England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day

England must ask tough questions

The home side can have no arguments that they have been out-played by South Africa and if they have ambitions of reviving their Test fortunes will need to be honest about their problems

George Dobell at Lord's

August 19, 2012

Comments: 111 | Text size: A | A

Andrew Strauss walks off in his 100th Test having made 1, England v South Africa, 3rd Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day, August 19, 2012
Andrew Strauss' role as captain and batsman will come under scrutiny before England's next Test series © Getty Images

Just as summer inexorably turns into autumn, so England's grip on the No.1 Test status is ebbing away as surely as night follows day. Like a desperate man losing their grip on a cliff face, England will, at some stage on Monday, fall from their perch. As Bob Dylan put it, it's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

Few England supporters would dispute that South Africa have been the better side in this series. They would accept, too, that England, for all their improvements over recent years, have failed to justify their lofty ranking since defeating India about 12 months ago. What seemed, at the time, like the start of a journey, might have turned out to be the end. A record that may well read six losses from 11 Tests this year by the end of Monday tells its own story.

It is a story which leaves England with some awkward questions to answer.

Firstly, they need to look at why their catching, so impressive when they won the Ashes, has become so fallible. They have dropped nine catches in this series, including chances that might - such as the reprieve of Hashim Amla at The Oval and Alviro Petersen in Leeds - have defined matches. In South Africa's second innings here, England dropped Amla on 2, AB de Villiers on 8 and Jacques Rudolph on 6. It is hard enough to beat South Africa without allowing their middle order an extra innings each.

At present this is a question for which England have no answer. They are not lacking in hard work and good intention but, perhaps, lack the personnel to build an effective slip cordon. It may be that, if they conclude that their slip catching is costing them games - and there is increasing evidence that it is - they need to look at their team selection and ensure they are better covered in such respect.

Stuart Broad's reputation has also declined during this series. Despite one good spell at Leeds, he has been bowling with reduced pace and effectiveness throughout and can no longer be presumed an automatic selection. While the greater potential of his batting might be presumed to see him preferred to Graham Onions, Broad's batting average in this series - 8.25 - hardly justifies that. The bowling average of 39.72 is hardly encouraging, either.

That is not to say Broad should be dropped. He is only 26 and may well come to be regarded in time as one of England's finest seamers. But England really do need to question - and correct - his loss of pace and hostility with the ball and his loss of form with the bat. He is too good to be allowed to go to waste.

But perhaps the most awkward question concerns Andrew Strauss. No-one disputes that Strauss is a fine man with an excellent career behind him. But there are legitimate questions about his future. He has a highest score of 37 and an average of just 17.83 in this series. More to the point, he has hardly looked likely to score runs.

Some of his tactical decisions - such as dropping Graeme Swann at Headingley and the leg-side approach to bowling at Graeme Smith - have been muddled and, by the close of play on Monday, it is likely that he will have presided over one series victory in four. The harsh might also suggest that a more sophisticated captain might have nullified any issues between Kevin Pietersen and the rest of the team before they reached the stage they have. They have been brewing for some time.

It is true that it is not long since Strauss scored runs against West Indies. And they were not the easy runs some suggest. As Kemar Roach proved to Jonny Bairstow, the West Indian attack is not to be under-rated. But the fact remains that the South African attack is a class above and, if England really aspire to return to the top ranking, they need a man at the top of the order who can see off the new ball with more certainty that Strauss offers at present. The lack of alternatives for his position is a concern, but Jonathan Trott, Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and, perhaps, Joe Root are all possibilities.

England's success has been built - partly, anyway - on the principle of continuity of selection. But there is a line between a settled environment and a cosy environment and it remains to be seen if Andy Flower, for all his excellence in the role of England coach, can regenerate this side in the way that Sir Alex Ferguson has a series of Manchester United sides.

Perhaps this series may prove something of a watershed. The emergence of Steven Finn and Jonny Bairstow offers substantial encouragement for the future. Both are young and both will endure some pot-holes on their journey, but they have shown they are men with a future at this level.

Finn has claimed eight wickets in this match, bowling with a pace and hostility that would trouble any side. He concedes more runs per over than England would like in an ideal world, but the key is that he takes wickets. It is a skill that outweighs all negatives. He has time to work on his consistency.

"I wouldn't say I chase wickets," Finn said after play. "I'm a young bowler. I'm not going to get it right every time. That's part of being a young bowler. Everyone experiences that when they're growing up. I'm only 23-years-old. I'm still learning a lot about the way I bowl. I don't run up thinking 'wickets, wickets, wickets' every ball. It's not the way I've been taught to operate and it's not the way the team operates. I went at four-an-over in the first innings, but came back in the second innings and went for less than three-an-over and felt I bowled well."

Finn insisted that England could still win the game on the last day. But to score another 330 in 90 overs against this attack would be an awesome achievement. But perhaps the most damning statistic is this: England have never successfully chased more than 332 to win a Test in a history that started in 1876-77.

"As a team over recent years we have enjoyed breaking records and defying people's beliefs against us," Finn said somewhat implausibly. "We really do believe in the dressing room that we can win this game. The older ball does a lot less than the new ball and tomorrow we'll be playing against a ball 15 overs old. When the ball is softer there is no uneven bounce and when the ball is old and the sun is out, it's a very good wicket to bat on. It's going to be important to build partnerships and get our foot in the door. Then, later in the day, maybe we can smash through it and win the game."

Maybe. In truth England need a miracle of Biblical proportions to win this game and retain their No.1 ranking. And it is hard to see how even a plague of locusts can help them now.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (August 22, 2012, 19:13 GMT)

@JG2704: So KP is presumed guilty ? (if you use google, you'll know how easy it is to send text posing as someone else).

Posted by StoneRose on (August 22, 2012, 1:46 GMT)

Lessons need to be learned but I don't think dropping a whole host of players is the answer. Resting Broad is one answer; don't know if it is the correct one, could he do with more bowling in ODIs - arguably his favourite format - to build rhythm?. The KP issue needs to be sorted - maybe we are underestimating the effect disharmony has on the team. But I think an issue not raised is England's ill-discipline while fielding (e.g. sledging, tutting, chuntering). Perhaps they have focused too much on aspects like this rather than catching well.

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (August 21, 2012, 12:40 GMT)

Compton = average county circuit journeyman who has had one good season. Carberry = another average county veteran. Both are nearly as old as Strauss so how can they be called the future?

Posted by the_blue_android on (August 21, 2012, 7:15 GMT)

Cannot wait to see this English pop-gun attack bowl to Sehwag on a slow pitch. Bring your daughter, bring your daughter...to the slaughter...editor, this is a fav Iron Maiden song of mine, not cursing anyone! please publish

Posted by ygkd on (August 21, 2012, 1:09 GMT)

@H_Z_O - It is totally wrong to suggest that a South African kid (such as Matt Prior was) turns up in England and the experiences of his first 11 years will have no bearing on his subsequent development. At 11 a kid who's going places in the game will already have absorbed a well-defined cricketing culture. Prior (whether one likes him or not) does, I believe, show South African traits such as mental toughness etc in line with an early upbringing in the South African cricket community. That in no way means he shouldn't play for England, but rather that Eng cannot claim him as a whole product of their system. You cannot change a kid that much. You work with what's there. Neither is England the only place to find ex-South Africans. New Zealand has a few as well. NZ is a place where the toughness exists but it is dominated by rugby, so the pool is diminished in an already small popluation. Eng has a far, far greater population than NZ. It shouldn't need to look south as much as it does.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 20, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

@Hira1 on (August 19 2012, 20:49 PM GMT) Rumour yesterday (among fans commenting pre Surrey's match) was that KP had actually texted SA players on how to bowl to our players , highlighting their weaknesses etc. Not sure the truth behind it but if true , would you still want KP playing in this match?

