England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley

England hope for Headingley magic

Olympic fever has overshadowed the build-up to the second Test but England captain Andrew Strauss will not be distracted from trying to save the series

David Hopps

August 1, 2012

Comments: 53 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss during England net practice, Headingley, August 1, 2012
Andrew Strauss: "There are times at Headingley when bowling looks unplayable and there are times when it looks very flat. Conditions are going to be different" © Getty Images

The appearance of a pastoral English cricket scene in Danny Boyle's Olympics opening ceremony went down so well in one cricketing outpost that it has been reported that it could be turned into a musical stage show in Beijing this Christmas, complete with the farmyard animals and some Beatles songs thrown in.

After England's innings-and-12-run defeat against South Africa in the first Test, "Help!" is the track that springs most readily to mind.

Confirmation of a musical in China involving village cricket could yet represent one of the highlights of a bedraggled summer, so making it the first occasion when the cricketing slur "that's village" became something to aspire to rather than an England player's favourite putdown.

Presumably any impresario taking on the job would have to rely on Chinese sheepdogs, which might bring difficulties in translation, but after England's capitulation at The Oval, a ready supply of ducks should be easier to find.

Since that Oval defeat, the Olympics has dominated the news agenda to such an extent that if England are about to lose their No. 1 ranking by succumbing again to South Africa at Headingley now is as good a time as any, as in many media outlets news of their demise will come somewhere below the handball results.

The defeat, according to England's offspinner, Graeme Swann, was "a public humiliation," a lesson in how a slack session can set in motion an irreversible pattern. England's captain, Andrew Strauss, was at his most diplomatic, talking of the need to retain perspective and of "a steely determination among the troops" but the somewhat spiky mood of the director of cricket, Andy Flower, is perhaps a more accurate reflection of the uncertainty within the England set-up.

England have lost five of their last nine Tests, since they thrashed India last summer. If that does not say much for England, it says even less for India, but it is England who have lost impetus since ascending to the No. 1 ranking, their form as dismal in south London against South Africa as it had been in the UAE against Pakistan's attack. And it is England, barring a remarkable turnaround in the last two Tests, who will go to India later in the year with their confidence shaken.

Strauss rightly views the Olympics as "pretty irrelevant", waving aside suggestions that there might be a feel-good effect if Great Britain start winning medals; a negative effect if it is felt that nobody outside Yorkshire takes much notice of their efforts over the next five days; or any sort of knock-on effect at all.

"It is an important Test and the fact you only get one page at the back of the paper rather than four is of no consequence to us," he said. "It's rightly the case that everyone's attention is on the Olympics, and we are rooting for British medals with everyone else, but we have to divorce the two completely. If someone gets a gold medal it is not going to help me get a hundred tomorrow unfortunately."

Headingley is a good place for a defeated side to seek to recover lost ground. It is a ground with a mind of its own, determinedly unwilling to follow a pattern set earlier in the series. Victors and vanquished alike arrive at Headingley as potential playthings. It is a Test that often exists independently, wilfully following its own mood. It is a ground, much like many of the more traditional Yorkshire folk who attend it, that does much as it pleases, wilfully turning from swing-bowling haven one minute to flat batting track the next.

Strauss, who much prefers Lord's, conceded that it was, "a slightly intriguing ground". As concessions go, this might entirely please the Yorkshire populace, many of whom view it more mystically. Some people may even feel slighted. They may feel more slighted at 10.30am on Thursday morning if England, as they are tempted to do, omit the local favourite Tim Bresnan in favour of Steve Finn

"Maybe there are slightly more unique challenges that it does throw at you," Strauss added. "There are times at Headingley when bowling looks unplayable and there are times when it looks very flat. Conditions are going to be different here, the challenges are going to be different and we obviously need to make sure we react well to those challenges and overcome them."

The fact that Bresnan is on his home turf did not appear to be working heavily in his favour. Strauss has been inspired time and again by Lord's, not only his home ground for Middlesex, but also the headquarters of the English game, a ground that feeds his sense of self-worth. But on Bresnan he did not draw similar comparisons, saying: "You just select the best XI to win the game of cricket, regardless of where people are from. Obviously Bres knows the wicket well and the lengths to bowl and he will be feeding that information to the other bowlers."

Bresnan's Championship appearances at Headingley are a rarity, in any event, and he has not often looked at his sharpest this summer. The same could be observed of Stuart Broad, but for Broad to be omitted would be the selectorial shake-up of the summer.

It is England's final batting position that has given the selectors uncertainty. Moving on from Paul Collingwood has been a difficult task. Eoin Morgan's emphasis is too centred upon one-day cricket for comfort, the gamble on Jonny Bairstow misfired and has set him back ever since, and Ravi Bopara's Test career remains a sea of troubles.

