their recovery in India, but they still need to do a lot of work before they earn the right to challenge us.

Posted by mar2000 on (February 28, 2013, 12:05 GMT)

When you have "top Quality " fast bowlers (4) in your squad a quality spinner is not realy a problem because most batsmen dislike "quality" fast bowling and pasting a 300 total on the board will be very difficult at any time on any track .

Posted by Testcricketistop on (February 28, 2013, 11:25 GMT)

ArronDore, you seriously believe England thought SA would roll over?

What gives you that idea?

I also don't beleive England are currently snapping at the heels of South Africa, they're good, but when you consider SA has beaten England twice in england, drew a series at home where in the las two tests Steyn just back from injury just missed out bowling england out.

The fact is SA have improved over the past 2 years, I reckon we could stay top for at least 2 more years.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

@VEXXZ......sorry but you couldn't be more wrong!.....your comments suggest your blindingly patriotic towards SA, or you utterly despise Eng, or you simply don't follow cricket at all!....England's fast bowling attack have and will continue to have great success in all countries, I cannot think of one place where they have 'taken stick'.....In terms of ability & where they stand, SA are indeed currently the best test match side, but Eng are snapping at their heels and there is not much between them...If anything, Eng were complacent last summer and thought SA would roll over under pressure and they were wrong, but now?.....a battle of titanic proportions would occur......I'm a admirer of both SA & Eng, so consider my views unbiased.....The two teams are head & shoulders above any other nation currently in test match cricket:)

Posted by MaheshVenkat on (February 28, 2013, 11:01 GMT)

Surprised by Boycs' view of James Anderson being the best among fast bowlers who were also athletic fielders - I would assume that Sir Ian Botham and Kapil Dev would top the list any day as both have done it at all positions - slips, close-in, outfield. And not to mention they were so ahead of their times when fielding was not given such importance.

Posted by Edassery on (February 28, 2013, 10:52 GMT)

Well if Kallis retires SA will definitely lose a fast bowling all rounder's service which will slightly change the team combination. However, their batting won't be much affected by that because Smith, Amla and AB will play at least 4-5 years more. Geoff, SA is still going to dominate the next four five years :-) as England, Australia or any sub-continent team is not seen getting anywhere near their quality in test cricket.

Posted by VEXXZ on (February 28, 2013, 10:34 GMT)

Stop dreaming Jeff. SA will remain at the top for a very long time and well ahead of England . SA have at present a bowling squad that is the best in the world . England fast bowling squad only good in England and will take stick all over the world .

Posted by mar2000 on (February 28, 2013, 10:28 GMT)

Jeff , you are one of the guys who believe that cricket is not cricket unless England is head and shoulders above all others . SA have the best bowling squad in Internatial cricket at the moment and will remain number one for a very long time .

Posted by Rhygwyn on (February 28, 2013, 9:38 GMT)

Whether SA remains no.1 has nothing to do with them having a spinner or not. They have "ok" spinners, ones who will do "ok" in the SC. For that reason they won't dominate in the SC but they can certainly win as they have already proven over the last 20 years. The key to SA remaining number no.1 is producing new talent to replace those retiring, as Boycott said. But that is the key for any team looking to remain at the top for an extended period of time. At this stage they do seem to have a few replacement bowling options. The bigger question is how to replace batsmen. AB and Amla are not yet 30 and have good techniques so they can last another 6 years. Smith (with his dodgy technique) won't last long into his 30s. Peterson, du Plessis, Duminy are good players but they are not exceptional. It remains to be seem what Elgar is but I have my doubts. They do have that young wicketkeeper de Kock that could be exceptional but they will need to produce another 1 or 2 to keep at the top.

Posted by bestbuddy on (February 28, 2013, 9:20 GMT)

Why does Geoff think Smith is going to disappear?? Smith is only 31, has the best years of a batsman's career ahead of him (traditionally 30-35) and has still averaged around 45 for the past 3 years, more than enough to keep his spot. The only person who realistically will not be around for the next 3-5 years is Kallis, wh while difficult to replace, on whom the team is no longer dependent the way it used to be. SA with the bowling depth and solid batting should keep their no1 spot for 3-5 years, maybe longer depending on who is coming through in the future

Posted by guptahitesh4u on (February 28, 2013, 8:57 GMT)

SA does not have a quality spinner but that will affect them only when they visit India/SL. Also, their pace attack is very much superior to negate the absence of a spinner. in 2007-08, when SA visited India, they beat India is less than 3 days on a dustbowl motera pitch with the help of Steyn, Ntini and morkel. SA has won against England in England, They have won against aus in Aus and I am sure if they visit sub-continent, they will be able to win their comprehensively as neither of India or SL have the quality spinners as they used to have. Pakistan has Ajmal but their batting is so pathetic that they won't be able to resist against Steyn and co. So , I believe that SA is going to remain no1 for a longer term(even after the retirement of kallis and Smith)

Posted by truthfinder on (February 28, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

SA need not look for that elusive spinner that given their country's condition would be difficult to appear. Instead they should include another fast bowler -- preferably capable of using old ball. Around 80% of time they have to play on fast and bouncy surfaces of SA, Eng, Auss, NZ & WI , ZIM etc.. So with best fast bowling attack (with 4 men ) they would easily have advantage over any other team. WI in 70's & 80's dominated solely relying on 4 men pace attack. Even Australia's dominance over a period of decade stemmed from their unparalleled fast bowling attack. Inclusion of a defensive spinner does not make sense in Test matches. Probably they can grow one reasonable spin bowling all rounder (that'll also be very difficult to find out though) , to replace Kallis.

Posted by Testcricketistop on (February 28, 2013, 8:43 GMT)

The reality is we don't have a world class spinner. It is fine for people to use the lack of a world class spinner as a reasoning or justification.

I bet that the Proteas and their coaching team isn't going to allow that to deter them from remainng successful though.

Posted by JBish on (February 28, 2013, 7:51 GMT)

Just for interest sake I checked Australia , England and South Africa's record in India since 1992 (South Africa readmission) I wanted too see how it affected SA record in India not having quality spinners . It seems that it did not make a difference at all! They have been the most dominate team in the sub continent. Here's the evidence : Since 1992 SA played 12 test in India Wins 5 Losses 5 Draws 2 England since 1992 played 15 tests in India Wins 3 Loss 7 Draw 5 Australia in India played 16 Test Wins 4 Losses 11 Draw 2 . SA record in India has been the best of the lot . England can be grateful of the last series otherwise their stats would have looked worst. Yes I agree with Geoff If SA can produce a quality spinner , beware!! But they are a classic example how to work with your strengths and deal with your weaknesses which I'm sure they are right now!

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