Posted by dabhand on (August 20, 2012, 19:27 GMT)

One of the best last days test cricket for a very long time. SA deserved their victory and the #1 spot but Bairstow, Prior, Broad and Swann made them work for it and that's how it should be.

The sniping from the back crease players and keyboard warriors should not be allowed to demean the efforts of both teams.

England can now put KP behind them and review each players contribution and evaluate their future and plan to regain #1 because with the exception (possibly) of one other team, there's no real quality elsewhere- as those supporting India have pointed out.

Posted by zoot on (August 20, 2012, 18:26 GMT)

The no 1 ranking was misleading. South Africa should have taken it over some time ago. England have looked worse than South Africa for years.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 18:26 GMT)

In the wake of this Test match, some serious questions have to be answered. The haters cannot blame KP for England's lost as well, KP wasn't playing. The fact that England are a stronger team with KP in the side is proven even further, but take nothing away from South Africa as they, more than anyone, deserves this victory. Well played Saffers. That aside, an amnesty must be reached and the ECB need to do some serious rethinking in regards to their contracts and their management of players, including double-standards and such. KP also needs to fire his advisers and learn to keep his feelings to himself. Bairstow looks a solid #6 but not a KP replacement. If anything, the ECB need to adapt now to the international schedule and look at how they manage their players to keep the England team competitive over all three formats. While not one player is bigger than the team, make no mistake, having KP back will make England a more competitive side. Long way back for them now though.

Posted by H_Z_O on (August 20, 2012, 18:22 GMT)

South Africa absolutely deserve their number 1 status, they've been a very good side for a long time now, with a formidable record home and away, and they've just been better than England in all departments. However, the margins have been smaller than the Oval match made them seem, as proven by England getting 294 batting last, without their best batsman (regardless of why that was, the fact is, he didn't play). England's gradual improvement with each match of this series suggests that a five match series could well have had a different outcome. Take nothing away from South Africa, though, they did what they had to, and were always one step ahead of England, it's just a shame we never got to see the series this should have been. Bring on 2015, I say.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 18:15 GMT)

Oh, wait a minute! Isnt this the English team, with batsmen that are very capable of handling the "moving" ball. Where were all those master bats, that feel below their image to bad on flat tracks!! Think North go South?

Posted by kunderanengineer on (August 20, 2012, 18:12 GMT)

I guess the question on many people's minds lately - "What's wrong with Big Vern?" can be laid to rest at least temporarily. Not only did he take 7 wickets but those 96 runs he scored made a big difference in the end. A much deserved win for the Saffers but what great fighting spirit shown by England particularly Prior after being down 45 for 4 and all but buried. A great advertisement for test cricket.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 18:05 GMT)

England sure miss KP. Statistically and historically all the english wins in the past are coincident with KP at his best. Minus KP, this english team will be thrashed by minnows. The much talked "tall" pace bowling quartet(or trio) is only good on the English shores!

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 17:59 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge and the likes! England awaits another thrashing this November 2012 , even it be the "mediocre side in doldrums and inexperienced" Indian side. So much of talk on one series win over a depleted injury ridden side, while being thrashed in their own backyard many times by visiting sides including the "mediocre" Indian side...More words and less action, Pom Style!!!, where is all that English tabloid? Is it saying, oh its a clash between two world class sides, but we got thrashed!! More thrashing ahead...

Posted by mikey76 on (August 20, 2012, 17:37 GMT)

Although I am gutted we couldn't pull off the win today, I think deep down it would have papered over the cracks of what has been a terribly dissapointing display from England. Too many players just didn't turn up, Cook and Trott who have been the bedrock of our batting were sadly absent for most of this series, while Broad and Swann both need to look at their performances. Its true if all the catches had been taken we might have snuck a win but you cant compete if only half the side are playing to their full potential. On the positive side, Prior was immense throughout the series, Finn looks like the rock on which our pace attack can be built (hopefully with Meaker). And Jonny Bairstow put all thoughts that he doesn't belong in test cricket to bed. I think England seriously need to look at the 4 man pace attack approach, we desperatley need that genuine all-rounder at 6 or 7 so its high time Chris Woakes was given a chance. Hats off to South Africa, they outplayed us. Enough said.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (August 20, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

Woe for the dropped catches. England would've won by a mile had Amla and Viller's dolly been caught, and would have made for the best test match for decades, highlighting just how close the two teams are. England weren't going to play for the draw, and fell going for the win which shows the fundamental competitiveness that's made them so successful in the last three years, like when they consigned Australia and India to the mediocre average-ranked doldrums they've been in for an age now. We just witnessed a series against the world's best two cricket teams. And they're head and shoulders above the much mocked, ordinary sides that languish below them.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 17:29 GMT)

Andrew Strauss is unfit to be Captain. Cook does not perform. If there is no opening partnership worth the name you will be skittled out. England has good bowlers who also did not perform properly in the second Innings. There is no point in having good bowlers unless your batsmen are able to put up big totals. ECB Chairman you paid the price for dropping that great once in a lifetime KP. Sack Strauss he is totally unfit as a batsman and Skipper.. England have been suspect in my eyes since 2005 as regards batting is concerned. They fall like nine pins. Why Strauss and Co could not bat when Matt Prior batted so well is beyond me. By a stroke of luck Eng. were No.1 for a short while.

Posted by Garp on (August 20, 2012, 17:21 GMT)

It really is a shame that the batsmen we depend on most to get the runs acted like timid little schoolboys during this final test. To lose by 50 odd runs knowing that your top 4 only contributed 20 odd runs for both their innings is woeful. Strauss, Cook, and Bell need to reevaluate their desire to play this sport! At the very last all 3 must be dropped until they prove that they prove that there in it for more than the huge wages they collect. We all know of 1 batsmen who would of won this match for England but unfortunately the ECB have been playing favorites for years and the 3 i've already mentioned are top of that favorites list regardless how poor they play and the man playing county cricket is at the bottom, how typical though that he is also the one who can actually play cricket.

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

Funny, that English experts, press and public have been harping about England having a chance to be on top of all three ICC ranking for more than a month. meanwhile saffers are a blink away from it right now....first ODI win and they could be there, knocking pommies clean of all the top ranking.... thinking north and going south.

Posted by rhtdm302 on (August 20, 2012, 17:14 GMT)

Thank You Gary! You Deserve the Bharat Ratna!

Posted by jezzastyles on (August 20, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

Can't seem to add anything to the Tea Report article. England need 57-runs and have 2-wickets remaining. Looks like an historic victory is on the cards for the resilient ENG squad, much maligned but battling hard. On paper, SA do appear the better team, but ENG have made a remarkable chase. P:rior is still out there and looking as safe as ever, just hope Anderson can stick around. Hope they can pull off an unheralded win, with Prior to hit the winning runs. Still a long way to go, but the closer they get, the more the pressure goes back onto SA, and that ugly "C" rears its head and bares its fangs. C'mon ENG, I am a true Aussie, and most of us have a soft spot for the underdog. As they say in the "Waterboy", "You can do it!". Might be a lot of humble pie being eaten after this match.