It can be debilitating for anybody when personal issues intrude upon a sporting career. Bopara, it should be stressed, has not been emotionally broken by any cricketing failures, but has issues outside cricket that are having a debilitating effect. England, in their desire to protect Bopara's privacy, should not allow false assumptions to take hold.

Strauss recognised this. "I feel for Ravi," he said. "He is going through a bit of a hard time personally. It was a big call on his part to say 'look, I'm not in the right frame of mind'. I think that is quite a brave thing to do and we are all behind him and will offer him any support that we can."

In place of Bopara, James Taylor steps in for his Test debut. His move last winter to Trent Bridge, where batting is no picnic, was a brave one, and his technique has benefitted from it. His chance has perhaps come a year earlier than England would have liked.

"He is a proper batter at six who can play really long innings," Strauss said. "For a young guy, he knows his game very well. His temperament looks very solid. He has always played well for the Lions so that suggests that he can handle the step up. And you can see by the way he holds himself that he has quite an old head on young shoulders. Those are all the constituent parts you look for in a young player."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Chuhadry on (August 2, 2012, 11:04 GMT)

Great to see the top best teams and saf perfom in eng vry wel

Posted by cskfangg on (August 2, 2012, 10:51 GMT)

Magic?....yes they can only hope for that , Is david hopps dreaming '5days' of rain or a victory for Eng or what? both will never going to happen .This toothless Eng bowling attack is not upto the mark of SA's U17.

Posted by Unomaas on (August 2, 2012, 10:46 GMT)

The non-inclusion of Swan is not such a bad decision if you think about it holistically. The Saffa top order are actually quite strong against spin with the exception of Biff to off-spinners. Swann doesn't have a doosra and without that, he is going to prove toothless more often than not against this Saffa batting line up.The POM's need to break through that top order and they need to do it as quickly as possible to expose AB, Duminy and Rudolph. While you expect AB to perform more often than not, Rudolph and Duminy have pressure on them to perform so they are ripe for the taking! Come on POMS!!! If you gonna go down, at least go down fighting tooth and nail!

Posted by Patchmaster on (August 2, 2012, 10:17 GMT)

Finn in for Broad would be the way to go. Broad bowled slowly and poorly in the last match. His batting is pretty poor these days as well. He's the ENG version of Tim Southee right now, and needs the same treatment i.e. dropping !

Posted by raj_24 on (August 2, 2012, 10:00 GMT)


Drubbed 1-0 1-0 ?

do you know what is a drubbing ? go check the dictionary.

both of those 1-0 results England were better in the Chennai Test 2008 and 2 tets of the series in 2001

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 9:59 GMT)

this is going to be a draw. The weather for the last 3 days don't look good. Lets bowl them out on day 1 and score runs on day 2. day 3 should be stop start as will be the case on the 4th and 5th day.

Posted by Unomaas on (August 2, 2012, 9:51 GMT)

Am currently glued to cricinfo commentary waiting for the game to begin! As a Saffa, I'm also apprehensive because in the back of my mind is always that "C" word. We really have problems living up to expectations :(. Anyways, the key is Amla and Kallis! If those 2 get out cheaply and then we have a match!

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 9:50 GMT)

I have only seen Taylor bat twice, and both times he has disappointed me. He doesn't seem to have much of a presence at the wicket. Now James,time to prove me wrong!

Posted by maddy20 on (August 2, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

@ Hammond That was way back in 1985. Since then England managed to win 1 test, yes 1 test in 27 years. Since then they were drubbed 3-0, 1-0, 1-0 and have drawn in 2005-2006.

Posted by sohaibahmad on (August 2, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

i have a feeling that weather permitting England will win this match

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 8:40 GMT)

I love the way tons of other countries are either talking England up and SA down or SA up and England down! Personally as a Saffer I'm going to wait until the game is over to either crow or eat humble pie. May the best team win and more importantly may it be a good game of cricket.

Posted by Hammond on (August 2, 2012, 8:32 GMT)

@Feat Sam- actually, England have won 4 test series in India.

Posted by kevin_se_doos_24 on (August 2, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

HOPE being the operative word in the heading!!! They are hoping... that's all they can do!

Posted by Rowayton on (August 2, 2012, 8:15 GMT)

Thebowler'sHolding says that the weather 20 miles from Headingley is changeable at present? At present? It's always like that. I have admitted before on this site to being an Aussie, so I will say something very unAustralian. I reckon England will win this game. Not sure why - think I still remember that catch de Villiers dropped in first Test. A side with a really ordinary wicketkeeper always ends up struggling.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 2, 2012, 8:14 GMT)

I've heard rumours that Swann will not be playing and Eng will go for 4 pacemen. Not sure what to make of this. Obviously if Swann is hampered we don't want him playing but I'd rather they had called up Monty or another spinner. Personally I'm already pretty resigned and my only crumb of optimism is that SA have in the past failed to capitalise on positions of dominanace. What grates me is that I really do believe that our selectors are costing us our best chance of levelling the series before even a ball is bowled. If we went 5/1/5 and were still beaten - even thrashed - I'd accept that we'd at least explored every avenue to stop the rot.

