England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 4th day July 22, 2012

Smith's creativity brings rewards

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When Graeme Smith declared South Africa's first innings with his team 252 runs in front and four sessions left in the game, he did something South African cricketers are not known for. He got creative.

Many observers expected him to allow the record run-scoring to continue for a few more overs, especially with Jacques Kallis approaching a double hundred, before unleashing his attack for a short burst. Instead he took the situation by the scurf of the neck and handed the challenge to England's top order; the end result was four wickets which has put South Africa in prime position for victory.

Hashim Amla, who was undefeated on a South African-record 311 when he was told to stop, offered some insight into the captain's decision. "We saw the wicket is good to bat on and we'd rather have a lot of time to bowl and chase whatever we have to than bat on for 10 or 15 overs that we may need later on," Amla said, indicating that South Africa have prepared to bat again if needs be. "You'd rather be in our change-room without a doubt."

Despite the unresponsive surface, Amla believes there is something in it for South Africa's attack, particularly Imran Tahir who already has the scalp of Andrew Strauss. "There's quite a bit of rough. Even though they don't have many left-handers to come, the rough is always a danger for the left-handers so maybe Imran can get a bit there," he said.

Amla predicted a tough first hour which has been the pattern throughout the match. He negotiated two days' worth of first hours; day three when South Africa managed just 32 and day four when they scored 36. "It's tough going early doors. Fresh bowlers in these conditions are never easy."

England will know that only too well, as they faced the first hour on day two and lost three wickets in that time. With South Africa's attack proving dangerous, England face a battle early on the final morning "Dale, Morne and Vernon got the ball to move a bit," Amla said. "It's their good skill that is coming through."

Skill has been the winner in this match, whatever happens on the final day, with Amla's masterclass the highlight. His marathon innings resulted in the first triple hundred by a South African in Tests but he said it was not always easy. With Smith, he had to "just hang in there and hang in there," until conditions allowed for freer flowing play.

"Graeme batted superbly," Amla said. "His knock was a major stepping stone for us in our big total: the way he managed to grind it out. We went through patches where we didn't score a lot and then either he would score freely or I would. That's the beauty of a big partnership."

A second sizeable stand, with Kallis, guided Amla to the milestone and he credited his partner with providing "guidance," during their time together. "You keep encouraging each other as you go on and you keep building," he said. "You want to put the team in the best position as possible."

Amla had not had much time to think about his achievement by the end of the day's play but took immense satisfaction from putting his team in control. "The biggest pleasure is that we are in a really dominant position to win this position, that's the great joy. You want to contribute handsomely to the team. I try not to get into the psycho-babble about it and try and maximise opportunity."

Breaking a record and making history were things Amla had never thought about before and will not put on his to-do list in future. "I didn't ever dream about getting 300, although I would have loved to," he said. "I've always been the kind of person to never set goals. Fortunately, that means you can keep going without being limited by having set something up."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY StaalBurgher on | July 25, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    @Shan156 - I don't get your point. Are you saying that Steyn's stats of 279 wickets at a SR of 41 is irrelevant? You are so one-eyed it is embarrassing. McGrath has played 2.5 more Tests than Dale. We will see how Steyn's performances against other teams evens out over the same amount of games. You are also doing the typical dragon slaying that internet tough guys do... I didn't say McGrath is bad or horrible. Hell I didn't even say Dale is better than him. I said that Dale IS already an all time great bowler in is his own right. It has nothing to do with McGrath who I am happy to acknowledge. The fact that you refuse to give Dale his due is pathetic.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | July 25, 2012, 0:57 GMT

    btw @StaalBurgher, here are some of your greatest fast bowler Steyn's stats - an average of 36.5 in SL. Glenn's worst average in any country is 31 in Pakistan. The great Steyn averages 32 against England which supposedly has poor batsmen. Glenn's worst average against any country is 27. And, he did this for 124 tests spread over 14 years. Aside from blinkered SA fans, and some Indian fans, no one would agree that Steyn is as good as the great Pigeon. oh, the less said about Steyn's ODI record the better. He has a mighty economy rate of 5.08. Glenn finished with 3.88.