Posted by sweetspot on (August 20, 2012, 17:09 GMT)

Before all the gleeful Indian fans clamour here, I have to say this - England did put up a good fight, and made a fist of a match. They were outdone by a better team so they should have no hard feelings. Now, they should simply prepare for this to continue in India - both the fighting and being outdone. Shortest reign at #1 to date? Very gratifying indeed. Whatever the rankings suggest, this is not England's best ever team. That must go to the times of Harmy and Freddie and Simon Jones that won the Ashes. This is a very physically fit team, and nothing too much more than that.

Posted by Arrow011 on (August 20, 2012, 16:30 GMT)


Posted by H_Z_O on (August 20, 2012, 16:14 GMT)

@youngkeepersdad no argument about Trott and KP , but to argue Prior was developed in South Africa is laughable. He came to England at 11. In fact, it's interesting you mention U19s: Prior represented England at all age groups, including U19s. About as home-grown as you can get. I also wonder if anyone notices the irony in considering England's selection of South African-born batsmen controversial, in a series contesting the Basil D'Oliveira trophy. Now *that* was what you call a controversial selection.

Posted by maddy20 on (August 20, 2012, 16:12 GMT)

@sixnout Under-estimate Cheteswar Pujara and Badrinath at your own peril. In his debut agaisnt Aus, Pujara came in and scored 72 at 5 runs an over against the Aussies on a day 5 wicket. Badrinth is no less. Their patience and temperament can be compared to that of Dravid and Laxman. Whether they translate it into performance in the long run remains to be seen but still there is a very good chance that Eng will get drubbed - AGAIN. As for spinners Ashwin and Yuvraj backed by Ojha are more than good enough for England!

Posted by soham1303 on (August 20, 2012, 16:12 GMT)

I am not sure why the Indian team is being used as a trump card, as if it's a given that England will beat India. England beat India badly the last time round the 2 teams met. However, in India, with Ashwin and Harbhajan in the team and dustbowls to contend with, it won't be easy for England. I would rather say it will be a keenly contested series since England now has players who know how to play spin.

PS: You do not chase down 300+ scores in the 4th innings without your best batsman -perhaps the best batsman in the world currently. The common goal- an England win is paramount. ECB should just have denied all the "texts" and moved on. Maybe they could have had a closed door meeting with Pietersen. Well, these things are better managed by the BCCI. They managed the Dhoni-Sehwag fiasco admirably when it reared it's ugly head in Australia.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 15:26 GMT)

Alas, poor England. A probable loss here to go with the U19 loss yesterday. At least the 19's had an excuse; at that level South African and Zimbabwean recruits are a bit thin on the ground. No such excuses for the senior side. Oh, the horror.

Posted by sixnout on (August 20, 2012, 14:28 GMT)

For all the Indians who think that England would come to India and get butchered, please remember a couple of things... The almighty middle order is gone... There are no good bowlers around.. Kohli has been classy but on the test front, there is not much going for the team.. That should be a tough series for the Indians as well

Posted by maddy20 on (August 20, 2012, 14:04 GMT)

"The harsh might also suggest that a more sophisticated captain might have nullified any issues between Kevin Pietersen and the rest of the team before they reached the stage they have" Precisely what I said before a ball had been bowled in this test.As I am typinjg the Johnny Bairstow was massacring the SA bowlers at will before he was dismissed by an old flaw- Vulnerability to spin.. One more batsman who has the capability to turn a game on its head, would have helped England score a lot quicker thereby winning test and saving the series. Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell are so inconsistent that, if these are the guys KP was having problems with, I would have dropped them in a heartbeat. Since NO.1 Strauss averages around 15 with the bat! But as it so happens its a clear case of their Ego before logic. The result 11 matches 6 losses 3 wins(2 against WI). It will be 10 out of 15 or 9 out of 15 after the India tour if they do not pick Pietersen.

Posted by Hammond on (August 20, 2012, 13:39 GMT)

I've had so much joy watching the English cricket team, ever since 2003 when Martin Bicknell bowled England to victory in the fifth test. Even my Scottish wife was cheering the boys on. I've been up (2005) down (2006) and everything in between. I love the technical excellence of the batsman, the fiery quick bowlers and (since Swann) exemplary slow bowling. If any of you England boys read this just wanted you to know that you have a fan to the end. You have brought so much happiness to this die hard (Australian) English cricket supporter.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 12:36 GMT)

Oh yes doom and gloom...it's all over, hang them all - sack them all - start again...I thought cricket fans had moved on from that attitude. SA are a great team and this should have been a proper 5 match series (aka the Ashes) instead of a 3 test waste of time. Yes SA will move to number 1 - but so what? - England can easily take it back over the next year, and lets not forget won't play SA again until at least 2015!! - in the meantime no doubt they will play India etc about 20 times in that period!

Posted by wrenx on (August 20, 2012, 12:05 GMT)

@Unomaas Well said, England severely underestimated their opponents. One would think they'd learned their lesson this year, but clearly not. No first-class cricket for almost all of their players since the truncated 3rd test against WI. Everyone says they lost against Pakistan because of lack of preparation, but that's a red-herring - a side with the resources of England can get all the preparation they need, they just underestimated the opposition and assumed they didn't need to prepare, and were duly hammered. Hubris is very much a strand of the DNA of English sport, and no amount of hammerings will ever change that (just look at the football team)

Posted by LeeHallam on (August 20, 2012, 11:37 GMT)

330 in a day is not tough but not impossible, however with Bell having just gone as I write, it seems very, very unlikely. We can hope for a good showing from the youngsters. South Africa have looked like the best team throughout, their batting is more solid, with Philander they now have high quality trio, with Kallis as back up, and a handy spinner. In the past they tended to have two great bowlers with OK back up. But it is the dropped catches that have been most damaging. England need to move on, Andrew Strauss will know if he has the energy and will to carry on, I trust him to make the best decision for the side. So congratulations to South Africa on the way they have played, if they become number one today it will be well deserved. But just possibly, could England nick it? While there's cricket there's hope!

Posted by yorkshire-86 on (August 20, 2012, 11:34 GMT)

You have forgot to mention Alistair Cook. Bar that one century he has been a walking wicket - and this problem has been going on for a while. Since he got back into the ODI team in fact. Before then he was probably our most reliable batsmen, but since then he has been picking up daft strokes and playing them in his Test matches. Cook is not a captain and never will be, his leadership is timid at best. Remember him skulking to the boundary (when his fielding position was short leg) every time a discussion about bowling changes occured during the away West Indian series, when he was officially VC? Prior, Swann, Broad or KP should be the next England captain (dont think KP will be considered though!)

Posted by munchovski on (August 20, 2012, 11:16 GMT)

Chris Sun, you may have had 1 too many VB's mate. As I recall, SA's 96 was closely followed by the lowest team total in more than 100 years. 47, wasn't it? Also, South Africa's undeniably poor record in Australia has in recent times started to look a little better. Didn't we win the last series there?