Posted by satish619chandar on (August 2, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

@raj_24 : Not winning a WC will not make a team as bad as it sounds.. England has one T20 WC and SA has one Champions trophy to boast of.. SA is on the verge of becoming No.1 team now.. It doesn't have anything to do.. In fact, will you defend India's test run by saying they are current WC champions? NO.. Different formats mate.. SA are now a better side than any other side.. Deserve the top slot..

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

@Ameer Hamza eng cannot play on Asian pitches..

We may have been thrashed in eng last year but won on past pitches before but eng have won none in india....

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

this is going to be the toughest test for South Africa, in this series, they have to bowl first if they win the toss as the bowling attack is their strongest point. but if they bat first the south african middle order will play a pivotal role in ensuring that south africa win or draw this match, so I hope duminy, rudolph and Ab are in good nick.In terms of the top order King Kallis is the key in the top order coz I expect the skipper to fall early in the innings Amla and Kallis can put up a reasonable stand

Posted by Adrian1963 on (August 2, 2012, 5:32 GMT)

Cook ,Pieterson , Broad and Swan are all admired in SA - they are match winners and need to perform for England. Our middle order is unproven with Duminy and Rdolph. Does this pitch have bounce ? Swan needs it as do our bowlers. What has the pitch been like this season ?

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 5:30 GMT)

As long as india concerned they can not play on fast pitches they can only play on their home ground thats why they dont like england

Posted by Hammond on (August 2, 2012, 5:24 GMT)

@RandyOz- you should recognise excuses when you see them. You've been excusing the performance of your own side profusely for years.

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 4:49 GMT)

Winston,Dowding and the RAF ...RING ANY bells Mr.Struss, need inspiration look no further!

Posted by raj_24 on (August 2, 2012, 4:38 GMT)


SA are best and that is why they never reached any WC finals , always the chokers haha.

As regards Tests if they were so good why did they not get to 1 in all these 3 yrs the rating period?

Drawn series at home vs ENG IND And Aus ?

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

Another Mighty Ludicrous Attack!

Posted by dheerajshetty on (August 2, 2012, 4:30 GMT)

Will be a cakewalk for the proteas

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 2, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

It sounds like the English are already making their excuses, much like most of the English fans on this site. Fortunately we probably won't have to hear from them again when they get crushed on all fronts by South Africa, because they will go missing, much like they did during the entire Pakistan series. @SurlyCynic - classic!

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

Will the Proteas demolition squad Smith-Amla-kallis will repeat it again.

Posted by satish619chandar on (August 2, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge : Rather funny.. You call Indian attack as "Good"? A success against a Indian attack sans Zak can't be set as a example to face SA attack.. SA attack way more deadly.. Whereas, the bowling attack of India was even lesser than handy..

Posted by satish619chandar on (August 2, 2012, 4:13 GMT)

Doesn't matter whether England deserves the No.1 rank or not.. At present it is in their hands and they need to do just enough to hold it.. There is no good team these days to be termed as dominator of test cricket.. Even SA have just drawn home series and doesn't merit the world beater tag.. Holding the no.1 tag is the key.. There are no BEST team these days.. Only "better than others" teams.. Writing off any team against anyone will be silly.. All are equal weights.. Hope for good game of cricket..

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

@the_wallster Ah, well, go easy on Strauss. He's had a rough year

Posted by Ra_Thore on (August 2, 2012, 3:13 GMT)

The irony will be that Eng will SA with a narrow margin.

Posted by   on (August 2, 2012, 1:37 GMT)

I wish proteas will win this one again as they r more confident & cool than this ordinary English team.If Morkel gets Cook early thats gonna make some great difference.

Posted by the_wallster on (August 2, 2012, 0:09 GMT)

Going to be in the Western Terrace on Saturday weather permitted. Going to be giving the Saffers loads!

Posted by Dbatsman on (August 2, 2012, 0:00 GMT)

I dont think that England deserves to be number one team any more because this ongoing year they have lost five of their nine test and two of them they won against West Indies.

Posted by perl57 on (August 1, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

Be it flat or pacy or bouncy or sandpaper, fact is England will be stream rolled again. Even if England can score 400 when it is flat, it just needs 10 over of overcast weather for Steyn and Co to remove them. Then Amla will score another 1000 runs. What you sow you reap Andy Flower. You sowed the false confidence that they were best. But in fact you and them are all as good as Zimbabwe. I would like to see you play against Ireland. They will probably beat you again.