  • POSTED BY serious-am-i on | July 24, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    I will be really happy SA are crowned no.1 in tests, they are the much deserved team. They have played well all around the world including sub-continent which usually both Eng and Aus struggled.

  • POSTED BY StaalBurgher on | July 24, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    @Shan156 - I don't see many SA fans getting over excited. Most of us considered the two teams pretty equal before the start of the series, or at least close enough that a prediction is anything but guesswork. Now on to your ridiculous statements that none of our players rival the Aussies. Dear me. Warne and Gilchrist are the only two you would have a point with but I don't see anyone claiming SA to have a better wrist spinner/wicket-batter than those two, do you? Steyn is already one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. Just look at the stats. Thanks for acknowleding Kallis but dismissing Amla and de Villiers? Smith not at least the equal of say Langer/Hayden? You have no idea what you are talking about. No team will be as strong as the 90s Aussies unless they get a spinner of Warne's quality. And I still don't see anyone making SA out to be the greatest of all time. Best right at this moment, sure, but you are slaying imaginary dragons as they say on the Guardian.

  • POSTED BY Peterincanada on | July 23, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    This test was definitely saveable but modern players do not seem to be able to keep their strokes or their egos in the bag. KP's innings in the context of the game was a joke. He hardly played a defensive stroke in the short time he was there. Similarly,today, with the new ball due, Prior exposes the tail by attempting to sweep Tahir. Four runs at that point was useless. It was absolutely necessary to stay around to face nd try to see off the new ball. These two just don't seem to have the necessary will to play for the team rather than themselves. All credit to Bell, with a modicum of help, he might have seen England through.

  • POSTED BY Muttee on | July 23, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    There was no way SAF letting this chance go, and that is what happened. They played exceptional cricket and got the rewards. Well Done and best of luck for the rest of the series. I think ENG need a lot of work to come back in the series but seems highly unlikely.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 14:18 GMT

    South Africa playing at their best. They have deserved to be no. 1 for so long and I think the imminent thumping victory will make it inevitable in the coming weeks.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    Ok, so some fans and one Ausie fan in particular have suggested that Imran Tahir is no good, and if he is any good he is only good to remove the opposition's tail. I, personally, cannot see why the latter is not good enough, in itself, to earn him a spot in the Protea team, given the fact that tailenders have won a fair share of tests for their countries, in the modern era even more so than at any previous time. Be that as it may, Imran Tahir has removed both A.J. Straus and M.J. Prior in this test. If the above fans are correct in their evaluation of Imran Tahir, it must mean that Straus and Prior have now become England's new tailenders, something which I find quite amuzing.

  • POSTED BY Bramblefly on | July 23, 2012, 14:12 GMT

    @Randyoz 09:23AM - Cricket is dead in England? How does it look in Australia after England's 4-0 whitewash of your hapless bunnies two weeks ago? Given that both nations are clearly dead in your cricketing scheme of things, let's cancel next year's Ashes and we'll just keep the urn ok?

  • POSTED BY Hammond on | July 23, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Number one may be hanging by a thread. But it may be a much thicker thread to cut than South Africa can currently imagine. C'mon England! Stuff the next 60 odd overs down South Africa's neck and watch them choke.

  • POSTED BY StaalBurgher on | July 25, 2012, 9:10 GMT

    @Shan156 - I don't get your point. Are you saying that Steyn's stats of 279 wickets at a SR of 41 is irrelevant? You are so one-eyed it is embarrassing. McGrath has played 2.5 more Tests than Dale. We will see how Steyn's performances against other teams evens out over the same amount of games. You are also doing the typical dragon slaying that internet tough guys do... I didn't say McGrath is bad or horrible. Hell I didn't even say Dale is better than him. I said that Dale IS already an all time great bowler in is his own right. It has nothing to do with McGrath who I am happy to acknowledge. The fact that you refuse to give Dale his due is pathetic.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | July 25, 2012, 0:57 GMT

    btw @StaalBurgher, here are some of your greatest fast bowler Steyn's stats - an average of 36.5 in SL. Glenn's worst average in any country is 31 in Pakistan. The great Steyn averages 32 against England which supposedly has poor batsmen. Glenn's worst average against any country is 27. And, he did this for 124 tests spread over 14 years. Aside from blinkered SA fans, and some Indian fans, no one would agree that Steyn is as good as the great Pigeon. oh, the less said about Steyn's ODI record the better. He has a mighty economy rate of 5.08. Glenn finished with 3.88.