Posted by thebrotherswaugh on (August 20, 2012, 11:02 GMT)

@PheonixSteve, another well written article, now that's a good one. Finally, on the eve of Fortress England's demise, Dobell & co. begin to get it. 3 nil vs PAK from three games should have had the alarm bells ringing, because those bells were heralding the oncoming tsunami that was the Saffers. No choking this time. The only bowler who can hold his head high for ENG is Finn - he consistently put in. Anderson has been average, and hopeless in the field. Broad tried hard but just doesn't have the ability. Swanny (Sultan of the Dead Straight Ball) should keep on using the old 'carrying an injury' security blanket for yet another poor performance. Kohli & co. must be rubbing their hands together in glee waiting for him to arrive. Looks like the old fortress was definitely built on weak foundations, and the Sappers (sorry, make that Saffers) have done their job & brought the walls crumbling down. Time for introspection, nope, start rebuilding now, like AUS did after the embarrassing Ashes!

Posted by thebrotherswaugh on (August 20, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

@Chris Sun, luv the sentiment, I am as one-eyed as they come, but the current SA team are quality across the field. I reckon we can match them in the bowling department, but all of our batsmen will need to fire for us to have a chance. Most of their batsmen have averages that are steadily climbing, meaning they are getting better. The majority of OZ batsmen cannot say the same thing. Clarke is our best. Ponting & Hussey must score heavily, and Watson must start converting all those starts to hundreds. I expect Warner to play his natural game, so he'll have some low scores mixed in with some decent scores (all at a good clip). I hope Cowan is retained as opener - if he has a good series vs. the Saffers, he'll have consolidated his spot in the side (at least until we win back the Ashes). Our U-19 squad is going well, so hopefully we'll have more quality bats on the way through very soon. We need somebody to own that #3 spot (we're 3 for 100 or less far too often).

Posted by Jazman on (August 20, 2012, 10:46 GMT)

@Chris Sun. You might know better than me (as my only recollection is of what he has achieved against SA), but IMHO much of Australia's recent trouble lies in that you have not yet found a replacement for Mat Hayden. Again, I do not know how he has fared against other teams, but he absolutely killed us. Based on what I have seen of him I consider him to have been the ultimate, ruthless modern great opener. I rate him easily above Smith and Sehwag. Replace him (although I doubt finding his match ever again would be possible), have Cummins and the other young quick (can't recall his name now) fit for the series and you might just be spot on in your prediction.

Posted by Winsome on (August 20, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

What is all this talk? The match hasn't been lost yet. Anyone remember the SA v Aus match last year, the second one in the 2 match series? The Aussies chased down a largish total, damned exciting it was too. The SA bowlers appeared to have little in the way of answers to the Aus middle order and tail.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 10:33 GMT)

Well Nasir Hussain hope that shuts ur mouth for the next few years ..was fed up of him singing the glory song and harping abt the excellence of english players for a short lived no1 status. Agreed India was not a dominating No1 team but we still achieved it by some good performances , let's compare in the no of days which team managed to retain the tag longer...! Well done SA for achieving a truly deserved no1 and shutting the mouths of the English experts and the press....! can't wait for them to tour India for a butchering !

Posted by Jack_Tka on (August 20, 2012, 10:18 GMT)

Sometimes when I look at the series, I am baffled. Eng has got atleast three world class bowlers. Finn/Anderson/Swann. With little support, they should've barracked the SA batting. Conincidently, SA has got traditional TEST batsmen who like spending time in the middle rather than worrying about run scarce. Also, the lack of green tops that Eng used very well against Ind batting is one of the reason(It could've backfired badly if used against SA). Even if the series is lost by Eng, they're a decent test side. But at the same time losing Rank #1 on home turf is a HUMILIATION. Even Indians are better than Eng in their home conditions that too with less talented bowling.

Posted by Last_ride on (August 20, 2012, 10:16 GMT)

@Chris sun your comments are very funny.I expect Ricky pontings carrer to be over in that series.The current Ricky ponting is at best very average.Not even a shadow of the old one.And regarding Cummins and pattinson.Hehe we will see if they will even be fit for the matches.Dale steyn and Morne morkel to end Pontings career.

Posted by kangaroussy on (August 20, 2012, 10:14 GMT)

@rahul, yes that's right, Sachin is rather good isn't he. Also, please be quiet. This series has nothing whatsoever to do with India. It has been a cracking contest between the top 2 test nations right now, that could have easily even won by England if they had held a few catches, but will probably be deservedly won by SA. I will be a very happy cricket fan if the number 1ranking gets traded around between India, England, South Africa and Australia for a few years to come. Because that means there will be plenty of series worth watching for neutral fans like you and I. Unless, of course, you only watch cricket in the hope of finding examples of cricketers who are not as good as Indian legends.

Posted by thrash_metal on (August 20, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

@ Chris Sun. You live in a strange fairy tale-like world, where reality has subsided exceptionally. Hilarious, you mention SA were bowled out by Aus for 96, but you handily forget that SA then proceeded to bowl Aus out for 47!!!!!! SA possess 2 of the 3 best batsmen in the world, and 4 of our top order are in the top 6 in the world. Aus have only 1, Clarke, at 7. LOL. SA have 3 bowlers in the top 10, including no. 1 and 3...Aus have 2, ranked 6 & 8. Also can't remember what happened last time in 08/09? SA won series 2-1, and that Aus team was better than the current one. Carry on dreaming little boy

Posted by wrenx on (August 20, 2012, 9:51 GMT)

I'd challenge Dobell to write 100 words without mentioning the #1 ranking. It's become a pathology - no English journalist can help themselves

Posted by allblue on (August 20, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

Wow, what a lot of hate here! A psychologist or social anthropologist would have a field day reading through these comments. England have under-performed certainly, Broad has been a shadow of last year, as has Bresnan, but also the batting has lost its discipline cf. the stat which showed that after three innings England's top order had been caught behind 12 times - 10 of them to a ball missing the stumps. England have looked distracted, lacking focus whereas SA have been strong, single-minded & sensing now is their time. Even so, the Oval apart, England have been right with them - a first innings lead in the last two Tests remember, and it wasn't until the 8th wicket partnership yesterday that SA finally won the decisive advantage. Had Amla gone for 1 or AB for 8 it would have been a different game, but it is the small margins that count and SA have won nearly all of those so deserve their victory. They look a very fine side, while England need to regroup and rediscover the hunger.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:50 GMT)

Forget about this game and series, the Aussies will rolll SA like they did to them for 96 all out, and then be able to chase down big innings of 300+. Cummins and Pattinson will tear through this batting lineup because none of them have good records against Australia or in Australia. It seems that SA always play badly when they play Australia. I like to see that. This series is done and dusted and SA will lose the no.1 ranking when the AUS tour is over. Warner will bet the bowlers to all parts of the ground, Ponting returning to form, Clarke at his best as Captain and Hussey will still go strong. C'mon Aussie C'mon. Belts these Proteas.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 20, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

@vrn59 on (August 20 2012, 04:13 AM GMT) I believe you are a SA fan , so may I congratulate your side and also you as a person from refraining from one eyed gloats which we've had from so many others

Posted by JG2704 on (August 20, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

@kensohatter on (August 20 2012, 02:09 AM GMT) Prob is I don't think they will. I think Eng will be happy with a draw. I think they would have sent Prior or Jonny up the order had they serious intentions of winning

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

"Strauss has failed to perform in the Ashes and the series against Sri Lanka (home and away), India and Pakistan"

I think you'll find he has scored four centuries against Australia, including one in the last Ashes series when England were up against it. As for India, he didn't so much fail as not succeed - he outscored Cook in every innings bar one. Sri Lanka and Pakistan, you have a point.

