ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
England v South Africa, Group B, World Cup 2011, Chennai
'We're good at bouncing back' - Strauss
Firdose Moonda in Chennai
March 5, 2011
While Ireland were painting Bangalore green on Tuesday night, there were fifteen very blue men lurking nearby. Nobody noticed and why should they have? They were celebrating a coup and they didn't need the ex-Kings doing it with them.
Rather than allow their heads to be cut off and paraded on pikes, Andrew Strauss and his men accepted defeat and decided to join in. They had a drink with the victorious Ireland team because it was "the right thing to do." Strauss held his head high as he explained why England had no problem partaking in some of the day's joy. "You should win with class and lose with class."
Even in the midst of the chaos that has caused England to become the first victims to an Associate nation in this tournament, Strauss retained composure. Even in the midst of being questioned, over and over again, about the weakness of his bowling attack, Strauss smiled and explained, answering each question thoughtfully. Even in the midst of being told he was the leader of a failed fielding side, Strauss kept his cool and spoke with the same even-tone throughout. That's class.
"I've learnt that if you bowl and field poorly, there's a good chance you will lose games of cricket," he said when asked what he'd been mulling over in the past few days. "There are going to be high-scoring games and if there is any slight edge you get in the field, will stand you in good stead."
He had accepted that the performance while bowling was up to no good but admitted that this attack wasn't helped by the pitch in Bangalore, where it conceded two scores over 300. "When you come across a very flat wicket, the margin of error goes down and that's why we haven't quite been able to do what we want to do."
The Chennai pitch is a different beast. It's not the liveliest but Strauss's assessment of it is that it will offer a little more. "The wicket looks grassless, hard and dry. There will be something in it for at least some of the bowlers."
It's taking whatever there is and making it work for them that may present England with a challenge. Barring Graeme Swann, the rest of their attack has looked ordinary and, at times, purposeless. But Strauss added that the bowlers have "a lot of clarity" about what they need to do, and they will prove that against South Africa. "We will bowl to our plans against them. We know their players pretty well, it's not like we will get any surprise packages."
South Africa and England last played a one-day series in the 2009-10 season in South Africa, where the hosts were beaten. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were the two leading bowlers in that series, taking eight and six wickets respectively. They also played a series in 2008 in England, who were winners this time, too. Broad was the second highest wicket-taker, with eight scalps. It's not just the familiarity of the South African team that Strauss is talking about but the familiarity of beating them. For two bowlers who seem horribly out of it at the moment, Anderson and Broad, it's the familiarity of taking wickets against them.
South Africa's middle order has been untested at this World Cup and Strauss sees that as an opportunity to get his bowlers back in the groove. With Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers dominating time at the crease, the likes of Faf du Plessis and whoever will fill that troublesome No.7 spot have not had much match time. As a result of that, "maybe the middle order hasn't got the pace of the wicket very well," Strauss said . Scoring runs hasn't been much of a problem for England so far and they won't be thrown off if South African's mystery man, Imran Tahir, plays, because most of the England batsmen have seen him on the county circuit. "When he first came to England I played with him at Middlesex," Strauss said. "I have since played against him. The guys from Warwickshire also know him well. We know what he brings to the party quite clearly."
What's just as lucid to the England side is how crucial it will be for them to recover, and recover quickly enough to launch an immediate challenge against the rampant South African side, "You've got to put defeats behind you very quickly. The great thing about this tournament is that you have the opportunity to get back on the bike straight away." Strauss said. Then, with a half a grin and a quiet confidence that never let his class slip for a second he added. "We're good at bouncing back."