  • POSTED BY serious-am-i on | July 24, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    I will be really happy SA are crowned no.1 in tests, they are the much deserved team. They have played well all around the world including sub-continent which usually both Eng and Aus struggled.

  • POSTED BY StaalBurgher on | July 24, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    @Shan156 - I don't see many SA fans getting over excited. Most of us considered the two teams pretty equal before the start of the series, or at least close enough that a prediction is anything but guesswork. Now on to your ridiculous statements that none of our players rival the Aussies. Dear me. Warne and Gilchrist are the only two you would have a point with but I don't see anyone claiming SA to have a better wrist spinner/wicket-batter than those two, do you? Steyn is already one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. Just look at the stats. Thanks for acknowleding Kallis but dismissing Amla and de Villiers? Smith not at least the equal of say Langer/Hayden? You have no idea what you are talking about. No team will be as strong as the 90s Aussies unless they get a spinner of Warne's quality. And I still don't see anyone making SA out to be the greatest of all time. Best right at this moment, sure, but you are slaying imaginary dragons as they say on the Guardian.

  • POSTED BY Peterincanada on | July 23, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    This test was definitely saveable but modern players do not seem to be able to keep their strokes or their egos in the bag. KP's innings in the context of the game was a joke. He hardly played a defensive stroke in the short time he was there. Similarly,today, with the new ball due, Prior exposes the tail by attempting to sweep Tahir. Four runs at that point was useless. It was absolutely necessary to stay around to face nd try to see off the new ball. These two just don't seem to have the necessary will to play for the team rather than themselves. All credit to Bell, with a modicum of help, he might have seen England through.

  • POSTED BY Muttee on | July 23, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    There was no way SAF letting this chance go, and that is what happened. They played exceptional cricket and got the rewards. Well Done and best of luck for the rest of the series. I think ENG need a lot of work to come back in the series but seems highly unlikely.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 14:18 GMT

    South Africa playing at their best. They have deserved to be no. 1 for so long and I think the imminent thumping victory will make it inevitable in the coming weeks.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 14:13 GMT

    Ok, so some fans and one Ausie fan in particular have suggested that Imran Tahir is no good, and if he is any good he is only good to remove the opposition's tail. I, personally, cannot see why the latter is not good enough, in itself, to earn him a spot in the Protea team, given the fact that tailenders have won a fair share of tests for their countries, in the modern era even more so than at any previous time. Be that as it may, Imran Tahir has removed both A.J. Straus and M.J. Prior in this test. If the above fans are correct in their evaluation of Imran Tahir, it must mean that Straus and Prior have now become England's new tailenders, something which I find quite amuzing.

  • POSTED BY Bramblefly on | July 23, 2012, 14:12 GMT

    @Randyoz 09:23AM - Cricket is dead in England? How does it look in Australia after England's 4-0 whitewash of your hapless bunnies two weeks ago? Given that both nations are clearly dead in your cricketing scheme of things, let's cancel next year's Ashes and we'll just keep the urn ok?

  • POSTED BY Hammond on | July 23, 2012, 12:27 GMT

    Number one may be hanging by a thread. But it may be a much thicker thread to cut than South Africa can currently imagine. C'mon England! Stuff the next 60 odd overs down South Africa's neck and watch them choke.