My bigger worry is not his record (which by any standard is a very fine one) but his age and the fact that he seems to be distracted by the captaincy. True, it can't help trying to work with Hugh Morris and Giles Clarke, but he looks increasingly muddled and absent-minded. If he goes to India, it should be his last series in charge before Cook (it will presumably be Cook, although candidly I still have misgivings about him as captain) takes over against NZ to warm up for the Ashes. Nick Compton would be his most obvious successor as opener if Strauss can't justify his place as a batsman.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 20, 2012, 8:41 GMT)

@HusseyFan on (August 20 2012, 01:29 AM GMT) Even as a Broad fan I have to agree with your post. I'd also change the team formation to a 5/1/5 . Disagree re Jimmy though. Apart from the 1st test where none of our guys made inroads Jimmy has been our best bowler. He definitely bowled better than Finn in 1st inns even if stats show different

Posted by Jazman on (August 20, 2012, 8:39 GMT)

All through the series the lack of pace of all the bowlers have been strange. Was the pitches prepared deliberately slow? Is it tactical - have the bowlers controlled their pace deliberately? Steyn always averages about 145 (around 90 mph) with the effort ball sometimes climbing to about 150. It has never come close this series. Same with Morkel and Anderson. Broad just sticks out as the most obvious, because he has averaged well below the 130 mark. Finn looks like he lets the ball fly quite a bit, but barely touches the 138 mark. Based on the speed gun, none of the bowlers in this series could be considered as genuinely fast (although we all now that this is not the case). I wonder if anyone knows why this has been?

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (August 20, 2012, 8:38 GMT)


Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 8:37 GMT)

England never deserved to be no 1, just look at their record after achieving it. Since beating India, they lost to Pakistan, drew with SL, won against WI and most probably will loose to SA and with that their no 1 ranking. They also mentioned that this would be the first series defeat at home since 2008, which is nothing great as most successful countries do good at home, India has been undefeasted at home since 2004, and even in the 90s when India werent that strong they still had an envious home record, just ask SA and AUS

Posted by guptahitesh4u on (August 20, 2012, 8:30 GMT)

England would have lost this spot in SL but KP somehow managed to save it for a while. Anyways,if not great, SA are better than most of the teams today. and they deserve to be the no.1...England will sink further when they will tour India.. However , back-to-back Ashes will be interesting

Posted by Unomaas on (August 20, 2012, 8:16 GMT)

While I agree with the thrust of this article, I believe that you have to start the inquisition even before the Saffa's landed on English shores. None of the Pom's gave the Saffa's a chance. Selvey, Hussain, Boycott, even Dobell rated the Pom's man for man better than the saffa's. Secondly, the POM's severely underestimated the Saffa's leading into the first test. It was a mistake born of false pride and something the POM's never recovered from. Thirdly, you always felt the Saffa bowling was evolving and changing to the situation. You felt the hand of Allan Donald behind the scenes pulling strings.What the hell was David Saker doing? This Test series was won before the Saffa's got to England. While the POM's were self congratulating themselves and ridiculing Gary Kirsten, the Saffa's quietly went about formulating plans already 6 months in the making. The English media is therefore also complicit in this series loss and they should also be put under the microscope!

Posted by Percy_Fender on (August 20, 2012, 6:38 GMT)

England was never destined to be the Number 1 side for too long. If they actually lose today, they should find solace in the fact that they lost to a side that should have been No 1 for 20 years.Another fact that they could console them is in the fact that they have a fine bench strength in fast bowling and some good batsmen as well. Onions,Topley and Overton could trouble the best for some years and Root Bairstow and Taylor could make up for the absence of Pietersen. As usual there are calls for Andrew Strauss to be sacked as there has been from the time England lost 3-0 against Pakistan in the middle east. When India lost badly last summer to England many things were said. It is likely that the same thing will happen for England as well. India is in the process of re-grouping. That is what England needs to do.The Pietersen episode is really unfortunate even if he is so much akin to the rich classroom bully. He should be forgiven and spoken to so that he makes a return and remains.

Posted by satish619chandar on (August 20, 2012, 5:57 GMT)

England's issues.. 1. Strauss for his bad batting.. Captaincy is ok and depends on other's performance but he should be the entire fault for his batting. 2. Broad and Swann's bowling form.. Swann can get only lefties out and Broad urgently needs Indian batsmen in home track.. 3. Andy Flower needs a make over.. Bowling allrounder fetish to include Bresnan, Broad and Swann have bailed them out many times but Finn proved a bowler can contribute more than a bowling all rounder.. I guess a combo of Finn, Onions and Monty need to be tried for a series with Broad, Bresnan and Swann on sidelines to check it.. That would help England a lot to decide on the composition..

Posted by screamingeagle on (August 20, 2012, 5:43 GMT)

For all the people who are bashing the English team, please stop. I, for one, felt pity when I saw the dazed look in the eyes of Captain Strauss while he was walking back. Was fun while it lasted, but making the record as the shortest ever No.1 was not really in the plan, eh? Might be difficult to digest, but India was pilloried for playing at home. Pathetic England canot even win at home!?

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

@JIMBOND...yes mate you are absolutely right...the whole Eng team was in good form...but form is temporary, class is permanent..

Posted by vrn59 on (August 20, 2012, 5:13 GMT)

George Dobell is absolutely right: Strauss is a fine man and has been an asset to the England team in the 100 Tests that he has played. However, his value as an opening batsman is very less. Except for the home series against the weak West Indies side, albeit one with a couple of decent bowlers, Strauss has failed to perform in the Ashes and the series against Sri Lanka (home and away), India and Pakistan, not to mention the current series. England cannot afford to have a walking wicket like him at the top of the order especially with a crucial tour to India coming up and the back-to-back Ashes starting nexr year. I have a strange, and sad, feeling that this Test could be Strauss' last; at least I think it should be.

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 20, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

Strauss is a grade cricketer, that's just a fact. He would be one of the worst openeners in world cricket at the moment, and has led England to the shortest period at the top of all time. This England side is well below average, and I think even their fans knew that, despite horrifically biased articles like mark Nicolas' now infamours 'Fortress England' article. How is the fortress now Mark? This team will be utterly crushed next Ashes series, as the talent in Australia is far, far deeper.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

@RodStark ''There just seems to be something about English cricket that can't handle success.'' You may have a point here.Over the last fifteen years or so,it's only the Aussies who felt comfortable winning.Not anymore,but during the era of haydos-langer-punter with the willow and the kookaburra being shared by mcgrath,gillespie,lee and warnie,the 'it's one thing to reach the #1 spot and another to keep it ' apothegm just sulked in the far corner.ever since their dominance ended the crown has had various owners,but it always looked parlously placed on their heads.a side like england,after spending years in cricketing wilderness,might not exactly know what to do with a meteoric rise.success would be better handled by sides who are always in the hunt,or even by those who might not have the substance but definitely got the attitude(it's a shame india couldn't hold on to their top dog position)

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 20, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

Cue the excuses from the English fans (they've already begun). Face it this is the worst number 1 ranked side of all time and have been shown up by a far superior team. 9/10 top batsmen in the series suoth african!

