England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day

Blunted England facing pitch battle

England's main bowling weapons proved ineffective on a sluggish track and, although they have been in this position before, they must fight now to save the Test

George Dobell at The Oval

July 21, 2012

Comments: 166 | Text size: A | A

It was a difficult morning for the England bowlers, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, 3rd day, The Oval, July 21, 2012
England's bowlers suffered one of their more difficult days in recent times © Getty Images
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Like a toothless man confronted with the hardest of apples, England's bowlers were left hungry and frustrated by South Africa's batting line-up at The Oval. It was not just that England managed only one wicket. It was that the ball hardly beat the bat all day and batting against England's much-vaunted bowling attack - a key part of their success in recent times - looked easy. Worryingly easy, from an England perspective.

It means England's batsmen - already behind by 18 runs, with a great deal more to come - are likely to face a testing final day fighting for a draw. The advantage of winning the toss and bowling last on a surface expected to turn has gone. South Africa's legspinner Imran Tahir, now charged with bowling his side to victory, faces what may prove to be a defining day in his Test career.

It has been some time since England's bowlers were rendered so impotent for so long. Perhaps not since Brisbane at the start of the 2010-11 Ashes, when Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin added 307 together, though England were also thrashed around Edgbaston a few weeks ago by West Indies' No. 11, Tino Best

The comparison with that Ashes game is perhaps more relevant, though. For while England's attack struggled in that game, it is worth remembering what happened in the rest of the series: England's bowlers established a growing dominance over Australia and the struggles of that first game were put down to an unusually flat track. It may well prove to be the same this time. While there is some assistance for spin bowlers, the turn is painfully slow.

Some will look for quick fixes and easy answers. They will say that Steven Finn or Graham Onions should have played in place of either Tim Bresnan or Ravi Bopara and that England would be better for the presence of five bowlers in their line-up.

Perhaps they have a point. Perhaps Finn, with his extra pace and height, may have coaxed some seam movement from this sleepy surface. Or perhaps his extra pace would simply have aided the batsmen. Perhaps Chris Tremlett, another huge man capable of extracting extra bounce from even the most docile surface, might also have made a difference. It is hard to avoid the conclusion, though, that Tremlett, Finn and Onions will have seen the hard labour of their colleagues on this pitch and counted themselves rather fortune to have sat this one out.

The last time England conceded more than 500 was in Cardiff, at the start of the 2009 Ashes, when Australia scored 674 for 6 against a five-man England bowling attack. Not only did three of this England attack also play in that game - James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann - but they again showed later in the series that, given some help from the conditions, they could still be highly effective. These things happen.

Still, this was a performance that requires some reflection from the England management. The worry must be that England's bowlers were unable to gain any of the lateral movement achieved by their South Africa counterparts. All England's weapons - their new ball skills, their reverse swing, the dominance of Swann's spin against left-handers - proved ineffective and their default position, the ability to apply pressure through tight bowling, also gradually fell away a little after an excellent start: all England's frontline seamers conceded more than three an over and, while South Africa progressed at a rate of just 2.17 runs per over for the first 51 overs of their innings, that had risen above three by the time they reached the 130th over.

Their plans did not work, either. The attempt to nip the ball back into Graeme Smith and trap him leg before was negated by the batsman's improved balance and the lack of swing, but it took England a long time to alter course and bowl outside off stump in an attempt to induce an edge. While Anderson remained tight, Broad was unusually anodyne for one so talented. Indeed, for a time, he was out-bowled by Bopara. It may be relevant that all three England seamers appear to have lost some of their pace over the last year. Sans seam, swing or pace, they looked a modest outfit.

"I wouldn't have said there was bad bowling," David Saker, England's bowling coach, said afterwards. "It was extremely good batting from Smith and [Hashim] Amla in particular and then Kallis put the icing on the cake. It was a very flat wicket. Our guys toiled very well. There was some very good batting. We couldn't get the ball to move laterally - with new ball or old ball - which is one of our big strengths.


England's bowlers had a chastening day, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day, July 21, 2012
David Saker: "It was a very flat wicket. Our guys toiled very well. There was some very good batting" © AFP
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"We haven't had days like this very often. It was a tough day, but I was proud of the way the bowlers kept running in and kept toiling away. They did everything we asked of them, but they couldn't get the ball to move and the batting was exceptional. We did talk often, sometimes at drinks breaks we had messages sent out to them, but we just couldn't find a way through the defences of the batters. I think the pitch will be okay on day five to bat on.

England's main problem was simply that they came up against some high-quality, determined batsmen on a slow wicket - Saker described it as "subcontinental". They were reliant for breakthroughs on batsman error and the batsmen refused to make any. That is the key to beating England.

Test cricket has changed a great deal in recent years and England have benefited. While teams of the past were quite happy to accumulate quietly and take a safety-first approach, the last couple of decades have seen a more aggressive brand of cricket emerge. Much of England's success has come against impatient batsmen whose first method of defence is to attack and who lack either the technique or temperament to withstand old-fashioned, disciplined English-style seam and swing bowling.

It is probably wise to hold judgement on the quality of the pitch until the end of the game. But pitches like this, deathly slow and sluggish, do little to encourage positive cricket and have given two fine bowling attacks little chance to shine. In front of full-house crowds paying large sums for tickets, that seems an unwise long-term ploy. Indeed, as an increasingly disgruntled crowd found their own entertainment in Mexican waves and the like, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that pitches like this present one of the gravest threats to the future of Test cricket.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Hammond on (July 24, 2012, 10:39 GMT)

@Harmony111- how about you write into the ICC and get them to explain to you how England are officially number one in test cricket. I don't need to justify this official position in any way.

Posted by Harmony111 on (July 23, 2012, 9:08 GMT)

@Hammond: Lol. How about the 0-5 whitewash India handed to your team later that year? Forgotten that? And don't try to use the Oz tour as a counter argument. It was Oz, not you. If you would then have it already from me that your team was whitewashed 0-3 in UAE by Pakistan who were not even playing at home and in very batting friendly conditions. Foxy Ajmal was way too cunning for all the Eng equines - pure bred or imports. How about the SL tour? There too your team could only draw the series against the poor Lankans who had been playing non stop for 4 tours and had not even been paid for 12 months. See, when I start reeling out the record of your team it suddenly ceases to be funny any more.

Posted by karthik_raja on (July 23, 2012, 5:47 GMT)

@Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22 2012, 07:26 AM GMT) "can you show me where any of the team or management have attempted to blame conditions?" - hmm.. I wonder who is Saker then..???

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 22, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

@Joel Providence (post on July 22 2012, 14:26 PM GMT): I was just thinking about Lara's record too. Amla never looked like getting out! Some other countries might have let him go for the record, but fair play to SA: they're making sure of the win.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 16:40 GMT)

"it was hard to avoid the conclusion that pitches like this present one of the gravest threats to the future of Test cricket. " Mr. Dobell, you should stop jumping to conclusions too soon. :P

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 22, 2012, 15:18 GMT)

Predictable comments as usual. Instead of just saying that SA batted extremely well, the reports are now full of comments from random people saying how rubbish England are. And rude/ignorant comments are getting added, whilst unobtrusive ones are not. This is why people are asking where all the England fans are now. PLEASE PUBLISH.

Posted by kunderanengineer on (July 22, 2012, 15:04 GMT)

With the Saffers leading by 252 at tea I can't help but think that they could have had considerably more. As much as fans like to see landmarks, milestones and records being broken, unfortunately they also tend to slow the match down as the batsmen play with a lot more caution. Especially in the context of this match where SA need quick runs and declare relatively early so that they have enough time to conceivably take 10 wicket on a flat pitch, I would have loved to see De Villiers come in and step on the accelerator while at the same time entertain the crowd with some of his patented strokes but it looks like we won't see him in this match at all.

Posted by Divinetouch on (July 22, 2012, 14:52 GMT)

Hello 5wombats, JG274 and Yorkshirelad.

Posted by Marcio on (July 22, 2012, 14:51 GMT)

@jmcilhinney, Austealia beat SA four out of 7 internationals on that tour. I. Contrast that with the fact that England won five out of 14 internationals they played vs AUS on the last Ashes tour. All I'm saying is that the gap between these teams is much closer than Englush fans and media believe. can't say I'm sorry to see this pasting England is getting here. Let's call it karmic payback for all the bashing and nonsense English posters wrote here after the less than meaningful recent ODI series which ENG fans decided was the epitome of cricketing truth, regardless of how unrepresentative of the wonderful cricket the AUS team has played over the past 18 months.

Posted by EverybodylovesSachin on (July 22, 2012, 14:38 GMT)

Welcome to England.. Country of green top bouncy and seaming wickets LOL.. even subcontinent wickets are better than this Highway of nowhere..

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 14:26 GMT)

Is Lara's test batting record of 400 runs under threat? Is there enough time? Will Smith compromise South Africa's chance of victory by letting Amla go for the record? Stay tuned for the intrigue to come.