  • POSTED BY Shan156 on | July 23, 2012, 12:15 GMT

    One good game and Smith is compared to the likes of Steve Waugh and SA is already talked up as the greatest team ever. SA were good in this test but England were also abysmal. Even if they win this test, they could never be compared to the great Windies or Aussies teams of the past. One could understand that Saffer fans are excited but none of their players are as good as anyone in the great Aussie team. Kallis perhaps but Steyn, Morkel, and the so-called great Philander are not a patch on the great Glenn McGrath. In fact, never in their history have had bowlers of the class of McGrath and Warne. And, that is why that Aussie team always thrashed SA both home and away. And, the greatest captain ever - Smith - could do nothing about it. Please publish.

  • POSTED BY Hammond on | July 23, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    England, outplayed at this point but unbowed. WE will recover. What a great team to follow and furthermore all due credit to South Africa who far exceeded lots of peoples expectations and especially to Amla who played one of the great test innings (regardless of the conditions). Strauss truly has his work cut out for him, but as an ardent admirer of his from the first time I saw him carve up his famous cut shot, he will enjoy this challenge, and the team will rise to the occasion.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | July 23, 2012, 9:23 GMT

    What a crushing defeat this will be. Should be all over by lunch. Cricket is dead in England.

  • POSTED BY alexrdavies on | July 23, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    South Africa have definitely been the better team so far. Still, that doesn't mean we should fall over ourselves to praise every last decision they make. Declaring at tea on the fourth day is not creative - it's the standard option in this situation.

  • POSTED BY yocasi on | July 23, 2012, 9:08 GMT

    England played decent cricket to get to #1 but they are over-hyped by their media. Barring a couple moments of madness/indiscretion, Windies could have beaten them earlier this winter (oops! I mean summer). Kohli, Sehwag & Tendulkar will murder England down the road, after the Saffers have their fun this series.

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | July 23, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    SA has always had the talent and players capable of being the worlds best , but they lack the consistency to be called a great side , and i don't think there is any other team that makes a complete mess of potentially match wining positions so often

  • POSTED BY mukesh_LOVE.cricket on | July 23, 2012, 8:40 GMT

    hey whatever happened to the English attack that their coach hailed as 'capable of rivaling the great Aussie attack of warne and mcgrath'... oh and i love randyoz and jonesy2 comments , looks like they are enjoying this more than SAfricans themselves :-) , anyway gr8 test match , am sure England will come back stronger in the next test

  • POSTED BY StaalBurgher on | July 23, 2012, 8:07 GMT

    @Matty - What are you talking about? Selfish when we declare and Jacques is on 182*? Spare us. 250 was the minimum and they scored at a decent 3.37 per over. The fact of the matter is that SA batted the same as Cook/Trott in the 1st innings and that is when success was had. Perhaps you lot should prepare slightly less flat pitches. If you hadn't chucked away your wickets on the morning of Day 2 this Test would have been a certain draw. There is nothing to fault with Amla and Kallis. If our bowling attack can't get 10 wickets with 130 overs on the last day and a bit of Test that says more about shoddy pitch preparation. Odds are though that we will (not guaranteed I grant you) because your guys will either push, thereby giving chance for the seamers, or Tahir should finally get a few wickets as you try to ride it out. I don't really rate him too much myself but this will be the first time he is actually bowling on a spinning Test track.

  • POSTED BY PureTom on | July 23, 2012, 7:20 GMT

    I hope they let Tahir bowl over the wicket today. The fixation with footmarks just means a negative line outside leg-stump that gets kicked away. There's plenty in the wicket without hitting the footmarks. Got round the wicket once everything else has not worked, don't start their. He's not Paul Harris.

