Monday, July 23, 2012

England suffer in the sun

Three days of one sided cricket have shown Thursday to have been a false dawn for England in the series opener against South Africa with the tourists dominating proceedings at the Oval.

Talk before the game (including here) was of the much vaunted pace attacks and also the possibility of the visitors being 'undercooked'. It is England however who have ended up being roasted.

South Africa's first innings card looks absurd with only two wickets falling in 189 overs. Credit first must be given to the batsmen's performances - especially Hashim Amla - but England in truth have failed to compete.

This Oval pitch appears to have foxed the England bowlers entirely and their attack was made to look one dimensional and entirely ordinary as South Africa's batsmen gorged their way to 637/2 declared.

Amla, Smith and Kallis all played superb innings, Amla's triple century was a study in concentration, technical excellence and supreme craft. Smith showed all the grit and presence that he is blessed with and Kallis was as peerless as ever as he racked up yet another huge innings. We will have to wait until the 2nd Test to find out how AB deVilliers reacts to the dual role he now occupies as he wasn't required to bat here despite three new balls.

Amla's post match comments that the pitch was simply getting easier and easier to play on made a mockery of England's 2nd innings travails, as did Steyn and his supporting cast in obtaining far more movement out of the pitch than the England attack.

England gave wickets away cheaply last night and whilst we know what we are getting with KP, some effort to bat for the team occasionally when backs are to the wall would be appreciated by all.

It would be churlish to write England off after one bad test but there appears a worrying gulf in class akin to when England hammered Australia down under 18 months ago.

England have not become the No1 team in the world by being a bad side but the reality is that test cricket does not have the depth it used to and faced with a very good team, England have fluffed their lines terribly.

England's batting looked suspect in the sub continent earlier this year but the bowling attack was felt to be robust with options a plenty. Saturday and Sunday were like the bad old days from the Nineties as England toiled horribly.

The pitch has been there for both teams to use and South Africa have extracted way more from it with both bat and ball which is concerning given that England are on home soil.

No one is suggesting that Bresnan did not merit his place but the option of Steve Finn's added pace and bounce - even on this pitch - may have given another option as Morkel showed last night given the serenity with which South Africa's batsmen were playing.

England face a battle today to even make South Africa bat again and saving the test would seem to be beyond them regardless of the bullishness of Graham Gooch. England will need to regroup quickly if they are to fight back after this stark wake up call - No Nonsense.