Posted by kh1902 on (July 22, 2012, 14:25 GMT)

Surely SA can declare soon. Kallis has a large enough not out score to boost his average in England which is what he's after. By now De Villiers or Duminy should have been in, but then SA have a great bowler in Steyn which is why their batsmen can hang around, playing for personal milestones.

Posted by krvij on (July 22, 2012, 14:13 GMT)

Eng can still come back in this match and in this series. Teams are bound to face ups and down and cant dominate all opponents for ever, but one needs to respect all the teams and that they are doing the best. At this point Eng is facing what they did to India. but then, while everyone where singing glories of Eng, India got some harsh comments. hope this experience will remind all that one needs to be on the ground always. Eng have been performing well, they got a good team and that's why they are number one. Regardless of what ranking says, they need to win this series and in India if people are to accept the no 1 ranking!!

Posted by 777aditya on (July 22, 2012, 14:02 GMT)

the same attack was deemed razor sharp against India in similar conditions - just goes on to show that with intense application like the RSA superbats, impossible is nothing!, right Sachin?!

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 22, 2012, 13:48 GMT)

@ Hammond. Another way of looking at it is that in this test Amla has scored more runs than all the native born and raised English players managed! Now if we wish to keep nationality out go the conversation, let's just then settle for the fact that the top 4 English bowlers have each conceded more runs than Cook managed to accumulate.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 22, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

@ Hammond. South African bats have now scored 173 runs in innings one, and 562 runs in innings 2! Yep - 735 runs and they are still piling them on. Still feeling amused then?

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 22, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

Oh Georgie George, let's wait till you see England bat again on this pitch. You guys are in some trouble now as Steyn n co will breathe fire in the last innings of this test.

Posted by samincolumbia on (July 22, 2012, 13:21 GMT)

Will South Africa try to score 1000 runs with Amla scoring 500 on this road pitch...Test cricket is so exciting!!

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 22, 2012, 13:16 GMT)

Welcome to Fortress England! History in the making here. Lunch on day 4 and the so called "best bowling attack in the world" have in this test taken the same number of wickets as the 38 year old Kallis. Unfortunately they have used up 143 more overs and conceded 438 more runs in doing so, & for the first time in their history allowed two 250 run partnerships in the same innings. Eng have now racked up five hundreds in the match - one by Cook and one each conceded by Jimmy, Stewie, Graeme and Timmy! "Best attack in the world" at conceding runs? "No. 1" at conceding huge partnerships? The sad thing is that it is not the English players who labored so intently at creating the illusory "Fortress England," and they could still swing the fortunes of this match, and win it. (Although Prior must be feeling chumpish for his "350 is a par score on this wicket" statement.) It is Dobell and company - the prognosticating pundits - that have a surfeit of their own words to feast on during lunch!

Posted by imransangdil on (July 22, 2012, 13:06 GMT)

England is an extremely overrated team in all format, lost against Pakistan 3-0 and drew test series against Sl and i'm pretty sure they will lose against Ind in upcoming test series. Their only notable victory was against Aus and think they are the best team of all time! LOL. This test match prove where they stand.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 13:01 GMT)

Test cricket is getting so boring that it is senseless to aid its death with dead pitches. On the other hand great batting by South Africa.

Posted by kunderanengineer on (July 22, 2012, 12:18 GMT)

When I watch Amla bat the only athlete that comes to mind is Roger Federer. Seriously, does this man sweat at all?

Posted by kunderanengineer on (July 22, 2012, 12:15 GMT)

Is it the pitch or are England's bowlers out of ideas? I guess we'll know the answer in the 3rd innings to see how England's batsmen handle the Saffer bowlers although England will admittedly be batting under considerably more pressure being behind by over 200 runs.

Posted by HatsforBats on (July 22, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

As for the cricket, 5 and a bit sessions to go, SA can't lose. If Kallis maintains this SR (48) he will only reinforce his reputation as a selfish batsman. With AB waiting in the wings, hit out or get out. England have a solid and talented lineup and SA will need at least 250 on this pitch.

Posted by HatsforBats on (July 22, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

@ Hammond; sorry but had to comment. It is understandable to be embarrassed at times by the behaviour of some of our countrymen, but that same team included players and people of integrity who have done wonderful things for underpriviledged communities across the globe. You're right in wanting to cut down the tall poppy, and of course you're intitled to feel how you feel. Hey, at least in these mercenary times you remain contemporary.

Posted by djdrastic on (July 22, 2012, 11:54 GMT)

WELCOME TO FORTRESS ENGLAND !

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22, 2012, 11:46 GMT)

@zenboomerang on (July 22 2012, 09:09 AM GMT), you know and I know it but if some fool is going to use the fact that Australia won one game against SA as evidence that they are the second best team in the world then it's perfectly legitimate to use the fact that Australia lost a game to NZ at home to refute that.

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 11:42 GMT)

@indiarox4ever- don't you feel a little funny criticising a team that whitewashed you completely a year ago?

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 11:13 GMT)

I also find it amusing that everyone has stopped having a go at England for the "foreign" UK citizens that play in the England team. Seems to be only a last resort thing to say when England are doing well.

Posted by Bodders70 on (July 22, 2012, 11:08 GMT)

Oh yes, Marcio, I do remember that well - no guarantee that you'd have taken the final wicket with the extra over of time but it was unreasonable gamesmanship I won't deny it. I hope they don't do it again if it's a similar situation but all teams do all sorts of silly time-wasting tactics so it's possible.

Posted by priceless1 on (July 22, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

booring Test match, both teams are playing for a draw from the very first day of the match:(

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

Man Amla may have enough time here for a crack at 300.. England have a lot of thinking to do second test.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 10:49 GMT)

Slow batting has cost SA victory in the past. Remember Sydney 05/06, Kallis and Prince scoring hundreds but they still lost when Ponting single handedly scored twin hundreds. SA should push ahead with fast scoring. Maybe the 96 against Australia, the loss in the 2nd test against Aus plus the defeat against SL still plays on their mind.

Posted by Marcio on (July 22, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

@Bodders70, maybe you forgot the infamous glove changing fiasco which ended up winning England the series, after they should have lost the first test by 280 runs. Do you think England will try that again if they get down to the last wicket?

Posted by indiarox4ever on (July 22, 2012, 10:40 GMT)

The first line of defence ( flat track against Steyn and co.) inside the 'fortress' crumbled rather quickly and the second option of preparing green tops for the English 'pace battery' is rather scary as it may be utilized better by SA 'bowlers'. How about preparing a dust bowl for 'the best spinner in the world'? Maybe, hiring the services of George and likes, to sing praises of the 'greatest ever' test team, will do the job. Maybe legalizing the switch hit is the answer. How about playing cricket?

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

@zenboomerang.. be surprised then. No expat, nothing English about me at all. Just 100% fair dinkum Peter Russell Clarke Australian. Turned away from my own countries team by the very Un-Australian attitude that used to pervade the whole of CA. (and remains in a few current players and plenty of the posters one finds on cricinfo). The arrogant attitude that makes me embarrassed about where I come from. There isn't anything more Australian to me than wanting to cut down a few tall poppies.

Posted by Winsome on (July 22, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

Why would George Dobell say such an over-the-top thing about the pitch?Jounalists are always tolling the bell on test cricket. I swear most of them secretly want to be shot of it. I thought it was great test cricket. Any time you've got Hashim Amla batting for most of a day, for a spectator that is about as good as it gets.

Posted by ATC1810 on (July 22, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

Do expect a pitch to deteriorate to some extent after three days not still be as good for batting as at the start of day 1. Flat tracks like this and those found all over India are as bad for the game as those pitches which give too much help to the bowlers.

Posted by Bodders70 on (July 22, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

The closest parallel to this isn't Brisbane where England batted long to get a draw but Cardiff '09. England under-scored on a dead pitch that was supposed to be good for spinners, their spinners then look toothless and ineffective and the opposition gets a big lead. England hold out for a draw (just). Plenty of comments that we'd never take twenty wickets in the series which we go on to win. The differences are SA have a better bowling attack and we don't have Collingwood so I think we'll lose this one. All those thinking this is the whole series and things can't change though clearly don't know cricket. I really wish we had Colly and his miniscule back-lift though!

Posted by Munkeymomo on (July 22, 2012, 9:51 GMT)

South Africans batted beautifully. England should have backed their batsmen and produced a greener pitch (or picked Finn over Ravi), this was cowardly.

Also I know Bresnan has a good record but jesus I am bored of watching him bowl, every time I switched the TV on he was bowling with Swann! He's not as good to watch as Jim/Stu.

Still, this is pleasing the rest of the world, baying for English blood.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 9:45 GMT)

@ dsig3 - haha spot on. Media Mark is right at the top of blowing England's performances out of water. No doubt he will go deathly silent like most of the poms on here :)

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (July 22, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

I can see this going the way of the Eng v Aus GABBA test 2010, where eng trailed but came back with 540/1 in the second innings.. no problems

Posted by MiddlePeg on (July 22, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

These comments are all hilarious and have little to do with cricket! Why don't you all just be honest with yourselves and say "we feel threatened by England so we don't like the country. Oh but we'd love a British passport and would give anything to live and work in England"? Laughable...

