South Africa in England 2012 August 22, 2012

South Africa deserved to win - Flower


Just as few recall the somewhat controversial catch that sealed the 2005 Ashes Test at Edgbaston and turned the series England's way, so history may not record the key moments that allowed South Africa to take control of the 2012 Test series against England.

Few dispute that they deserved to win the series and few dispute that England, with six losses in 11 Test in 2012 and one series win in four, have no place on top of the Test rankings. As England coach, Andy Flower, put it: "We have been beaten by a slightly better side in this series. I think that's fair to say."

The disappointment from an England perspective was that they failed to do themselves justice. They dropped nine catches, gave wickets away cheaply and failed to trouble South Africa's batsmen with medium-paced fare.

The failure of England's bowling attack is most worrying. The bowlers have impressed in all conditions in Tests since the Ashes of 2009 - even in the UAE last winter, they performed well only to be let down by poor batting from their colleagues. The series against South Africa - and the drubbing at The Oval in particular - was an abrupt departure from the norm.

While South Africa batted with impressive skill and dedication, England also failed to take chances that might have altered the series. Hashim Amla was dropped before he reached 50 on the way to his triple-hundred at The Oval and before he had reached 10 at Lord's; Alviro Petersen was dropped before he had reached 30 in his 182 at Leeds. Had such chances been taken, England's ugly bowling averages may be a good deal prettier.

"We had our chances," Flower said. "At Lord's we dropped two crucial catches. They've caught well in the slip area but I think their bowling attack was a little bit more incisive than ours. I don't think that's unfair on our bowlers to say that.

"Their batsmen cashed in and got the big, match-turning innings. Yes, with the assistance of a dropped catch here and there from us. But in the main they deserved to win. We haven't grasped the opportunities that came our way. And, against a good, hardened, experienced side like South Africa, you'll suffer the consequences of that."

England are taking steps to improve the bowling. Stuart Broad has been omitted from the ODI series against South Africa not just for rest but to undergo some strength and conditioning work, which England hope will enable him to recover his nip. "We don't often get windows with the guys that play all three forms of the game to do conditioning work," Flower said. "Broad, we believe, needs a rest; or a combination of rest and strength work."

Tim Bresnan, James Anderson and, at Leeds anyway, Steven Finn also appeared somewhat jaded. In the longer term, it may be that England need to accept that the burden they have placed on their players - an international schedule that offers little time for mental or physical recovery - is the biggest obstacle to consistently performing at their best.

Flower also suggested a decision on Andrew Strauss' future as England captain will be left to the man himself.

"Andrew is a bit drained," Flower said. "It's been a hard series for him. Obviously he's been a superb leader for us, but he would have wanted to score more runs and that has a wearing effect. And then these peripheral issues have taken a lot of his energy and his enjoyment out of the last few weeks.

"I think he's done the right thing to get away for a few days with his family so he can recuperate. He's a strong bloke and he'll come back feeling very strong."

England's attempt to regain the No. 1 ranking will begin with a four-Test series in India, where their record is not promising. The team is set to be weakened not only by the absence of Kevin Pietersen but also by the departure of players at various parts of the tour on paternity leave. Flower hopes, however, that the lessons learned in the UAE and the emergence of several promising young players can help England recover lost ground.

"We will definitely be plotting our challenge," Flower said. "We want to get back there. We've got a tough outing first up in India, but that'll be exciting. It'll be exciting to see if we've actually embedded some of the lessons we've learned in the UAE, because no doubt we'll be playing on spinning pitches.

"Jonny Bairstow handled the situation well. The skill, timing and courage he showed was outstanding. James Taylor has handled himself calmly as well. We'll make our decisions based on what is best for the England side and not be scared to do so."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Robert on August 24, 2012, 0:06 GMT

    OK all, here's my analysis. SA were the sharper team all round. They were smarter in the field - holding their catches (many of them tricky) and taking their run-out chances (even if some were gifted - Messers Taylor & Trott!). SA's batsmen applied themselves better, selling their wickets dear. This was important - Eng's batsmen showed a worrying lack of discipline in some of their shot selection. But the key factor for me was the bowling. Eng didn't bowl badly but SA bowled superbly. SA had FIVE bowlers on top of their game, giving Smith plenty of options. Eng only ever had FOUR; not enough when you are up against a top class batting line-up. So, time to wise up selectors and put a fifth bowler in place!

  • Helmut on August 23, 2012, 22:54 GMT

    @yorkshire and itstheway I don't realy want to get into the semantics of it all. I just feel Flower, Strauss and the whole ENG set up haven't been honest. Not before, during and especially afte this Test seriesr.Probably the only honest person would be KP, however misguided that might have been. According to them they pride themselves on being brutaly honest with one another and all that but there seems to be a whole lot of double stds being applied. SA never looked in trouble for much of this series, and if they were they almost always dug themselves out of it. Now you can offer your if's and but's about dropped catches and all that, SA's bowling attack always looked like the better one. So did their top order. If anything, I'd say the middle and lower order was evens but only because of the last Test heroics of Prior, Bairstow, Broad and Swann. I could also if and but at this stage and say that the margin of victory could've been greater had those wickets fallen cheaply. No point.

