On Monday I listened to what turned out to be the final day of the test series between England and South Africa (Tuesday would have been available had South Africa taken the game that far but they never really looked like doing so). In this post I look back at the match and the series.
England batted first and made at least 50 more than they should have done in the circumstances, getting to 360. When the ninth England wicket fell South Africa turned to the “clever ruse” of dropping the field back to allow the major batter (Jonny Bairstow on this occasion) to take singles so that they could bowl at the no11. This is a dubious tactic in any case, but South Africa’s execution of it was downright bad – on a number of occasions Bairstow took twos early in the over, which should never happen when this tactic is in play. I can think of no occasion on which it can be demonstrated that a side fared worse by attacking at both ends than they would be adopting this tactic, whereas I offer the following examples of times where adopting it caused problems:
- Perth 1978 – Australia eight down for not many facing and England total of over 300, Mike Brearley gives Peter Toohey with 50 to his name singles so as to attack Geoff Dymock. The ninth wicket pair stage a very irritating partnership. In the end England’s superior skill and professionalism tell (Australia were depleted by the Packer affair and Graham Yallop proved to be a very poor captain). My source for this story is Brearley himself in “The Art of Captaincy”.
- Melbourne 1982 – The ninth Australian wicket in their second innings falls with them still needing 74 for victory. England allow Border singles so they can attack Thomson, the no 11. Australia get to within a boundary hit of victory before Thomson flashes at a wide one from Botham and is caught by Miller with an assist from Tavare.
- Sydney 2010 – Pakistan have bossed the game against Australia, leading by over 200 on first innings, and Australia are only 80 to the good with two second innings wickets standing going into the 4th morning. Pakistan decline to attack Hussey, and Siddle plays a straight bat the relatively few deliveries he has to face. In the end Pakistan need 176 to win, which is far more than they were expecting. The pressure is too much for an inexperienced batting line up, especially once Mohamed Yousuf has compounded his failure as captain by falling to a very poor shot to leave his side 57-4. Australia end up winning by almost 40 runs.
South Africa’s response, if it can be so described, was to scrape together 226 for a deficit of 136. A fine innings by Moeen Ali in the second England innings takes England to a lead of 379. Dean Elgar fell cheaply to start the South African second innings, and by the lunch interval Heino Kuhn and Temba Bavuma had also been accounted for. Amla and Duplessis resisted stoutly for a time, but the dismissal of Amla sparked a collapse, with no one else making a significant contribution as 163-3 at the high point of the innings subsided to 202 all out. Moeen Ali took five of the wickets to finish with 25 for the series alongside over 250 runs for the series (the first time this double has been achieved in a series of fewer than five matches). Moeen Ali was player of the match, and also player of the series for his all-round efforts.
THE SERIES AS A WHOLE
Barring the aberration at Trent Bridge this was a series that England dominated, and 3-1 is a fair reflection of that fact. Lord’s (it is named after Thomas Lord of Thirsk, so Lord’s is technically correct) saw the only really huge first innings tally of the series, and from that point on England were always going to win that match. I wrote in some detail about the Trent Bridge debacle at the time. At The Oval (these days there is always a sponsor’s name attached but I refuse to mention them whoever they may be) England made a respectable first innings total and South Africa crumbled, while this final match at Old Trafford went along similar lines.
I am going to finish the text element of this post by looking at both sets of players, starting with South Africa.
Dean Elgar – a tough competitor whose second innings 136 at The Oval when all around him were surrendering was a stand out performance.
Heino Kuhn – resembles a test-class opener about as closely as Liam Dawson resembles a test-class all-rounder. The only surprise out his dismissal during the morning session fo what turned into the final day of the series was that it did not come sooner.
Hashim Amla – a magnificent batter now nearing the end of his illustrious career. This was not a great series for him but his fighting 83 in the final innings was a splendid effort.
Quinton De Kock – fine wicketkeeper and on his day a very destructive batter, but was miscast in the key number four role where was too often coming in with the team reeling from early blows. He was moved down for the final match of the series, but this was his equivalent of Adam Gilchrist’s 2005 in England – batting wise a series to forget.
Faf Du Plessis – it continues to be debatable whether he is worth a place as a batter, but the team play much better under his captaincy than when he is not present.
Temba Bavuma – a very reliable batter. He needs to develop ways of keeping the scoreboard ticking – at the moment it takes him a very long time to score his runs.
Theunis De Bruyn – anonymous in this series, he did nothing significant with the bat and his bowling was not much used.
Chris Morris – occasional moments with his hard-hitting batting but his bowling was very expensive.
Vernon Philander – a great cricketer, but like Alan Davidson and Chris Old before him he is somewhat of a hypochondriac. He did not contribute fully to this series.
Keshav Maharaj – South Africa’s leading wicket taker of the series.
Kagiso Rabada – A fine fast bowler who bowled well in this series and at times did enough with the bat to have embarrassed some of bhis supposed betters in that department.
Morne Morkel – A solid series – it was not South Africa’s bowlers who were chiefly responsible for their defeat in this series.
Duanne Olivier – more will certainly be seen of this young fast bowler.
Now for England…
Alastair Cook – continues to steadily ascend the test run scoring lists – in the course of this series he went past Allan Border’s aggregate. His effort on the truncated first day at The Oval put England in control of that game, a position consolidated by Ben Stokes’ century.
Keaton Jennings – surely he has run out chances after a series in which his highest individual score was 48 and during which he never looked convincing.
Gary Ballance – given a chance to re-establish himself in the side because he scores so many in domestic cricket he failed, and looked out of place. He was deservedly one of the casualties of the Trent Bridge debacle.
Tom Westley – a solid start to his test career. He looks like he belongs in the test arena and I expect to see a lot more of him.
Joe Root – his first series as test captain, and with a 3-1 series win and himself being leading run scorer on either side for the series it was a splendid start.
Dawid Malan – came in to the side after the loss at Trent Bridge and has not yet done much.
Jonny Bairstow – an excellent series with both bat and gloves.
Ben Stokes – regular contributor of runs, wickets and catches. Like the man I will be dealing with next he is that rarity, a genuine all-rounder.
Moeen Ali – deservedly named player of the series, he was outstanding with bat and ball.
Liam Dawson – my comments about Heino Kuhn suggest that I do not rate Mr Dawson, and that impression is correct. He has neither the batting nor the bowling to be of use in test match cricket. If conditions warrant two spinners pick a real spinner, and if they don’t Moeen Ali will be the sole spinner.
Toby Roland-Jones – he started his test career firing with both barrels – a five-for including the top four in the opposition batting order, and has done well in both his matches so far.
Stuart Broad – a good series for the big fast bowler.
Mark Wood – two matches in the series, total figures 1-197 – ’nuff said.
James Anderson – 20 wickets in the series at 14 each. At the age of 35 he remains arguably the finest user of a new ball in world cricket. The authorities at his home ground of Old Trafford have recently paid him the compliment of naming one of their bowling ends in his honour – and he responded by taking four cheap wickets from that end at the first time of asking. I reckon he still has a couple of good years left in him which would enable him to sign off with a home world cup followed by a home Ashes series.
I always like to include photographs in my posts, and although I have none relating to cricket, here are a few from yesterday at work (these will be going under the hammer on August 30th, our second end of August auction, with a sale happening at our shop on Friday August 25th – more on this in a later post):