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (July 22, 2012, 9:38 GMT)

Poor poor australia followers, begging south africa to beat us...keep looking up girls

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 9:34 GMT)

@jackiethepen. Only a mad man would have sent a team in on that pitch. @Dsig3, looks like the fortress is under siege, just a matter of time to see if the African cannons can penetrate the walls of the castle.@Meety, spot on about the pitch. I think RSA have just been fortunate enough to have had the better of the conditions so far both with the ball and the bat. That happens a lot in England though. It's recognising what's going on quickly that is the key from a captains point of view and I think Smith and co. did well to go defensive after lunch on day 1 and bowl that dry line. So often i've heard McGrath, Warney and others talk of drying up the scoring as a wicket taking method and it's a genuine formula. It's just that most people commenting here seemed to think it was poor bowling but I think it's quite clear that AD and Kirsey have the RSA ship pointed in the right direction.

Posted by zenboomerang on (July 22, 2012, 9:32 GMT)

@Hammond :- "well then I will freely admit that we [Eng] have been outplayed"... Don't care where you live, but repeatedly using incorrect syntax in posts makes RandyOz & Meety's comments valid... Be enormously surprised that you are an Aussie, or a expat proudly living in his new homeland, no matter whatever you claim... Read too many of your posts...

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 22, 2012, 9:27 GMT)

Oh that dreadful sunshine... can't someone block it off? When the sun shines, England's bowlers don't do so well because they don't know what the sun is!

Posted by RCRCRC on (July 22, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

Guys why are we are not critizing England's Bowling Attack...... Yes it as Flat Wicket ... but do a world No. 1 team and no. 1 bowling attack requires seaming friendly wicket..... to be one of the best bowling attacks , you need to be good on all wickets...... What will happen to them when they will visit India this winter......... Wold Class team are tose teams who are consistant at all places like Australia was used to...... England stands nowhere against them......... 1. Their bowling attack requires seaming friendly wickets 2. Their batting collapses against spinners (result against Pakistan proves it) 3. They don't have quality spinners (Swann is just another bowler when t comes to playing against teams who play spin well)

Posted by Bramblefly on (July 22, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

@Gerard Pereira 0847AMGMT - Conditions are conditions Gerard; get used to it. The whole pitch rigging thing is one more conspiracy theory. Groundsmen can't win. There's always someone to suggest shady behaviour when they are trying to produce the best they can for competitive cricket. If I have a complaint about this one, I'd agree with you that it is too benign so far. Remember though that it's expected to crack, turn and bounce bringing Imran into play on the last day. Whether he's good enough to take advantage, we'll see.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 9:15 GMT)

I think most people are being pretty harsh on Bresnan here. I missed all of yesterdays play unfortunately. But besides that, Brezzers has always been the one to produce a wicket for England when the batsmen were on top and he is almost always a threat with his reverse swing, complementing Anderson perfectly. One poor day out on a featherbed should not be the end of him. I'd certainly pick Finn in front of Broad though. Even then i'm not sure Finn would have made any difference here, but he does have a far better attitude and bowls in better areas than Broad. For today, so much will hinge on AB and JP. If they can rack up 100 quick runs between them then it will give SA much longer to bowl at the English. Tahir will also surely come into it with the growing footmarks on offer, the pitch must surely deteriote somewhat by day five.

Posted by zenboomerang on (July 22, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

@jmcilhinney :- "Australia that beat SA in SA was then beaten by NZ in Australia"... Sorry mate, but NZ didn't beat Oz in Oz - drawn series - the same as Oz v SA in SA... Both 2 Test match series & meaningless from any logical point of view... Also played on poor, under prepared & overly green pitch at Cape Town & early season Hobart... Surprised at no comments by media or ICC... PS: looks like a draw, so hoping day4 throws up a few surprises...

Posted by kh1902 on (July 22, 2012, 9:08 GMT)

ToeCruncher: You say that Kallis bats well in South Africa, as though that's a great thing. If he can't bat well at home, then God help him. You speak as though batting in South Africa is the only thing that matters. The point in my original post, was that Kallis often scores runs when the other South African batsmen do. He goes missing when SA are in trouble, eg against Pat Cummins last year. Kallis' reputation has been enhanced by playing in a good team. He's always played alongside terrific bowlers. People assume that his run scoring is instrumental to SA's victories when it isn't. SA beat England and Australia away from home with Kallis doing nothing with the bat. His failures go unnoticed because noone scrutinises him. Greatness is not measured by stats. It is measured by versatility across a range of conditions and situations. He doesn't deserve to be put on a pedestal just because he's fortunate enough to play in a team which has the bowlers to win.

Posted by jezzastyles on (July 22, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

Brisbane 2011 is in the past - sure the English batsmen can draw strength from a past performance, but from memory, that Gabba pitch got better to bat on the longer the match went - it was still a very good batting pitch on day 5. I doubt this will be the case with this pitch. Add to that the good SA bowling attack backed up be good fielders, and we may get a result. England will be looking for another match-saving hundred from Cook. But you never know, England could come out and fire up early on day 4, take a few early wickets and build some momentum, much like SA did on day 2. That's the beauty of TEST cricket, you never know what's going to pan out over a day's play.

Posted by Marcio on (July 22, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

Its fair enough to mention pitch and weather conditions because they are at the heart of what we are seeing here, just as they were on day 1. The thing is, English weather is very changeable, so if it blows over misty and drizzly, the prospects of England batting out a day for a draw will suddenly plummet. I wouldn't count my chickens yet if I was SA. I recall the first test of the 2nd last ashes series in ENG, when England were 9 down with about 280 runs to get to... ahem, win. Then, in the most brazen display of gamesmanship I have ever seen, the last 2 batsmen kept calling to the sidelines to change gloves every few minutes, wasting large amounts of time, and helping them save the game, and ultimately winning England the Ashes 2-1, even though they were outplayed most of the series, and averaged about 20 runs per wicket less than AUS for the series! Somehow the Poms don't recall that little bit when boasting of winning the Ashes that year... Personally, I think I'd rather lose...

Posted by Bramblefly on (July 22, 2012, 9:02 GMT)

@sawifan 08.20am GMT - Oops, my mistake. However, the underlying point was that two tests taken in isolation hardly count as an indication of the best 2 test teams, even in Randy Oz's strange world. As you say, it's history. The problem is that England threads are full of "visiting" posters all too happy to pick selectively from the past and ignore English success. Since the end of australian domination, the picture of who's best has been mixed and I've rarely seen an English post denying that. If only the bitter visitors could match that grace in their postings. (SAWI; interesting combination by the way. Is that just for this English summer?)

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

England had a dilema going into the test series against SA, to produce rigged green tops like they did against india last year meant risking being blown away by SA'a superior bowling attack. Better then to produce flat pitches and come away with three draws and thus hanging on to their supposed number one spot.

Posted by dsig3 on (July 22, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

What we need is Mark Nicholas to write another powder puff piece to up the spirits of the poor English. Who can forget "Fortress England".........I know the rest of the cricket community certainly wont ;)

Posted by Just_love_it on (July 22, 2012, 8:25 GMT)

Honestly in all practicality only rain can save England from defeat.All SA needs to do play 50/60 overs tom and take lead to around 250 and go after England just before tea or just after tea for about 30/40 overs and i'm sure tired England will not escape from losing at least 2/3 wickets before stumps and if once 2/3 down on 4th day rest of wickets will tumble under pressure on 5th day .SA might need to chase around 80/100 max in 25/30 overs on 5th day. BUT as i said rain can save England.Anyway SA truly deserve to be #1 once they win this series.And that will bring down so called BEST bowling attack on any track anywhere to ground and reality.Well done Proteas and Good luck to Poms (they will need it badly for this series)

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 8:22 GMT)

England thought it would be an easy task as like India last year summer. But SA has some world class batting line-ups cannot compared with. You cannot compare Kallis, Amla, Smith, DeVilliers, Steyn, Morkel, Philander with Sachin, Dravid, Smith, Laxman, ZKhan, Ishant, PKumar. Dravid may equate with Amla for patience and skills but surely others could not match. These Ind players all called match winners but I dont know how many match they won for India in Overseas (SA, AUS, ENG, WI, NZ). Good luck for SA to win the series and become No.1 (they deserve it).

Posted by warneneverchuck on (July 22, 2012, 8:21 GMT)

This clearly shows ENG fear of SA bowling attack. Had they been playing any other team the pitch would have been different

Posted by sawifan on (July 22, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

@bramblefly... get your facts right. SAF won the first test againt AUS, and AUS came back to win the 2nd test. So where was that series heading?! Also, 47, get over it, its the past. At least it was against a great bowling line-up, unlike ENG's 51, 51, 51 against the WIN. And one-day form doesn't mean a thing. ENG thrashed AUS in the last Ashes, but the following ODI series was the opposite. ENG are a good side for sure, but they are far from great.