Posted by Humdingers on (August 20, 2012, 4:12 GMT)

So for how long was England no.1 then? For their so called "pop-gun" attack, flat-track batting even Indian held the position longer than this England side. Can't see it getting better for them with a tour to India and then a rejuvenated Australia to contend with. This SA side is very good but not great. When Kallis hangs up the boots that will leave a very big void to fill. Suddenly test cricket looks very competitive at the top. We just need WI, SL, NZ and PAK to start putting things together.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 4:01 GMT)

The more you think other countries are different from India, the more they are same. Here is the 2nd article I have read that is asking for Strauss to go. Does England have a VVS for today?

Posted by thebrotherswaugh on (August 20, 2012, 3:44 GMT)

I seriously doubt the ECB will do anything, they'll continue to bury their heads in the sand. ENG have shown their batsmen are below average against a quality pace attack like the Saffers (and yep, Oz also have a potentially world-class pace attack in the development phase, an embarrassment of riches in the pace bowling dept.). Now lets see how they fare against the IND spinners (sorry, net practice vs. Swanny ain't gonna cut the mustard in the harsh reality of test cricket), very poorly I suspect. You'd swear blind Straussy was supa-glued to the crease, an appalling lack of footwork vs. spinners, maybe somebody ought to show him a tape of Michael Clarke, that way we can kill 2 birds with one stone - he'll see a quality captain at work, and he'll get a much needed lesson on how to play spin!!!! Drop Broad, bring in Onions. Drop Swanny, bring in Panesar. Give Anderson a tap on the shoulder & tell him to extract the digit. Nuthin can be done with the bats, the cupboards are bare!!!!

Posted by Unifex on (August 20, 2012, 3:40 GMT)

In the last 40 Tests, stretching back to May 2009, Strauss has averaged 35.40. Time for him to go before he's pushed.

Posted by rhtdm302 on (August 20, 2012, 3:40 GMT)

WOW! I am sure India was no 1 for days than England Would be. Now i would Ian chappell and others if they would say the samething for the England what they said about India's No 1 Ranking.

Naah! I guess Not, Different People here.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 3:30 GMT)

@Buggsy - In whites, South Africa is the epitome of consistency. While they may not have gone on long winning streaks, you only have to look at their series results for the past two years to know that they could be accused of lacking a killer instinct maybe, but not of being inconsistent in terms of series results. - I look at this England lineup and wonder who could produce the miracle innings tomorrow. With no KP, as a Saffa fan, I am not worried.

Posted by jimbond on (August 20, 2012, 3:18 GMT)

England shouldnt be too hard on themselves. With limited talent, they have done well for a while. It surely was too good to last. What really made England competitive over the past two years has been the consistency of the entire team, and inspired once in a lifetime form of people like Swann, Anderson, Cook and Trott, and a few out of character performances from Prior or Broad. This was too good to last, especially as the bench strength- especially in batting and spin, is meagre.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 3:11 GMT)

when a team gets beaten in it's home turf should be in number 9 place not number 1.English fast bowlers i thought only bowl well in seaming conditions but when it comes to any subcontinent they look like club bowlers.

Posted by kensohatter on (August 20, 2012, 3:09 GMT)

The beauty of day 5 is that England MUST attack this total. A draw wont cut it so their only option is to get the runs. They have the attacking batsmen in the sheds to do it but lack of experience, a dominant KP and a solid anchor now Cook and STrauss are gone will make life tough. For me the key is Trott. He has the ability to cycle the strike from one end whilst Bell, Bairstow etc attack. Should be an interesting 1st session but SA should bust through and Steyn will make short work of an inexperienced middle order and an out of form lower order.

Posted by prashnottz on (August 20, 2012, 2:53 GMT)

Quite not the al time great team right, George?

Posted by allblue on (August 20, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

Surely the Dylan song for this years British 'summer' is "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall".

Posted by GHemrajani on (August 20, 2012, 2:29 GMT)

Andy Flower needs to be dropped also along with Strauss and Broad. Flower is not flexible in his thinking. Sign Gary Kirsten as coach, get Pietersen for Strauss and Onions for Broad. Hand captaincy to Cook. Put Anderson on notice - get your bowling average to under 24 to be considered leader of the pack - else bring Tremlett. 30+ average doesnt cut it in top class cricket.

Posted by   on (August 20, 2012, 2:16 GMT)

I don't think that this England side is anything like the one which fell apart (and got thrashed 5-0 in Aus) back in 2005. Arguably since hitting the top English bowling - bar one blip at the Oval- has been strong. England still have an embarassment of riches in all position, not least with seam bowling - Bresnan, Woakes, Tremlett, Coles etc. - the batsmen have just not performed consistently, as a Unit, since last summer. Largely speaking England bowled very well in the UAE. With even a reasonable batting performance, that series would have been won. As for this series, no doubt SA have been the better side, but England have clearly competed, and with some catches being taken could conceivably have won at Edgbaston and here. I don't think there's a vast gap between the sides, just that SA have shown more character at times and won the key sessions - there's no doubt too that the Pietersen episode must have negatively impacted the England side too....

Posted by Antomann on (August 20, 2012, 1:59 GMT)

Not one mention of Kevin Pietersen in the whole article? Yet surely the disruption around him is the biggest factor in England's sub-par performance in this series.

Posted by KingOwl on (August 20, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

Oh, here we go again. A few weeks ago, the pre series reports implied that England was invincible. Now, they seem to be worth nothing. Neither version is true. England are a good side on doctored pitches. They can't win in foreign conditions and they can't win against some in home conditions either. But, they are an OK bunch and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. Re. South Africa - they are not too different from England. Bottom line is, there are no great teams in world cricket anymore. Just good teams, and there are quite a few of them.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 20, 2012, 1:53 GMT)

@crindo77: (Contd.) Being an Indian and living in India currently (I live in Canada most of the time). I can tell you for sure that the BCCI is taking this series against England SERIOUSLY. A preparation/conditioning camp has been put in place after the World T20 to prepare the Indian team for a gruelling visit by England. The other day on the news the report was that many of the test players will spend time at the national cricket academy honing their skills. Whether England respects India or not, we do respect them as a worthy opponents. If England think they can show up and beat India, they are in for a surprise. I know India's bowling isn't world class but when pushed to the brink they perform as good as any unit in the world. Being at home, it gives them a lot more confidence. England do have a very good chance to win but it's hard to tell. I am not for predictions, but if asked, I would say 2-1 to India or 1-1 draw. A drawn series is more likely.

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 20, 2012, 1:45 GMT)

@crindo77: Completely disagree with you. England can surely make it a contest but they won't be able to win the series. Here is why: England simply cannot play well in low and slow conditions. History proves it and the recent ODI series in India proved it. England's bowling lacks teeth when the conditions don't favour pace and swing. Even if there is swing, lack of pace and bounce negates their taller bowlers on Indian pitches. Indian batsmen love when the ball bounces knee high. They will go for their shots with eyes closed. Thirdly, out of the 3 new comers to the Indian team, Pujara and Badrinath are VETERANS of Ranji Cricket with thousands of runs to their names. They shouldn't have any problems coping with a mentally hurt England. Lastly, playing at home comes easily for team India. The food, the people, the climate are all in India's favour. England can come to India as self-proclaimed favourites. But the results could be very surprising come early next year. (Contd.)