Posted by BeastofBarnsley on (August 1, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

I don't know what this "Headingley Magic" is (will have to ask Mr Boycott) but Headingley's resident county side could certainly do with some.

Posted by SCC08 on (August 1, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

Wonder if KP is getting a bit tense because he wasnt selected for the Olympics? I reckon he'd make a great Show Pony!

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (August 1, 2012, 22:48 GMT)

Headingly magic? When has Headingly ever been magical to them against SA recently?

Posted by yorkshirematt on (August 1, 2012, 22:08 GMT)

England getting their excuses in early regarding the pitch. They never like playing here. Add to that the, vociferous, yorkies getting on their backs, for want of a better word, and this will not feel like a home match for them.

Posted by sk12 on (August 1, 2012, 21:55 GMT)

Being an Indian, my support is for SA.. We would need an Eng team low on confidence wen they reach our shores in Nov. But going by recent records of both teams, I really doubt SA can get another one past the pommies. Interested to see their team composition.. No doubt SA would go with an unchanged team.

Posted by SCC08 on (August 1, 2012, 21:31 GMT)

If Morkel gets Strauss early the rest of the tour and Eng go 3-0 down, could Strauss be Smith's hatrick of Eng Captains.. Possible?

Posted by ATIMAYANK on (August 1, 2012, 21:30 GMT)

This ordinary english side is going to bow out in 4 days! Just one good summer and they start to pretend like world beaters! LOl. Were shown their place by Pakistan in UAE and now getting humiliated at the hands of saffers. When is England's tour of Bangladesh? I want to see if they can compete on rank turners against Shakib and co. Forget even competing against SL,India and Pakistan in their own backyard. These rankings are such a Joke since the demise of great Australian side.

Posted by truth1 on (August 1, 2012, 21:05 GMT)

Seems like old days! can somebody help me find out any comments by Clive Llyod/Viv Richards or Steve Waugh/Ponting during their reigns convincing media and public that their bowlers can take 20 wickets.Prior said after 1st Test defeat against Pak "its like a slap" and now Swann calls it Public humiliation signalling result of remaining tests similar to what happened against Pak. Ravi is a clever man as he knows playing whole of this series against SA will make him extinct though the others will survive to win matches against Zimbabwe, BD, Kenya, Afghanistan on home grounds. Headingley magic? So thats how the greatest team of the universe will stay at number one?

Posted by Silver31 on (August 1, 2012, 20:44 GMT)

England are no.1 in the world on their home soil. Wow why are they playing so badly. Strauss needs some runs. I would look towards Cook taking over. Better more attacking captain from what have seen.

Posted by The_bowlers_Holding on (August 1, 2012, 20:36 GMT)

drnaveed could you please provide the code needed to read your post as it is bewildering to say the least, maddy20 you interesting and profound offerings are always refreshing. I live about 20 miles from Headingley and the weather is very changeable at present and for the next few days so expect plenty stoppages.

Posted by stormy16 on (August 1, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

May be I am just imagining but I see a strange tune of the wicket "at times helps bowlers but at times is flat" - this sounds an awful lot like the Oval wicket which changed behavior depending on which team was doing well! The good news is both teams can blame the wicket at the end of the day.

Posted by SCC08 on (August 1, 2012, 20:08 GMT)

"Headingly Magic" - do you mean rain? 5 days of it?

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (August 1, 2012, 20:07 GMT)

Toss will be important. But remember England's professional, stoic negotiation of the conditions against a good Indian bowling attack last year.

Posted by maddy20 on (August 1, 2012, 19:58 GMT)

Time for another royal clobbering . Go Saffas!

Posted by drnaveed on (August 1, 2012, 19:50 GMT)

i think that if one side believes that it is number 1 team in the cricket world , than it should perform on the cricket field , rather than depending on miracles like england thinking about headingley magic. england doesnt seems to have faith in their front line batsmen , as a result they want batsmen who could bat till the end , like bresnan, swann and broad.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (August 1, 2012, 19:48 GMT)

I'm sure Strauss will be inspired for the next test by the gold medals won by his country's athletes in the Olympics. Both Le Clos and Van Den Berg swam very well.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (August 1, 2012, 19:30 GMT)

It was so depressing watching those actors playing cricket better during the opening ceremony, than the England team...

Posted by   on (August 1, 2012, 19:13 GMT)

South Africa was and is always be the best team in the world. Only problem with them that at times their luck don't favor them. Technically speaking England has no chance of winning. They can win only when SA luck is not favoring them. Other wise they are far superior in all department of the game, bowling, batting fielding and Captain ship.

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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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