Posted by MAK123 on (July 22, 2012, 8:12 GMT)

Everybody, instead of criticising England bowling attack, one should appreciate the fine batting display by the South Africans. It is important to remember that with an average of much less than 3 runs per over, the South Africans actually started, rather spent the whole 3rd day, grinding it for a draw. It was only late in the evening that they might have realized to push for a substantial lead on day four and therefore a result. I think both SA and England were both extremely defensive in their approach, naturally, being the very first, albeit an important test of the series. If SA can push the lead to around 230-250 by tea time on the fourth day, England might come under a bit of a pressure but to say their would completely roll over, the spinners would have to play a huge role.

Posted by Gupta.Ankur on (July 22, 2012, 7:57 GMT)

Its is amazing that suddenly the entire english press and cricket management has woken up to the "flat track" truth now.

They had quite a few praising articles of their batsmen on day 1, when pitch was not much different.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

http://www.relianceiccrankings.com/

Looking at the above stats and rankings. WHY are england journalist and commentators blaming the pitch?

I've NEVER known england to be good at cricket, only mediocre. Is this anything new? They are number 1 for beating lower ranked teams while SA is not playing. They beat the aussies in the ashes, and SA dont play the ashes...

Shame!

Posted by thebarmyarmy on (July 22, 2012, 7:44 GMT)

England will need to bat 4 sessions to draw. Pretty much how the game is...

Posted by Vinmu on (July 22, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

Why do i get a feeling whenever i read Sir dobells comments , its like only England is playing in the test match.If someone picked up this article without reading news ..They would not know who is england playing against.It is one of the most biased articles you would see. Pick any article and you would only see him praisaing or talking about England players or lack of application.It takes guts to say that that players dint perform well ..Excuses wont help England and i am hoping India or any other country thrash they hell outta them and expose the bubble media and builiding around the team..They are a good team but definitely not the best team at the moment.Its time for the change.. Sir please cricket is a team game and not a game played within themselves

Posted by Meety on (July 22, 2012, 7:36 GMT)

@ VillageBlacksmith - at this point, there are very similar parrallells with the Gabba Ashes. == == == I 'spose everyone is currently use to whitewashes or something, the garbage being splutterred about the pitch is just that - garbage. The curator had no prep time (usually need at least one preferably 2 weeks of reasonable weather). The curator has done a reasonable job - & anybody saying that England were trying to prepare a flat pitch to nullify the Saffas bowlers is fairly ignorant. The Saffas are now on top from playing good cricket - in the field on Day 2, & with the bat on Day 3. So far they have been better than England - whether that translates into a win will possibly depend on how many glove changes Strauss gets his batsmen to make in the Eng 2nd innings (had to put that in).

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

Perhaps there are some fans and some journalists that are looking for excuses but can you show me where any of the team or management have attempted to blame conditions? If England go on to lose this then Strauss and Flower will not be blaming conditions. Many said from the start that day 3 would be the best for batting it that was likely true, but that's not to say that they were bad earlier. SA bowled well on the second morning and England batted poorly. It's often said that one session can be the difference and that session was definitely a turning point. There's no specific reason to believe that England won't be able to bat out 4 sessions at the end of the match though.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 7:07 GMT)

This website is ridiculously skewed in favour of England. To compare SA on day 1 vs Eng on day 3 is a joke. SA didn't bowl very well but they didn't let Eng get away and that kept them in the game. If Eng had gone at 4 an over, the game would have been pretty much over after the end of day 1 so SA deserve credit for not being at their best but sticking to their plans and keeping themselves the game. That is surely a mark of a world-class team. Also what is this vendetta against Graeme Smith - why the constant jibes about his "ugly" playing style? It just seems very petty and unnecessary.

Posted by valvolux on (July 22, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

I have the uptmost respect for this english side - strauss, cook, trott and pietersen are a formidable top 4. jimmy anderson is for me the most skillful new ball bowler in the game. It's the coverage on cricinfo that makes opposition fans dislike them and doubt them so much. the english side is not to blame. after being destroyed in the subontinent, it only took a series against the Windies B team for articles to be written that this english side is comparable to the great sides. anderson and swann were all of a sudden as good as mcgrath and warne. articles were written how england is on the verge of having a bowling attack with sub 30 averages. where are these articles for other teams? australia currently has a first pick bowling attack all sub 30. SA's 3 pacemenare under 30. in the commentry, the saffers toil and the commentators doubt the captaincy, the form..comment after comment. deadly silence while eng toils - only comments pop up to say its a flat wicket. bias much?

Posted by Marcio on (July 22, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

@Bramblefly, no Australia beat SA FOUR times on that tour 1/2 T20s, 2/3 ODIs and 1/2 tests. Get your facts right, since you are using the recent ENG-AUS ODI series as the true measure of how great ENG are, and how bad AUS are. And BTW, SA lost their last 9 wickets for 49 runs the same day AUS was all out for 47. I wouldn't call that a big difference - again, since you want to take that out of context.

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 7:01 GMT)

@RandyOz- "We" meaning England- I as an English cricket supporter consider myself part of the "We". Apart from that I am a 100% first fleet Irish convict decendant who was born here in Australia and lived here all my life. My family comes from a little town called Geurie near Dubbo. I have gone for England since that amazing South Africa series in 2003 and will follow them for the rest of my life. And unlike you, I am man enough to congratulate the opposition on playing superior cricket when my team is outplayed.

Posted by satish619chandar on (July 22, 2012, 6:45 GMT)

This pitch subcontinental? By this time, a usual subcontinent pitch will turn and bounce.. And, As i always maintained, unless it is overcast and cool wind blowing, England track will be flat.. Irrespective of the amount of grass they leave..

Posted by balajik1968 on (July 22, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

Three days of good hard cricket. England had the upper hand at the end of day 1 but South Africa have recovered really well over the last 2 days with good bowling and solid batting. I don't understand the brouhaha over the pitch. South Africa recovered and bowled really well on the second day. If England is going to blame "subcontinental" conditions for this, they will never be called a great team. England are good, quite good but great teams do not complain or blame the conditions.

Posted by Bramblefly on (July 22, 2012, 6:23 GMT)

A tough day for England in the face of great SA batting. However, echo kh1902 in that England, with the knnown exceptions, rather threw it away on Thursday whilst SA took their chance brilliantly. A repeat of Brisbane would make an already absorbing series even better. BTW, Greatest Game, who are Kallis' critics? None that I can see in England.

Posted by SamRoy on (July 22, 2012, 6:18 GMT)

I agree with @Spelele completely. Against World Class Batsmen on a flat pitch one needs a great bowler to cause trouble. SA have one, Dale Steyn. England have none. Though they have a potentially great bowler whom they refuse to play because he can't bat. I have always thought since last year, when he came back to international cricket by adding almost three yards of pace to his bowling, Steve Finn could be the next Ambrose or Garner. But England don't play him. They prefer Bresnan who is good bowler but has no chance of being a great bowler

Posted by Bramblefly on (July 22, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

@RandyOz 02.45AM - Australia beat them in SA once, just like England last time out there, and lost the second test heavily. 47, 47, 47, 47. With the momentum going with SA, I think we can predict where that series would have gone if extended beyond a paltry 2 tests. This test isn't over and the question you need to ask yourself is why you need to replace your support for your national side with one for 11 South African born players (Oh wait, 10). The recent one day series looked a good pointer towards next year's Ashes.

Posted by Swamin on (July 22, 2012, 5:59 GMT)

England supporters believe that England never lost an international match in last 3 years.

Posted by kh1902 on (July 22, 2012, 5:58 GMT)

Funny how everyone is now having a go at England. South Africa lost test matches at home to India and Sri Lanka and looked pretty ordinary. They lift against stronger opponents but their arrogance against weaker opponents means that they will never be a great team.

Over the past 10 years there has been a marked decline in the standard of batting and bowling at test level. The only great bowler to have emerged over the last 10 years is Steyn and there have been no great batsmen to emerge.

Compared to the '90s where there were a number of great bowlers (Mcgrath, Akram, Donald, Warne and Murali) and 3 great batsmen (Lara, Ponting and Tendulkar) at their peak, the last 10 years has been disappointing. On a wicket like this, only a truly great bowler, like Steyn, can threaten the bastman (or create enough pressure for much lesser bowlers to take wickets). None of England's bowlers are great, so any half-decent batsman in the world could score runs against them on this pitch.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

@elsmallo and the others asking us to look towards the English skies, i would rather say, look down on the ground, at the 'the-best-swing-bowling-attack' that's rather muggy and soggy. This was bound to happen. It was your good fortune to have played a 4 match series against a flagging, ageing Indian batting line-up. For your sake though, i would rather pray for gloomy, cloudy skies for your 'the-best-swing-bowling-attack' to fluff-up again. But its a different matter that i am an Atheist.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 5:37 GMT)

I have already said, in my earlier post , that english men need to tame Hashim amla , orherwise it would be problem for them, you have lost the opportunity , it is prize wkt. get itas early as possible ,..others willbe tackled easily ,.??