Posted by Cpt.Meanster on (August 20, 2012, 1:36 GMT)

As an outsider looking in, I strongly want Steven Finn to be England's spearhead in the near future. Both Anderson and Broad looked miserable, more so Broad. Only Finn looked like getting wickets at any time. Also, Dobell is being unfair to the English fielders. England's fielding has not been that poor. Sure, they failed to take some chances but one of them came from wicket-keeper Prior and that had nothing to do with other fielders. England simply didn't have the writing in the stars to win against SA. There is something called 'destiny' and now it's SA's destiny to reach no.1. England had their shot and now it's time to move on. The shortest reign at no.1 in modern memory by any means. Sure, a lot of questions to be answered. The tour to India won't be an easy one. India will be tough to beat in spite of so many youngsters in our team. But they all were born and bred in those conditions and should find it easy. England will need to think differently if they are to upstage India.

Posted by Rahulbose on (August 20, 2012, 1:30 GMT)

Its simple they were never as good as Dobell and his English media fans rated them after a good Ashes tour. Only surprise is that they could not play at their best even in a home series. And why Dobell bringd up the question of Strauss's place in the side but fails to mention KP in the article.

Posted by CMike on (August 20, 2012, 1:24 GMT)

Exactly after a year another pathetic backyard bully gets dethroned..Here comes the real Champion to No.1 position who deserves it after showing their substance in Home and away conditions. Go PROTEAS !!!!

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

The England is likely going to lose the No. 1 ranking to a better team tomorrow. But that doesnt mean it is suddenly a bad team. It does mean they will be the second best team. Even this test match was more or less even all the way up until Philander took the two wickets late evening. It was only the 1st Test where England were comprehensively outplayed except for Day 1. Personally, I dont think any drastic changes are necessary until after India, depending on how things go there. And yes, whatever KP's faults (and there are many), a special effort ought to be made I think to reintegrate him into the team. And KP has to play his part too in that process.

Posted by VillageBlacksmith on (August 20, 2012, 1:07 GMT)

Nothing wrong in losing to a better side,,, with a 5 pace attack,,, well played RSA, whoever suggests bopara to come back must be joking, anderson bowled well, too well a lot of the time and kept passing the bat, broad needs attention, hope the Finn vs Brezza debate is now over & hope onions gets a go somewhere, hope this is the end for kp but the bats have generally failed all year... the bottom line is RSA are a better side and Kirsten is a great coach (esp compared to Arthur!!), so well played RSA, and before wholesale changes are demanded remember there is nothing wrong with losing to a better side, the bar has been raised that's all.

Posted by RodStark on (August 20, 2012, 0:35 GMT)

Though the circumstances are quite different this reminds me a lot of post-2005 when England won the Ashes and seemed poised to rise to the top but then fell to pieces. This time they did rise to the top, but they do seem to be falling to pieces again. There just seems to be something about English cricket that can't handle success.

Posted by phoenixsteve on (August 20, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

I also believe that Ravi should be given a prolonged run? The whole England cricket schedule needs looking at and I believe the current relentless schedule is far too much for the side? There is a rotation policy with fast bowlers and why not have one for batsmen too? Maybe their rotation will be based on form but chosing 5 in form batters from a pool of 7 or 8 seems sensible to me? For England's sake I hope that the KP issue gets resolved & that KP returns like the prodigal son? Bairstow looks a player for tomorrow & let's not forget his wicket keeping credentials? The jury is still out on Taylor & maybe Compton and some other new blood can have a go? This young Glamorgan quick (name escapes me now) looks a prospect too. I agree that Broad needs to be 'given some time off' & think that dropping Bresnan was well overdue. Tomorrow we might be saying "the king is dead - long live the king" but unlike life cricketing kings are very short lived! SA have been a good side to loose to though!

Posted by phoenixsteve on (August 20, 2012, 0:13 GMT)

Another well written article George and some difficult subjects discussed. England are looking down both barrels and at defeat. The South Africans are loaded for bear - it doesn't look good. If the remaining batters concentrate and play to their ability it'll be whether SA bowl badly or not? Maybe the old 'chokers' title will come to haunt them but England need an attacking pair to take the fight to them. It's all a bit far fetched I know but far from IMPOSSIBLE! As much as I admire Andrew Strauss it's time to move on. Partly because of his poor form, partly because of the KP fiasco and partly because he's made a few vital tactical blunders and dropping key catches doesn't help? When you have a powerful weapon in your armoury you need to use it to it's maximum destructive potential. WHY Finn wasn't given the new cherry is a total mystery to me? He brings height/bounce/pace to the side so surely he should be maximising this with the new ball? Onions should be given a run in the side...

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 19, 2012, 23:49 GMT)

Journalists who branded this team one of the 'top 5 teams in the history of test cricket' have some tough questions to answer.

Posted by shillingsworth on (August 19, 2012, 23:34 GMT)

I'd suggest that Strauss has been doing his level best to 'nullify the issues between Pietersen and the rest of the team'. He joins a long list of people at Natal, Notts and Hampshire who have tried and failed. The article doesn't state what the 'more sophisticated approach' entails, suggesting that these are mere words. The passage on the dropped catches is confused and a bit free with the facts. The Amla drop in the first test would have taken some catching and doesn't really deserve to be in the same category as the others. The implication that fielding ability should take precedence in selection is just daft. Surely it would make more sense to use Trott at slip. By all accounts he is a highly effective slip fielder with Warwickshire.

Posted by whoster on (August 19, 2012, 23:31 GMT)

England's list of dropped chances was a symptom of being put under extreme pressure by quality opposition. SA won fair and square, and they have possibly the most potent pace and seam attack since Aus had McGrath, Lee and Gillespie at their peak about a decade ago. As for England, Broad certainly is a concern. He's bowling no more than lively medium pace most of the time, and Onions has certainly done everything he can to deserve a recall. Yes, it'd weaken the batting, but as Boycs says, you pick batsman to bat, and bowlers to bowl. Whatever happens tomorrow, the performances of Finn and Bairstow are a big positive for England, and both should surely be in the starting line up for the India Tests. Special congrats to Graeme Smith, incredible achievement going past Border's captaincy record, and unless a miracle happens tomorrow, a well-earned series win and no.1 spot.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2012, 23:27 GMT)

England need to play to win ,not draw. The series would be lost either with a draw or loss. Good teams should play to win- and they will need to do that. It is better to try rather than not to.Admittedly it will be tough .