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 6:19 GMT

    If u dont take chances...u dont win. Try to be secure would earn u a draw mostly, but if u go for the kill, u may get shot down...but u wud win if ur resolve is true

  • POSTED BY on | July 23, 2012, 4:41 GMT

    @MattyP1979 Im amazed you managed to find something to fault SA. England have been bitterly exposed this test. Where they toiled for 2 measley wickets, SA took 4 in less than a quarter of overs. When Prior said 350 is a good score, SA almost doubled that. England will need to pull out all the stops and then some to save this test. I hope SA have to bat again and chase 50 odd runs..that would hurt England more than defeating them by an innings.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | July 23, 2012, 4:19 GMT

    @ Cpt. Meanster. The toughest country in the world for batsmen is South Africa. The lowest average runs scored in modern tests in any country is in SA - check the stats, they have been published here on Cricinfo numerous times. Players who learn their cricket there grow up on a diet of pace, bounce and swing. To suggest SA batsmen are suspect against swing is to suggest that Trott, Pieterson and Prior are suspect against swing. Hmmm, then again, given their record in this match I guess they are suspect, something that one could not say about Amla, Smith and Kallis. Eng are struggling against SA bowling at the Oval, on the pitch their bowling coach described as "sub-continent." Against SA I don't think that there is such a thing as a "home advantage" pitch for Eng. The spicier the pitch, the happier Morkel, Steyn, Philander and Kallis will be. And the flatter the pitch - well, we have seen that result already, without AB, JP and JR facing a single ball.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | July 23, 2012, 4:06 GMT

    I think Smith's declaration was absolutely right. England had no chance of winning the match by teatime, so what was the point of batting longer? In these days when sides are accustomed to chase at 6+ runs an over (unthinkable when I was growing up) even if England are 100 ahead SA would still fancy their chances if they have 15 overs or so to get them. It's essential for England to score runs tomorrow to have any chance- both to push the close fielders back a bit and to give themselves a better shot at scoring enough to force the draw. England has to try and get past the SA total with no more than a couple more wickets down; after that, every 5 runs is worth about 3 minutes. It's not impossible, but the odds are heavily in SA's favor. If they win, congratulations, they've deserved it.

  • POSTED BY satish619chandar on | July 23, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    @Gizza : Well said but at the same time, you need the resources to show faith.. Unfortunately, Dhoni didn't ve that quality of resources Smith or Waugh had.. @Cpt.Meanster : I wouldn't still rule out England.. They did struggle while batting in UAE but bowling was of high quality.. Drew in SL.. Their 3-0 in UAE was not a meek capitulation by any means.. They do have resources who can make it.. But need to improve a lot.. If India can prepare spinning tracks, certainly they will be backwards a bit.. They need to worry about this series a lot.. As u said, grassy track might not work against SA as grass is more a SA fort.. If they lose their No.1 status here, they will be in huge pressure when they come to India(provided India adds home advantage tracks).. Lets wait and watch.. I expect England to bounce back here itself and dilute pressure..

  • POSTED BY Meety on | July 23, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    @MattyP1979 - your arguements are moot should the Saffas win. The fact of the matter is, whenever the team batting first get near 400, it is not easy going to force a win. The fact is, ultimately the Saffas scored at 3.4 rpo, there was enough in the pitch that meant they had to grind England down at times (Day 2, first hrs Day 3 & 4). that all being said 4/100 fror Eng, means that unless Bell/Bopara & Prior AND one of the tail score a quickfire 50 & occupy the crease AND score runs on a 5th day pitch, England will lose. Only great batting can save England, & if that occurs momentum will be with England. No need to bag the Saffas players, are you envious?

  • POSTED BY Gizza on | July 23, 2012, 2:37 GMT

    We need more captains in the game who are confident of their bowling attack. Even if the bowling attack is weak and inconsistent, if the captain is aggressive the bowlers will lift and the batsmen will become scared. Every time you declare too late and settle for a draw you destroy your bowlers' confidence in the future (I'm looking at you Dhoni). It doesn't matter about the pitch sometimes or the past history, the best captains like Smith now and the likes of Steve Waugh in the past ALWAYS show faith in their bowlers. Great bowlers and captains go together.

  • POSTED BY MattyP1979 on | July 23, 2012, 2:23 GMT

    @Anothercricketfan, agree with the stats that they are indeed better bowlers at a min though. We will have to wait and see, but if we cannot save this match then we have to start looking inwards. Our tail is more than useful and need to pull our batsman out of it again. SA favourites but going to be hard to force a result...if they get it they will deserve it.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | July 23, 2012, 0:07 GMT

    Smith is so far ahead of Strauss it doesn't even warrant mentioning. Strauss wouldn't make a Tamworth grade side and yet still gets a match. A true indication of the thin resources in England.