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22, 2012, 5:08 GMT)

@SurlyCynic on (July 21 2012, 20:24 PM GMT), um, there were plenty of people criticising the pitch after day 1. I lost count of the number of comments saying that England had prepared a flat track on purpose because they were scared of the SA bowlers. I even saw at least one person say that they cheated by doing so. Regardless of the pitch, SA did bowl poorly on day 1 because they were too wide of the stumps too much of the time. In the end though, that is one factor in their keeping the run rate down. SA bowled much better on day 2 and were aided by some poor shots (or non-shot in Bell's case) from English batsmen. I don't think England bowled badly on day 3 but certainly lacked penetration and the SA batsmen, while not exactly adventurous, barely made a mistake all day. It's quite possible that Finn's extra pace could have provided a way into the SA batsmen and then all the bowlers could have taken advantage. Even that's by no means a certainty though.

Posted by dariuscorny on (July 22, 2012, 5:01 GMT)

its just like India prepares rankturners dustbowls and dessimate oppositions touring them and then declaring their attack as "the best bowling attack"in the world and when they themself turn up to a flat track they are grinded and thrashed,they blame the conditions and every Pom comes here and goes after them saying"popgun atack or whatever".i hv always felt this English attack is good but not dangerous,coz they dont hv bowlers to extract something frm a dead track something the Greats used to do(Wasim,Mcgrath,Kumble,Warne,Murli,Waqar to name some).one word for them "OVERHYPED attack"."SELF PROCLAIMED CHAMPS"

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 4:58 GMT)

i am expectin a no result series

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 22, 2012, 4:57 GMT)

whats ever funnier is south africa havent played a test for 5 months. steyn to tear through england in the second innings to get an innings win.

Posted by RyanHarrisGreatCricketer on (July 22, 2012, 4:56 GMT)

if the pitch is flat, then how did steyn and philander come back so well on the 2nd day? And there is no point comparing this hammering with hussey and haddin's partnership at brisbane .Over there , even aus struggled except for siddle's hattrick against cook, hitand misss prior and over aggressive broad .And england also troubled hussey and haddin with 2nd new ball , unlike yesterday. Dobell , grow up and appreciate ur opponents.Your countrymen can pick wickets only on green lawns and batsman will struggle against spin of tahir and duminy tommorrow

Posted by jezzastyles on (July 22, 2012, 4:56 GMT)

Have to agree with kh1902 - England did not score enough runs on a very flat, slow wicket - but SA bowled with good discipline on day 2. Smith's innings was great - he struggled through some tough periods and played a fine captain's knock. No surprise to me that Kallis scored runs - hope he goes on to record yet another ton. He is one of the all time greats. SA have kept Swann wicketless, hope they can keep this up on day 4 and build a massive lead while accelerating the run rate. No matter the result in this Test, it's a 3-match series (and I expect England batsmen to bounce back in 2nd innings). RandyOz, you crack me up. We didn't beat SA at home, it was a hard-fought drawn series. England smashed us at home. Both England and SA have a strong top 3 in their batting lineup, AUS don't. Over the past 18-months, I've lost count of the times we are 2-down for less than 50-runs, and the tail-order has to rescue us!! I reckon a #3 ranking for AUS would be a more accurate indicator.

Posted by popcorn on (July 22, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

It's great to see the Saffers tearing the much -vaunted English bowling attack to shreds.As an Aussie, the drooping shoulders,and the poor body lnaguage of the once cocky Poms was a treat to watch. But you know where my allegiance lies when the Saffers come home this summer.

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 22, 2012, 4:55 GMT)

new world rankings (until south africa comes to australia)-- 1 south africa. 2 australia. 3 england/pakistan/india

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 22, 2012, 4:53 GMT)

have england won since being incorrectly ranked as number 1? anyway, they will never be near there ever again. they bring shame to the top of the rankings. how they got anywhere near the top with this bunch of medium pace club level bowlers and an inconsistent spinner is one of the great mysterys

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 4:49 GMT)

@ Hammond = "knew WE had to be worried about Amla" slipped up there mate!!!

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 22, 2012, 4:48 GMT)

not really a surprise. englands bowling attack isnt test standard and has never really been

Posted by venkatesh018 on (July 22, 2012, 4:35 GMT)

Even in last summer's series against India, most of the pitches were very slow and not conducive to positive cricket. Only the Indian batting line-up didn't take advantage of it. The ECB for all its talk of putting Test cricket at the forefront, is guilty of preparing docile pitches that suit the needs of television more than the game. Only the quality of England's excellent bowling attack has so far yielded results on these dead surfaces. But when confronted against obdurate old-fashioned Test match batsmen like Smith, Amla and Kallis this strategy has floundered. It will be interesting to see what the Lords Groundsmen(usually it is even more docile than the Oval pitch) does, if England are behind in the series at the start of the third Test. All said and done, this day could still be a one-off and England's bowlers could still do very well in the next two Test, particularly if Graham Onions recovers from his injury and replaces Tim Bresnan.

Posted by Lakpj on (July 22, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

Weldone to SA team, there are coming to a position where they couldn't loose the match. They must try to get 200-250 runs by tea today and ask Eng to bat. With a deficit of nearly 250 Eng have no option but to play for a draw. then SA can cash in. histrionically Eng haven't done all that well in 3rd/4th innings on day4/5 pitches. remember the Pak test match last year.

Posted by Gregg22 on (July 22, 2012, 4:11 GMT)

Personally i've never really been impressed with this so called 'best attack in the world'. The best thing about this attack is Anderson, who needs swinging conditions to be effective and Swann. When those two fail to perform, the attack becomes flat and rather ordinary. Historically SA have always handled the Eng pace attack well. Largely due to it's medium paced sameness. I don't see the South African batting line up succumbing to England's 80-84 mph attack. Yes swing, seam movent and bounce are key elements in test cricket, but pace is a crucial weapon esp on a highway like this. Finn is key to this, but long may their selectors include boring bresnan because of his inflated batting average.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22, 2012, 4:10 GMT)

Talk about grinding the opposition to dust! Epic batting by SA. How Andrew Strauss must be replaying that chance off Amla in his head. I can't help thinking that SA could have afforded to score a little quicker in that last session though. Both these teams have been criticised for being too defensive and SA have chosen the safe route there. If England end up just hanging on for a draw then they may well rue the decision to play safe in very friendly conditions. Then again, as some have suggested, this could end up a high-scoring draw like Brisbane in the last Ashes (after which England won 3 Tests by an innings). Whatever happens, the England bowling needs to be more incisive for the remainder of this series, hopefully starting here. Whether they play 4 bowlers or 5, I think that Steve Finn's extra pace is something that really might make a difference.

Posted by landl47 on (July 22, 2012, 4:07 GMT)

The implication that this wicket was deliberately prepared to be lifeless seems very strange, since it would be to England's advantage to have a livelier wicket. I think it's more the case that the groundsman simply hasn't had the conditions to be able to produce a balanced wicket. However, SA batted very well- these are top-quality test batsmen by any measure you care to name and it's to be expected that they will have days like this. Now it's up to England to show some fight and keep from going one down. With good weather in the forecast, it's all down to the players to get what they can out of this game.

Posted by ToeCruncher on (July 22, 2012, 4:02 GMT)

@ kh1902 : did you even watch the game? Kallis was fantastic. Just watching him stroke the ball through the covers proves his "greatness". Very few players look as elegant as Kallis in full flow. If any batsman could do it, what happened to 6/10 english batsman. Or perhaps you underrate the english bowlers?

Kallis is a fine batsman, his record in SA proves that - where most batsman have lower averages than most other countries. This is not to say he will not cash in on a flat track. Great batsmen do that.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

Going into this test match, countless individuals via either articles or comments boasted of the all powerful England. England are a strong side, no doubt. However, their stats show that while they are a handful in England, their record elsewhere isn't as great. While they should be congratulated for being at the top of the rankings, supporters as well as commentators should not be careless with arrogant statements, placing England on a pedistal that I didn't think they deserved to be placed on, at least as yet. South Africa has given this unit a well needed wake up call.

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 3:56 GMT)

It's time for the batsmen to step up. I don't think the poms will be panicking at all. Smith will look to get a 175 plus lead going into the final 1 and a half days, and South Africa simply won't have the spinners to exploit the footmarks. Look for a big innings from Strauss. If the England batting can't hold on, well then I will freely admit that we have been outplayed. I sincerely thought the bowling would have had more penetration.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 22, 2012, 3:55 GMT)

@RandyOZ on (July 22 2012, 02:45 AM GMT), that same Australia that beat SA in SA was then beaten by NZ in Australia. How does that factor into your calculations?