Posted by Afkham on (August 19, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

The shock that England recevied at the hands of Pakistan finally recevied the last jerk to England by SA . Now to retain credibility Eng must win against India in India

Posted by drnaveed on (August 19, 2012, 23:14 GMT)

well , looking at the recent record of loosing too many test matches, this England side doesn't deserve to be the number one side in the world ranking.they are totally out played by their opponents SA here in this series.they should have tried onions in place of Broad,but perhaps they didn't wanted a long tail in their side,a gamble they should have taken , but they didn't, at the start of this test match , and hence had to suffer (perhaps ) in the end.mind you , the worries are not over for the England side at the end of this series, as the the England side will be under tremendous pressure from the start , when they will tour India, this year.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (August 19, 2012, 23:12 GMT)

The signs have been there for some while now. The winter was a near disaster, obscured only by KP's pyrotechnics & some gutsy bowling in Colombo. Then, this summer, when Tino Best was carting England all over Edgbaston, I thought no #1 ranked side would allow this to happen. SA must have arrived knowing that England was there for the taking. Their well-oiled efficiency was beginning to rattle & creak. It's been obvious that Broad is operating at 85%; he's significantly down on speed & hostility; I would not take him to India. Jimmy, ever the trier, is behind the Saffer quicks too. Finn is the future. It's getting time for England to give Onions & Woakes (the closest England has to a genuine all-rounder) an extended run in the side. Strauss must now consider his future as stern SA opposition has found out his limitations as tactician & opening bat. The touring party for India must show that England is moving on. Staying still is really going backwards. This is the time for change. Now.

Posted by disco_bob on (August 19, 2012, 23:10 GMT)

Cook and Clarke, two dashing captains battling it out with some old salts and exciting new recruits. Suddenly the back to back Ashes looks like not a bad idea at all. No room for the Pietersens of this world in that scenario. I foresee a bloody, yet noble drawn series in England followed by a knockout blow in Australia. Who will be left standing when the smoke clears gets to keep a 6 inch terracotta vase with some burnt wood inside.

Posted by Buggsy on (August 19, 2012, 22:38 GMT)

Well it had to happen sooner or later, but my feeling is that South Africa won't be at the top for long, they're just too inconsistent. If (big if) Australia has a good summer against them we'll be back on top, but I really can't see England giving up no.1 so easily.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2012, 22:23 GMT)

yes and one of those questions would be if the entire team needs to consider another career :)

Posted by   on (August 19, 2012, 22:15 GMT)

The only way England wins this game is if Steyn and company have a rare OFF day. To consistently score at four runs an over is going to be a tall order, so realistically, England needs to draw the test match and relinquish their number one status rather than go for an unlikely win and end up losing 2-0.

Posted by Blindedview on (August 19, 2012, 22:06 GMT)

I am banking on trott making the fastest ever test century tomorrow ,and bairstow making the best 99 runs that Mr.Vaughan has ever seen.Also expect some handy contributions from Finn down the order.The confidence with which he speaks of english chance there is a case for him batting above that inconsistent prior.Go England. From a cricket fan ;)

Posted by crindo77 on (August 19, 2012, 21:58 GMT)

Nobody is perfect. Oz are in the middle of a difficult transition, SA have lived with the choker tag forever, WI are still finding their feet. However, life goes on; Looking ahead, come winter,India v England will be a much more equal contest. India are now sans Dravid and Laxman, who inspite of their recent failings, formed the middle order, which along with a much maligned player called Ganguly, made India invincible at home. 3 newcomers, with an aging SRT, who inspite of his greatness is past his prime, will make life easier for England. If England can counter Sehwag at the top, who , on Indian pitches is a different beast altogether, they have a good chance of getting 20 wickets. Dhoni's test batting performance is poor and the bowling is inexperienced in Test cricket. Poor selection and planning have made India at its most vulnerable at home than ever before. England may not be no 1 in rankings tomorrow, but if they want to win a historic Test series in India, now is the time.

Posted by Hira1 on (August 19, 2012, 21:49 GMT)

a very nice article read after so much time equally pointing out the fault of Strauss and very rightly said "a more sophisticated captain might have nullified any issues between Kevin Pietersen and the rest of the team before they reached the stage they have. They have been brewing for some time.", Strauss must realize this when he meet KP next week that if he doesn't settle his issues with KP he will not only jeopardize KPs' career but his own career as well..........

Posted by   on (August 19, 2012, 21:40 GMT)

high class match - but only one winner I see..SA (unless rain comes to rescue..)

Posted by ygkd on (August 19, 2012, 21:35 GMT)

Nine of the 10 most prolific batsmen of the series are Saffers. Yes, yes 3 played for the other mob and it is a tired old argument to some. But come on! One can have no problem with players crossing borders to pursue a career yet still believe that England is losing the art of producing enough home-grown bats for proper depth. Yes, yes Bairstow made runs for the first time and Taylor may be there for the longish haul and Cook is well, boringly Gooch-like, and Bell is a lovely shiny brass enigma that can ring sweetly sometimes, but there is this but that hangs over their number one status they cling on to by the tip of their fingernails - England's player development might not be as good as it needs to be for them to stay number one. SA don't have that problem. I watched some of the U19 game between their respective youth sides. SA were leaner, meaner, hungrier and more ready. I think their youth development looks so much better than England's. Ultimately, that will cost England dearly.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2012, 21:26 GMT)

It is not completely dark but it is getting there: first impression is the last impression,the first13 overs produced 16 runs and in the attempt lost 2 wickets as well.Where do we go from here, a miracle ? Our willing suspension of disbelief may take us there but it defies simple,plain logic.The king has lost his crown ! Let us accept that SA hasearned the number one spot on merit,hard work, excellent planning, shrewd leadership and a self-belief.Pilander is there to spoil your party ,my dear English friends.If England wins,then I will start believing in supernatural,spiritual, part in sports.

Posted by Jimmers on (August 19, 2012, 21:21 GMT)

Spot-on article as always. England's selection, man-management and on-field tactics all looked muddled and panicky in this series. I honestly think we'll look back at this series and its stats and dramas etc, and ask why it was KP who was dropped and not Broad.

Posted by Sanjiyan on (August 19, 2012, 21:18 GMT)

Broad is overrated. Talented or not he is not strike bowler material, hes a containing bowler at best. Anderson and Finn are the guys id want to open my bowling with if i were england. Strauss for everything hes done in the past cant cut it anymore. One good innings does not justify his lack of big scores over a period of years. England need to have a long hard, honest look at themselves and make some tough decisions. They are a good unit and as many have said the sum of their parts is greater than the individuals, but when playing against quality opponents they fold and act up. Windies only had 1 or 2 game changers(Roach and chanders) and england visibly had major problems with them. Now they face a team who has many game changers and they fight for all there worth and still look ordinary. Time to say: Thanks for the memories and bring in some new talent and tactics

Posted by DirkL on (August 19, 2012, 21:17 GMT)

Maybe Strauss will after this be "unavailable due to personal reasons"?

Posted by ARDjango on (August 19, 2012, 21:14 GMT)

England just needed 1 series outside home to loose their number 1 status...that came at UAE at the hands of Pakistan....3-0.....things would have been much easier here.. if they had drawn or won a few there...SA on the other hand has won at a good number of places and have managed to draw outside at the least!!

Posted by hhillbumper on (August 19, 2012, 21:12 GMT)

finn has to play from now on.broad needs some work to get his pace back up and god knows what has happened with his batting.Trott needs to go and push Bell up to 3.might be time to bed in Jos Buttler so that we are ready to face Aus next year. Pietersen needs to go forever and then start to move forwards. Cook to be Captain and then we need to find a decent opener to replace Strauss.

Apart from that this team is still good enough to handle Aus

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