  • POSTED BY AnotherCricketFan on | July 22, 2012, 23:45 GMT

    @MartyP1979, The way the bowlers bowled, Staruss's, Kevin P's demise showed that they are BETTER bowlers on this wicket at the minimum. Ravi lacks confidence and Bell's square on stance is going to give Imran an easy lbw target. Prior and others - less said the better. They may end up playing one of their best innings to save Eng, but one does not think so. The modern day cricket do not produce classy Test players - they are REQUIRED to be entertaining. The tail is also hyped as you say. Broad, Bresnan, Swann may have been stars against India, WI but not against SA especially middle of the day they will have the option of SECOND new ball.

  • POSTED BY MattyP1979 on | July 22, 2012, 22:32 GMT

    I actually think this creativity along with selfesh excellence from Amla and Kallis will cost them this game. 150 in front last day on still a pretty decent pitch means wickets will be hard to come by. The much hyped Eng tail need to live up to expections of course but I forsee a draw. When we only managed to get 2 wickets more questions should be asked of SA approach than of Eng's. Stats easily to SA but with a whole host of players in ICC rankings top list and yet team is 3rd we might be finding out why. Team first.

  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | July 22, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    Yes SA look like world no.1 as far as this match goes. England played well the last 18 months. Swinging conditions are England's strength. Once that element is off, they are average. They will have a tough time in India where conditions are hot, humid, slow and low. Apart from a couple of batsmen perhaps, the rest could struggle. Their bowling lacks the venom of SA's. Still 2 more games to go in this series. I am sure the ECB already has sent instructions to the curator at Headingley to produce a pitch to create home advantage. But then again, SA love pace and bounce. If there is one problem SA have it is the fact they are suspect against swing. Ha ! then again which team isn't ?!

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  • POSTED BY Cpt.Meanster on | July 22, 2012, 21:32 GMT

    Yes SA look like world no.1 as far as this match goes. England played well the last 18 months. Swinging conditions are England's strength. Once that element is off, they are average. They will have a tough time in India where conditions are hot, humid, slow and low. Apart from a couple of batsmen perhaps, the rest could struggle. Their bowling lacks the venom of SA's. Still 2 more games to go in this series. I am sure the ECB already has sent instructions to the curator at Headingley to produce a pitch to create home advantage. But then again, SA love pace and bounce. If there is one problem SA have it is the fact they are suspect against swing. Ha ! then again which team isn't ?!

  • POSTED BY MattyP1979 on | July 22, 2012, 22:32 GMT

    I actually think this creativity along with selfesh excellence from Amla and Kallis will cost them this game. 150 in front last day on still a pretty decent pitch means wickets will be hard to come by. The much hyped Eng tail need to live up to expections of course but I forsee a draw. When we only managed to get 2 wickets more questions should be asked of SA approach than of Eng's. Stats easily to SA but with a whole host of players in ICC rankings top list and yet team is 3rd we might be finding out why. Team first.

  • POSTED BY AnotherCricketFan on | July 22, 2012, 23:45 GMT

    @MartyP1979, The way the bowlers bowled, Staruss's, Kevin P's demise showed that they are BETTER bowlers on this wicket at the minimum. Ravi lacks confidence and Bell's square on stance is going to give Imran an easy lbw target. Prior and others - less said the better. They may end up playing one of their best innings to save Eng, but one does not think so. The modern day cricket do not produce classy Test players - they are REQUIRED to be entertaining. The tail is also hyped as you say. Broad, Bresnan, Swann may have been stars against India, WI but not against SA especially middle of the day they will have the option of SECOND new ball.

  • POSTED BY RandyOZ on | July 23, 2012, 0:07 GMT

    Smith is so far ahead of Strauss it doesn't even warrant mentioning. Strauss wouldn't make a Tamworth grade side and yet still gets a match. A true indication of the thin resources in England.