Posted by othello22 on (July 22, 2012, 3:53 GMT)

Surely you are all getting aead of yourselves in mocking England? I agree to a certain extent that they are somewhat over-rated (comparisons to the great Australian and West Indian sides of recent times are laughable) but by the same token I don't think there is any doubt they have been the best test side in the world over the past few years. They are not a champion side by any stretch of the imagination but they are well coached, well trained and very consistent. I have no doubt they will get themselves back into this contest.

Posted by Sinhaya on (July 22, 2012, 3:47 GMT)

Unbelievable temperament and application shown by Amla, Smith and Kallis. I think scoreboard pressure will be the root cause behind England's loss if at all. Amla nicely kept blocking so many wicket taking balls.

Posted by Naren on (July 22, 2012, 3:39 GMT)

Always felt this is the recipe for success against England. Bat second and make a big second innings score. Somehow Australia always missed the trick and they would want to bat first even in tough conditions. If they had inserted England in and got them out cheaply, they could make a big second innings score. But this SA team is pretty strong with excellent Test batsman and three awesome bowlers who keeps coming at you.

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (July 22, 2012, 3:15 GMT)

probably a bit early to hit the panic button... 518/1 brisi 2010 ring any bells?? strauss out first over, 1st inns deficit, eng went on to comfortably win the series... relax... all will become clear..

Posted by Ross_Co on (July 22, 2012, 2:58 GMT)

Looks like we'll be seeing 'England' management sending out a runner every second ball come day 5.

Posted by Balumekka on (July 22, 2012, 2:49 GMT)

When SA bowlers having a tough day, they say SA attack is out of form. When England bowlers were having one of the toughest days in recent past, they say it is a flat tract. This is what you call English media. They hardly appreciate the opponent, always overrate their players.

Posted by AMAZINGFAN on (July 22, 2012, 2:46 GMT)

it's for sa to win this match.they put eng out of this now they need to put up a huge lead and give their bowlers more time to bowl out eng.good luck sa.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 2:45 GMT)

Australia beat this team at their home. Australia are clearly the second best test side, behind South Africa.

Posted by Hodra99 on (July 22, 2012, 2:32 GMT)

Front foot lunge is nowhere to be seen....SA will destroy this over confident over hyped 'English' team

Posted by thirdmanboundary on (July 22, 2012, 2:20 GMT)

Brilliant batting from SA. Now for the next challenge. What the truly great Australian and WIndian teams could do at their peak was accelerate, taking the game away from their opponents. SA have never been great accelerators. Perhaps the one player who could do it is De Villiers or, if he's fluent, Duminy. But mostly they have great accumulators: no Viv Richards to pummel an already tired attack. Let's hope SA can push the run rate up to 4/4.5 an over tomorrow. Otherwise, this will end in a stale draw. That said, congrats on a fantastic, disciplined comeback from bowlers and batters after a very rusty first day. Go Saffers.

Posted by kh1902 on (July 22, 2012, 2:15 GMT)

Alot of people seem to be praising the SA batsmen, but I think England's batsmen really threw away a golden opportunity on a flat track. Alistair Cook showed how it should be done. There were some silly dismissals in the English innings starting with Jonathon Trott's.

South Africa, having got out of jail, obviously weren't going to be silly enough to repeat England's mistakes. Smith always performs in England. Kallis is doing what he does best - score runs on a flat wicket after other batsmen have scored hundreds and his bowlers have done their job - if he was Indian, they would call him a flat track bully, based on his previous failures in England. Since he's South African, people see this performance as an affirmation of his so-called "greatness". Alot of batsmen, given that start and some commonsense, would deliver his performance.

If England can get out of jail in this game, I think they'll win the series if the pitches are a little more responsive in the other two games.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (July 22, 2012, 2:11 GMT)

Leading up to this test we saw 2 articles profiling SA players: Smith & Kallis, & a fair share of negative criticism about both. Smith clearly answered his detractors; ton no. 25, joined the select 100/100 club, passed Boycott's career runs total in 18 fewer inngs, & gave the ECB heartburn: SA have never lost a match in which he has scored 100. (16 won, 8 drawn) Without fanfare, Kallis has quietly answered his armchair critics, 83 not out his 2nd highest score in Eng, & at a healthy strike rate. Coming into the test he was the (unacknowledged by the critics) leading career wicket taker - 4 above Steyn, 9 above Anderson - with the best career economy rate of the established bowlers (100 + wickets.) 3 days later: Steyn still 4 & Anderson now 10 wickets behind; Kallis has the joint 2nd most match wickets, in 19 over took as many wickets as Eng did in 135... Scores runs & takes critical wickets (Pieterson, Bell) while choking the run rate? As Tino might say, YA CRITICS - TALK NAH!

Posted by   on (July 22, 2012, 2:10 GMT)

It is a little too early, but the so-called great England bowling attack is finding what it means to bowl to real test class batsmen! It is one thing to bowl to under-prepared Indian batsmen who do not relish test matches in India, leave alone England but it is something else to bowl to battle-hardened test match loving cricketers like Kallis, Smith and Amla. This is a true test for the Andersons, Broads and the Bresnans

Posted by ptal3 on (July 22, 2012, 2:09 GMT)

A lot of experts reckon that the 2 bowling attacks are at par. Some even think that the Eng attack is better. I think the big difference is the inablity of the Eng attack to fire if the conditions are not in their favour. On the other hand, Steyn is a world class bowler who has embarrased India twice in India (can perform anywhere). Morkel can also extract bounce on any wicket. And then they have Kallis as the 5th bowler (as opposed to Bopara, Trott and Pieterson). Philander is the only one that relies on seam and swing. If the next 2 tests gonna have bowler friendly conditions, then I can see Philander ripping through the Eng batsmen. SA 2-0 or 2-1!!!

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

Others have mentioned it but the English media is hilarious. Now it's a flat track is it? Face it England you have zero bench strength in the batting department, and apart from Anderson (and Finn although he wasn't playing) the 'world's best bowling attack' is absolutely toothless. Might be time to get Onions 'who would walk into any test side on Earth' to come and bolster (sic) the attack. hahahah, sorry I couldn't keep a straight face saying that. Amla to rack up a triple and Kallis a double!

Posted by Badgerofdoom on (July 22, 2012, 2:07 GMT)

Well batted SA, I assume the game plan for them would be to try and score quick runs tomorrow and declare halfway through the day to try and bowl England out without batting again. Having said that England have a fairly good chance of forcing a draw but we'll see how much the pitch starts spinning on day 5.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 2:01 GMT)

Does this smell like the UAE to others? The pitch isn't the only thing resembling the UAE. Where are all the poms gone? @Hammond? No @landl? No @5wombats? No @jmc? No @YorkPudd? No. The silence is deathening.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (July 22, 2012, 1:59 GMT)

WELL , WELL WHEN SA BOWLERS STRUGGLED TO PICK WKTS ON FIRST DAY THEN SAME ENGLISHMEN WERE SAYING STEYN IS OUT OF FORM , PHILANDER IS LIKE PRAVEEN KUMAR , MORKEL IS CONSISTENT . NO WHAT HAPPENED ? THE SO CALLED GREAT ENGLISH BOWLING HAS BEEN THRAHSED& MR . DOBELL IS SAYING WKT IS EXTREMELY FLAT .

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 22, 2012, 1:54 GMT)

Yesterday's game proved what I have been saying for a while now; this English attack, bar Anderson, isn't that good. Wins against a weakened India and Australia lulled them into a false sense of security but now that a team applies some pressure they go to water as I predicted. As I also predicted Broad and Swan both struggled. Broad really needs to fix up his attitude. I would have imagined Finn would've been a lot more effective than Broad today. This English side is poor and the even the English now must admit the comparisons to the great Australian side are farcical.

Posted by Sam.C on (July 22, 2012, 1:42 GMT)

Ahhhh England, has the moment finally arisen where you have realised your team is a bunch of incompetent brats? Lets face it, the only talent Stuart Broad has is being the sun of as powerful father, nonetheless what would we do without your smug anemics?

Posted by straight_drive4 on (July 22, 2012, 1:37 GMT)

how convenient that 5wombats has not posted any comments on this article? scared? ha ha ha.... typical pom. wont be long before you bring the knives out in the true pommy fashion and start hammering your own team...

Posted by jimbond on (July 22, 2012, 1:36 GMT)

Nothing wrong with England; they have proved themselves good against rest of the world. Its just that the South Africans are a league above them. Soon SA will be the world No 1 and England will be a very good No. 2. But England do have a worry and may prove easy for some of the other teams too. They have a worrying lack of talent. Some of these gaps have been papered over by Andy Flower, by South African imports to England, and by Anderson's/Swann's run of form.