  • Mashuq on August 23, 2012, 20:24 GMT

    Flower and Strauss ought to accept that their tactics were lazy. To think that you could defeat a team that have always in past series against England (a nd others) shown exemplary discipline in selecting the right balls to hit by bowling off-side lines is simply not good enough preparation. Moreover they knew that SA bowlers could not be worn down in the way Cook/Trott wear down less disciplined opponents whose fielding is less than excellent. So what exactly were the tactics? To wait for them to slip on their own banana skins? If behind the scenes they recognize this, England can indeed remain competitive. If they keep their heads buried in the ground (who needs KP?), they will slip and may even lose the Ashes. This will then serve as the kick up the backsides that sends them rectifying their avoidable mistakes. I like the disciplined part of their management. I find their lack of imagination comforting (as an Aus supporter).

  • Andy on August 23, 2012, 19:44 GMT

    no way Eng deserved to win after all Andy Flower and Strauss should have went to the referee box and had an argument to over rule the result, like the habit these 2 have of walking into opposition team dressing rooms or referee boxes when ever they please to do so during course of the match, I haven't come across any other coach or captain visiting opposition team's dressing room or referee box during the course of the match ever before, not with Eng nor with Aus/SA/Ind/Pak/WI.. So the issues lies with the way Andy has been leading the things, its actually disgrace to the sport. @Loyd4148: You are spot on mate, KP has done well in India but those were in mostly batting friendly wickets, he didn't get to play much of square turning wickets which would be probably welcoming Eng this time around. But still he will be the most experienced to play in Ind and he is after all the best English batsmen around.@Kirsten Van Jaarsveld: well said mate.

  • Ananth on August 23, 2012, 16:25 GMT

    i know there is no place for ifs and buts, BUT, the fact is that if england had simply caught amla and devilliers in SA's 2nd innings, result could have been different..i know people will point out to other ifs and buts, like kallis dismissal in 1st innings...1st test was a whacking, 2nd test was even, 3rd test was very closely fought...end result is SA were better but why is some people finding holes in flower's words? chill guys..

  • Dummy4 on August 23, 2012, 15:08 GMT

    Gosh, I think it must be confusing to be on the England cricket team right now. They're lambasted and over-analyzed if they lose; they're hyped up ridiculously if they're winning. Not healthy. I think they're a decent side who play pretty great cricket (they certainly had me worried a few times in the second and third test), and don't deserve to be on such a competitive and emotional roller-coaster. As for Andy, he really sounds defensive - maybe because his actions are scrutinized so minutely. So best of luck to the England team. (from a SA-supporter.) Also good luck to India for the coming series, love the team (or I did when they were in SA) and hope they get over their niggles and problems... No luck to OZ however, hope we blast them to smithereens ;D

  • Cricket on August 23, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    @thruthecovers I still dpn't understand hiow if Eng were outplayed in every dept they were able to score more than SA after the 1st innings in 2 tests albeit they not not able to apply themselves more in the 4th innings. So I reiterate my point that it was hardly a trouncing that SA gave to Eng. Flowers has called it like it was when he says that Eng failed to convert their chances which they did have which is a different point to the one you raised as to why Flowers has not come out publicly and said Eng were thrashed by SA. I agree with you re fortress England by many commentators including Botham and Mark Nicholas who got carried away after the 4-0 win against a weak and unprofessional Indian team and hardly an benchmark. That series is what I would call a trouncing for India or as Sunil Gavasker said a total demolition job by Eng.

  • sanjay on August 23, 2012, 12:01 GMT

    South africa have been 2-0 up in england in the last 2 series played in England and have won 4 of the last 7 tests played in England. one loss and 2 draws included in that. Everyone doubted SA. The C word was being thrown about but on no occasion did SA choke. They were behind on day one at the oval. Enough said there. They were even sporting enough to give england a chance to level the series in the second test but England fluffed that one up. In the 3rd test they were 54/4 and 105/5 but still posted 309 and even in the second innings with england holding a slight lead they still posted a significant score, one that Eng would not overcome. As much as England tried when it came down to the wire SA always had that little extra and as for the earlier comparisons that the Eng team bowlers were the equal of SA team bowlers the stats before the matches and after says it all. The batting of SA though i feel has been the most significant improvement.

  • itch on August 23, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    What is the problem with KP?? he should learn from Broad by playing a bit loosely and that way getting a break from ODIs to regain strength!!

  • Matthew on August 23, 2012, 10:07 GMT

    @thruthecovers I dobn't know about you but I'd rather any severe criticism stayed in house, and the players would prefer that as well. I hope there was some severe criticism from Flower within the camp but it's not fair on the players to have it all out in the open. As for the Pietersen issue that is a different case altogether. I don't know where you get the idea that he was the innocent party in all this, as he was the one losing the trust of his teammates, and the ECB had no option. I also think the ECB handled it pretty well considering the circumstances. The only details we heard about what happened were from the english gutter press

  • No featured comments at the moment.