  • POSTED BY MattyP1979 on | July 23, 2012, 2:23 GMT

    @Anothercricketfan, agree with the stats that they are indeed better bowlers at a min though. We will have to wait and see, but if we cannot save this match then we have to start looking inwards. Our tail is more than useful and need to pull our batsman out of it again. SA favourites but going to be hard to force a result...if they get it they will deserve it.

  • POSTED BY Gizza on | July 23, 2012, 2:37 GMT

    We need more captains in the game who are confident of their bowling attack. Even if the bowling attack is weak and inconsistent, if the captain is aggressive the bowlers will lift and the batsmen will become scared. Every time you declare too late and settle for a draw you destroy your bowlers' confidence in the future (I'm looking at you Dhoni). It doesn't matter about the pitch sometimes or the past history, the best captains like Smith now and the likes of Steve Waugh in the past ALWAYS show faith in their bowlers. Great bowlers and captains go together.

  • POSTED BY Meety on | July 23, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    @MattyP1979 - your arguements are moot should the Saffas win. The fact of the matter is, whenever the team batting first get near 400, it is not easy going to force a win. The fact is, ultimately the Saffas scored at 3.4 rpo, there was enough in the pitch that meant they had to grind England down at times (Day 2, first hrs Day 3 & 4). that all being said 4/100 fror Eng, means that unless Bell/Bopara & Prior AND one of the tail score a quickfire 50 & occupy the crease AND score runs on a 5th day pitch, England will lose. Only great batting can save England, & if that occurs momentum will be with England. No need to bag the Saffas players, are you envious?

  • POSTED BY satish619chandar on | July 23, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    @Gizza : Well said but at the same time, you need the resources to show faith.. Unfortunately, Dhoni didn't ve that quality of resources Smith or Waugh had.. @Cpt.Meanster : I wouldn't still rule out England.. They did struggle while batting in UAE but bowling was of high quality.. Drew in SL.. Their 3-0 in UAE was not a meek capitulation by any means.. They do have resources who can make it.. But need to improve a lot.. If India can prepare spinning tracks, certainly they will be backwards a bit.. They need to worry about this series a lot.. As u said, grassy track might not work against SA as grass is more a SA fort.. If they lose their No.1 status here, they will be in huge pressure when they come to India(provided India adds home advantage tracks).. Lets wait and watch.. I expect England to bounce back here itself and dilute pressure..

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | July 23, 2012, 4:06 GMT

    I think Smith's declaration was absolutely right. England had no chance of winning the match by teatime, so what was the point of batting longer? In these days when sides are accustomed to chase at 6+ runs an over (unthinkable when I was growing up) even if England are 100 ahead SA would still fancy their chances if they have 15 overs or so to get them. It's essential for England to score runs tomorrow to have any chance- both to push the close fielders back a bit and to give themselves a better shot at scoring enough to force the draw. England has to try and get past the SA total with no more than a couple more wickets down; after that, every 5 runs is worth about 3 minutes. It's not impossible, but the odds are heavily in SA's favor. If they win, congratulations, they've deserved it.

  • POSTED BY Greatest_Game on | July 23, 2012, 4:19 GMT

    @ Cpt. Meanster. The toughest country in the world for batsmen is South Africa. The lowest average runs scored in modern tests in any country is in SA - check the stats, they have been published here on Cricinfo numerous times. Players who learn their cricket there grow up on a diet of pace, bounce and swing. To suggest SA batsmen are suspect against swing is to suggest that Trott, Pieterson and Prior are suspect against swing. Hmmm, then again, given their record in this match I guess they are suspect, something that one could not say about Amla, Smith and Kallis. Eng are struggling against SA bowling at the Oval, on the pitch their bowling coach described as "sub-continent." Against SA I don't think that there is such a thing as a "home advantage" pitch for Eng. The spicier the pitch, the happier Morkel, Steyn, Philander and Kallis will be. And the flatter the pitch - well, we have seen that result already, without AB, JP and JR facing a single ball.