Posted by Phat-Boy on (July 22, 2012, 1:12 GMT)

Hmmm. Funny how 24 hours earlier Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Kallis didn't seem to have any trouble getting something out of the pitch. Surface seemed fine for test cricket when they were coaxing plenty of bounce and the occasional piece of movement out of it. Yes, they got swing, but they also got a lot more out of the deck. Sorry, but this article smacks of 'Hey, we're England the best team in the world and if we can't get wickets it has to be the pitch's fault.' Bad news guys - you happened to be bowling to the best strokeplayer in the world today, one of the best openers of the last 20 years, and arguably the best batsman of all over the last decade. THAT is why you didn't take wickets.

Posted by Venki_indian on (July 22, 2012, 1:07 GMT)

our great indian team made England no.1, they do not worth it. SA deserves that position.

Posted by thetopofoff on (July 22, 2012, 0:50 GMT)

Oh how I love reading this - the panic and the grovelling. England prepared a pitch to negate SA's fast bowling, specifically Steyn, arrogantly believing their bowlers are superior and will crack through SA's batting. It's been a joy to watch Steyn come back on day 2 and then Smith, Amla and Kallis put the Poms to the sword. Where is Mike Selvey now - the best attack since the 1980's Windie's apparently...what a joke. England's crowing and grandstanding, notably Botham and others (see Selvey) is sickening and their limited time in the sun is coming to an abrupt end.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (July 22, 2012, 0:33 GMT)

This match will obviously be a draw

Posted by SpartaArmy on (July 22, 2012, 0:25 GMT)

Dont worry!! England will make it up for the bad pitch by getting bowled over in two sessions. SA may be referred as chokers in short format but not in long format. They are true heirs of number 1

Posted by Hammond on (July 22, 2012, 0:24 GMT)

Knew we had to be worried about Amla. What an incredible knock. Pretty much chanceless. England will need to dig deep to get out of the hole that Amla and Smith have dug for them. Best partnership I have seen made against this England attack for a number of years.

Posted by CustomKid on (July 22, 2012, 0:02 GMT)

Have to agree with JG2704 and I think we've discussed it in the past. ENG have very limited bench strength in the batting department. No.6 you have Morgin or Bopara both sub test standard. Prior is a gun bat and can handle 6 easily so put the fifth bowler in and let it rip.

Great effort by Smith and Amla - looking forward to watching this summer in Australia. Amla has to be one of the classiest bats in world cricket right now.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (July 21, 2012, 23:52 GMT)

Come back rain all is forgiven! On a serious note, having seen the first three days I feel i can comment on what has, until today, been an even contest. It's quite clear where this game is going now, see Centurion and Cape Town 2009/10, hopefully with the same result, or rather lack of a reult. Have to say it isn't a great surprise. The momentum of the game shifted with an all too familiar mid order collapse, and two dreadful dismissals of Bopara and Bell. Similar collapses occured two or three times in the WI series but England got away with it. At the moment the pitch looks flat, although the odd bit of slight turn Swann got on day 3 will worry the English batsmen who'll have to bat on day 5, but I'll only be able to properly judge the pitch from about tea time tomorrow when SA bowl again. If there ever was any doubt over who is no.1, there won't be after this series. I always thought that, realistically, England's attack would be exposed by the very best batsmen.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2012, 23:22 GMT)

One of two things can happen. If the pitch remains flat, England can score runs in the 2nd innings and the game could be drawn. If SA decide to continue batting into the fourth day, Smith has to work out a declaration and bowl Eng out. The last test match they played against NZ was drawn. The batting here has been slow for both teams. Preserving wickets for the sake of scoring runs means SA are hanging on for survival and not in an attacking mindset. If they are, they would score at 4 an over.

Posted by cbaunni on (July 21, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

So you agree that England cannot bowl a team out outside English conditions. Good. "But pitches like this, deathly slow and sluggish, do little to encourage positive cricket " - Lets wait till the end of the game to make such conclusions.

Posted by pulkit10 on (July 21, 2012, 23:12 GMT)

Yes, the pitch does seem to be on the slower side but it's far from "subcontinental" - need I remind you that this very attack was performing very well back in the UAE? It was the batting that let the side down then. Face it, they had a very average day today and the blame only lies with them, I'm not critiquing them but such things happen. SA bowlers got more out of this surface than they did and that's that. And the ball did beat the bat more than a few times and there were some dropped chances as well, which only disprove your "the track is flat" theory even more and how come you didn't put this idea forward when Cook-Trott got a decent run? If the pitch was really that flat then England's middle order should have been able to capitalize on it and build a formidable 1st innings score but they didn't.

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (July 21, 2012, 23:01 GMT)

Bopara is a waste..I would play Morgan any day.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (July 21, 2012, 22:59 GMT)

The fact remains that this Oval pitch is pathetic for test cricket. It's good for a T20 or ODI though. England's bowlers are good but they are not of no.1 quality. SA have just taught other teams visiting England that it's not all that hard to handle the English bowling. It's a matter of patience and application. On the second morning, Smith went about his game slowly. After lunch he was a totally different player. All the shots flowed off his bat. I must admit, southpaws are special when they bat well. Amla offered him good support. Now SA have done what no other team managed the last 2 years: put England to the sword. It's certain now, England can never win this game. Looks like their plans have backfired. The tactic to negate the South African bowlers through this flat highway is not a sound strategy. Well played SA. I hope the 'great' Indian batting learn from this display.

Posted by Hitwicket99 on (July 21, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

Against a formidable SA army that uses heavy artillery, England's so-called top weapons have finally being exposed; all pop guns and pen knives. Absolutely loving this. Great work SA. You can crush them 3-0 and be the rightful No 1 team.

Posted by letsgoproteas on (July 21, 2012, 22:55 GMT)

SurlyCynic - exactly!

The pitch is flat but SA managed to punish the english batting line up on it on day 2. And the only reason they hadnt cleaned them up on day one was because they were still finding their line and length.

PR please dont make excuses for england and rather put all the focus on a great batting display!

Posted by StatisticsRocks on (July 21, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@Spelele, instead of criticising Eng bowlers I will rather praise the SA batsmen who were just brillaint. This is how test match is supposed to be played. Grinding it out and then once set freeing their arms like smith did. Amla was just treat to watch. What a clasy innings fro him. The test match is clearly headed for a draw barring a miracle. Well played SA and taming the over confident Eng bowlers.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (July 21, 2012, 22:47 GMT)

England really lost their way batting and this is just the following episode. Kp's shot was not good, and Bell and Bopara were equally bad. If Bopara had applied a bit of energy to his 'shot' the ball would in probability sailed off to the fence. It's hard to say more than that the bowling was as threatening as soft toy. Broad was way down on pace and he is still a young man. Perhaps it is reasonable to drop pace on such a wicket. Swann tried a lot but that was about it. Not that far in past-about a day- this attack was being hailed as the best around. Right now i expect they are being compared to the Bermudan attack.In england's favour is that De V apart these are not fast scoring batsmen. Also the pitch will not suddenly become a terror pitch. A draw should be an easy accomplishment.

Posted by 512fm on (July 21, 2012, 22:31 GMT)

Its pitches like these that kill test cricket, an exciting 3 day test gets an inspection and/or ban but pitches like these where 12 wickets fall over 3 days are perfectly fine. Whatever happened to an even contest between bat and ball?

Posted by   on (July 21, 2012, 22:29 GMT)

well said phoenixsteve. A proper cricket supporter. I hope England reard you with a great 2nd half performance.

Posted by Puffin on (July 21, 2012, 22:25 GMT)

These flat wickets, for whatever reason, aren't helping test cricket. But it also helps if you don't get yourself out. no naming of names necessary.

Posted by jackiethepen on (July 21, 2012, 22:14 GMT)

I suppose it is hard for foreign fans to underestimate the effect of the weather on the pitch unless you are in England staring up at the sky. To answer sirvivfan, the reason it was a "different" wicket when England batted on the Friday morning was not due to the pitch but the weather conditions - very dark, muggy, overcast with lights on, no wind - very favourable to the new ball. It swung wildly. After the heavy rain in the afternoon, the air cleared and the sun came out and the ball stopped swinging when SA were batting. Simple. it was a great toss for SA to lose. I was horrified when Strauss decided to bat first. Oh no!!!!! He didn't check the weather forecast - a mini-heatwave from Saturday on. Let's hope against hope the good weather will continue until the end of play on Monday. Otherwise it will be curtains. (Unless it rains very heavily).

Posted by mahjut on (July 21, 2012, 22:07 GMT)

Emgland are a good, professional (well, bar KP who is not) batting outfit and they lost 7 for 118 - the pitch may be bad and SA have had the best of the conditions but SA are usually pretty good travellers and also a decent batting outfit - i thin gearoge overplays the pitch and slightly underplays the batting. on th other hand, as i siad already (in another thread) this will most likely be a draw and Mr Dobell rightly points to england's ability to come back!

Posted by maddy20 on (July 21, 2012, 21:51 GMT)

"Pitches like this present one of the gravest threats to the future of Test cricket. " That was a raather amusing statement coming from one of the most respected cricketers. I seem to recall that a day ago, a spirited bowling attack picked up 7 wickets for 116 runs. After 1st day when England were on top, people said it might be a flat wicket, but the English fans were quick to pounce on them and say "yeah we will see about that after SA bats". With the odd ball keeping low, the best way to bowl would be in what Boycoot calls "The channel of uncertainty" at full length. Sooner or later the batsmen would chop one onto the stumps or bowl full and straight off-middle line to trap them LBW. Instead England were dishing out dollies outside the offstump as if pleading the pitch to give em' some movement off it. What happened instead was a massacre at the hands of a worldclass batting lineup. I would expect SA to bowlout a demoralized Eng in less than 90 or at the most a little over 100 overs

Posted by   on (July 21, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

wat...eng bowlers bowled poorly and suddenly the pitch is bad ! lol SA bowlers took 10 eng wkts for 387 runs and eng cud only take 2 for over 400.....accept it, ok !!

Posted by Aneesmoha on (July 21, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

So the much hailed England foursome attack has been negated by the SA top order. Wonder where all the guys that went on about the weakness of the SA batting line up went? As for the SA bowling had a rough day on day 1 but managed to take 7 for 120 runs. People should stop moaning about the pitch and give credit where it is due. Brilliant patient batting by the SA top order. Should be a good 2 days. Probably going to be a draw.

Posted by anuradha_d on (July 21, 2012, 21:42 GMT)

i have said for a long time......Eng picks its bowlers, for their batting skills....hence dibbly dobbly Bresnan plays ahead of a 95mph genuinely express Finn. And when fit Tremlett should be ahead of broad.

These 2nd level in quality bowlers are effective when the pitches are green, seaming....and nullify the differential between, average and express bowlers.

Lack of genuine penetrativeness is catching up with Eng

Posted by Beertjie on (July 21, 2012, 21:41 GMT)

Although only one team can now win it (but whether they do or not), let's look ahead to Leeds. Adding Finn for Bopara would reduce the strain on the toil being endured by Anderson + Co, and add another attacking dimension, but unless the overhead conditions conspire to assist only England and thwart South Africa, the better team will come out on top there, too. As @SurlyCynic writes, "a lot of the criticism aimed at SA on day 1 was over the top", so in seam friendly conditions SA should come out on top. England's only advantage over SA is Swann over Tahir, but it is unlikely to prove sufficient considering the other match ups. SA will likely only get better, so England best pray for more rain interruptions if they hope to hang on to that #1!

Posted by thruthecovers on (July 21, 2012, 21:32 GMT)

'...pitches like this present one of the gravest threats to the future of Test cricket.' SA is yet to bowl in their 2nd inings and bowling ENG out is still apossibility. And besides, the fact that ENG were all out in their first makes this statement a little OTT in my opinion. If they were 600/dec on top of SA's 400/2, you might have point. We've had great cricket over the 1st 3 days. Eng on top after the first, SA fighting back splendidly on the second and consolidating to a position of dominace on the 3rd. How is that a threat to the future of cricket? Sure, the pitch might not be all that we expected, but it produced great cricket nonetheless. Or is it a case of the wrong team dominating?

Posted by warnerbasher on (July 21, 2012, 21:31 GMT)

The state of the game is as it should be. South Africa A on top of South Africa B

Posted by JG2704 on (July 21, 2012, 21:31 GMT)

@Spelele on (July 21 2012, 20:32 PM GMT) I think the flatness of the pitch took everyone by surprise. Maybe we'd have even considered Monty had we known. At the time I thought SA were quite wayward with their bowling on day 1 but maybe it was actually clever tactics to stop Eng scoring at a rate and stay in the game. SA certainly had decent overhead conditions on day 2 but they also improved on their lengths/lines and today there was nothing for our bowlers , but your batsmen still have to do a job and they certainly did. Re Finn, I'm not sure how good he'd have been in these conditions , but I've always been a 5 man bowling attack fan - if you have the personnel so I'd have him in instead of Bop. SA look to be big favourites right now and if Eng do escape with a draw I wonder if SA might rue not doing the same and playing Tsotsobe instead of Rudolph or Dumminy

Posted by   on (July 21, 2012, 21:25 GMT)

It's just very convenient to call this a terrible wicket now that SA batsmen dominated the much vaunted and completely over-hyped English attack. The wicket isn't great, but Amla, Smith and Kallis completely outclassed the Pom attack today, regardless of the wicket.

The SA bowlers will get their chance and then we'll see the wicket isn't actually that terrible.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2012, 21:24 GMT)

Come on Gary and SA... thrash the english...

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

It would be just easier to admit that SA dominated, but alas a "subcontinental" pitch condition had to be thrown in...The same pitch after day 1, the reports suggested that SA were outplayed! Well i think this is just a "warm up" for their winter preparations.. those pitches would really be "subcontinental" may want them to prepare pitches to suit "the best bowling" attack!........

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

Test cricket is as the name suggests is a "test" of ones ability in all different conditions. At this point it would suggest that SA is the better side as they have adapted to the conditions better than Eng have. Eng 267/2 at stumps day 1. Then 384 all out!!?? (107/8) SA 403/2. The worrying thing for Eng is the loss of 8 for 107 in ther 1st innings. Maybe a suggestion to how good the SA attack is, that is with a slightly of colour Steyn!!! Gd luck Eng on the 4th & 5th day as you are going to need it!!!

Posted by sediris on (July 21, 2012, 21:11 GMT)

To take wickets on these flat wickets you need to bowl full and really fast. I don't think England paceies have the speed to bother any top class batting line-up. Only WI had fast bowlers in 80s and 90s who could force a win these type of slow flat tracks. Regular spinners like Swann and Thair cannot do anything on this slow wicket. Perhaps a genius like Murali can take wickets on this strip.

Posted by SCC08 on (July 21, 2012, 21:06 GMT)

Cook bats all day and he gets praised and SA's attack gets rip to pieces.. Funny how when SA score over 300 for 1 wicket in a day the track is flat. What happened to Swann? Fact: This SA side are the best in the world...

Posted by phoenixsteve on (July 21, 2012, 20:40 GMT)

Great batting display from South Africa who showed class and application. England's much acclaimed bowling attack looked pretty ordinary today. This will be a stern test of character for the England batters who will be very tired and demoralised by the time they get their chance to bat for a draw! Bat for a draw? Who'd a thought it on Thursday night? Great play by SA and if they go on to win and become the number 1 ranked side they will deserve it! I suspect there's plenty more brilliance to come and a total of 750 is not unthinkable! A good time for Staruss to get in and play himself into form....... Hope so! COME ON ENGLAND!!!

Posted by elsmallo on (July 21, 2012, 20:39 GMT)

"pitches like this present one of the gravest threats to the future of Test cricket" - agreed. But why is this pitch so lifeless? One answer is that this awful weather has prevented the groundsmen from preparing a proper wicket. We might therefore conclude that climate change is the bigger threat to cricket in the medium and long term. The luxury of being able to prepare the perfect pitch may well become a thing of the past.

Posted by prashnottz on (July 21, 2012, 20:35 GMT)

Oh.. I thought the last 5 times England played on "subcontinental" pitches, they produced results..

Posted by sirvivfan on (July 21, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

It's is not a flat wicket when England bat and South Africa bowl. As soon as South Africans batsmen get runs, the wicket is flat! Not bad effort from a side who hard very little cricket before this test. I am particularly impressed with Amla, given Trott' suggestion some time ago that he left because of lack opportunities and selection hinting that unworthy people were getting selected through positive rebalancing of selection policy towards people who were never given an opportunity..... Likes of Nitini, Amla, Duminy Philander, Tsotbe and Herchelle Gibbs prove the point. As to Kallis he simply is the best bats around forth last decade.

Posted by Spelele on (July 21, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

Although Dobell tries to downplay this, it is true that Finn would have made all the difference. Even if that was not the case, surely he would have done more than either of Bresnan, Broad or Bopara!? To be honest, as an SA fan, I am happy if he keeps on being ignored. But as a cricket fan in general, I am really sad that we are being denied an opportunity to see Finn in full flow. Oh well....

Posted by Spelele on (July 21, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

To describe this pitch as being 'subcontinental' does not provide any shelter from all the (deserved!) criticism coming the English attack's way after such a mediocre performance. What happened to the attack's so-called ability to 'bowl any team out on any surface', as most English pundits put it? I guess Saker will learn not to hail an attack as rivalling the great Australian attack before it has bowled teams out on different surfaces (like Warne and co. did). I'm now looking forward to some fireworks from AB, JP and the other Jacques later on tomorrow! Bring on Day 4!!! :)

Posted by SurlyCynic on (July 21, 2012, 20:24 GMT)

Funny how noone criticised the pitch after day 1 when Cook and Trott were batting, but I agree it is far from ideal. I prefer something for the fast bowlers initially and then something for the spinners on day 4/5. But a lot of the criticism aimed at SA on day 1 was over the top.

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