Tag Archives: England vs South Africa

Investment in Moeen shows way forward for top-order conundrum

The trust and persistence placed in Moeen Ali is how England should approach their top-order conundrum.

After a decade of success, English cricket demands instantaneous results, but this approach has cut off the side’s nose to spite their face.

Selection policy has become impatient and short sighted when it comes to the top order.

Alastair Cook has gone through 11 opening partners since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012, now compounded by more gaps at numbers three and five.

Yet in the midst of chaos, Moeen Ali has emerged as a reliable and increasingly threatening allrounder.

But, it’s easy to reflect on his 25 wickets and over 252 runs against South Africa with rose tinted glasses.

It hasn’t always been plain sailing. Moeen Ali has batted in every position from one to nine, only scored one century in his first 20 Tests, and was averaging more than 50 in 2016.

England stuck with him, because they believed in him. They wanted Moeen because of the potential he offered. Perhaps the biggest seal of approval, was the bringing in Saqlain Mushtaq to assist him. Moeen has now said he wants him there permanently.

Ali has been an investment for England. His form has been changeable, but the concept is right.

The question, is why have England openers not been invested in? They have been tried and trashed. Quickly.

It ultimately lies in trust.

England have picked openers because of county form, with the hope they’d continue that. But they couldn’t, or at least not instantaneously.

But, It takes time to adapt. Keaton Jennings, like Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook scored a century on debut, and now he looks frail. But, no more frail than how Moeen himself looked in the first two years of his career – when he showed inconsistency.

They kept him and trusted him to recover. The investment was seen as worthwhile.

Jennings, and the hoard of other openers, haven’t been trusted to be able to adapt.

Within five or six Tests of his debut hundred, there are calls to drop Jennings and replace him with with yet another cab-off-the-rank from county cricket, with no-doubt, an impressive domestic record.

Why pick them in the first place if they aren’t going to be trusted?

England set a precedent in May 2013 when they dropped Nick Compton for the first time, and they’ve been doubling down ever since. They’ve been too afraid to change course.

Nick Compton had success opening for England. He scored two centuries in New Zealand, and had a good partnership with Alastair Cook. He was experienced, and in form. He needed to work on his game, but who doesn’t?

Dropping him set the ball rolling for England’s opening policy.

Openers are disposable, not investments.

Until a new Andrew Strauss comes along, domestic performers can be used once and thrown away.

This is a ruinous policy. England need an opener. They need one that will work in the long run. They may struggle at first, but Moeen Ali’s progress shows what can be done with hard work.


Why England should beat a wounded South Africa

If England cannot beat a bruised South Africa, we will be able to see just how far behind they are against the world’s best team.

Despite a disappointing 2015 for the Proteas, major similarities still exist between the two sides.

Out of the seven Tests South Africa have played this year, they have only managed to win one, versus the West Indies.

More pressingly, the main reason for this is a lack of top order runs.

In 2015, only one Test century has been scored by a South African batsman, Ab de Villiers. The star man is languishing at number 38 on the international Test runs list for the year.

Whatever the averages on paper, it’s just not sufficient to maintain their space on the rankings.

South Africa have lost many players due to retirement and injury over the last few years, and this has placed a huge burden on de Villiers and captain, Hashim Amla.

It’s clear they are struggling, but is their position strong enough to overcome England?

In some respects, the same issues exist for England, but in a different way.

There is an over-reliance on two key batsmen for the touring side, but unlike the South Africans, these two have hit form, so the issue has not been as exposed.

Over the last year, the world’s top two run-scorers have been England’s Alastair Cook (averaging 59) and Joe Root (averaging 61).

Contributions from elsewhere have been few and far between, with the only other centuries coming from Adam Lyth and Ian Bell (both dropped), Gary Ballance (unsure as to whether he’ll play) and Ben Stokes.

So in the touring party, it really is two batsman from either side pulling the weight.

If England want to win they must press South Africa’s major pressure points, better than South Africa do to England.

South Africa, unlike England, don’t have a weight of runs behind them, and the introduction of inexperienced players will exacerbate this problem.

South Africa have uncharacteristically selected a lot of new faces. These include Dane Piedt, Rilee Rossouw, Stiaan van Zyl, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada, Kyle Abbott and Dean Elgar. None have played England.

Of course, England have selected new faces too. But they have played South Africa before, or at least, have had experience and some success in Test cricket before.

James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow, have faced the South Africans, whilst Nick Compton, Garry Ballance and Moeen Ali, are all in their mid to late 20s, with some Test success.

England and South Africa are both in no means good form. They both lost their immediate last series. In many regards, they face similar challenges, but the home side are feeling it more acutely.

Without runs on the board, the two sides’ bowling attacks; which have a mix of experience and pacey youth, will be under more pressure.

Whoever gets more runs on the board will give their bowlers a greater opportunity to have an impact towards winning Tests.

This could be England’s best chance to overturn the South Africans at home for a decade.

The Proteas side may have the advantage of reputation and playing at home, but England are about to play a wounded beast, and they really should win.

If they can’t overcome them, it will show that even a resurgent England cannot beat a weakened and bruised South African side, which goes some way to highlighting the gap in quality between the two.

Little Progress In Defeat – The Bat

In 2011 England went to the top of the world rankings. I thought at the time England’s success although glorious was slightly deceptive. I don’t want to play down the ability of the players but there are some serious flaws. All the way back In 2011 England beat Sri Lanka 1-0. This victory was achieved through a freak collapse at Cardiff in which Sri Lanka were all out for just over 80. This propelled them to a series victory of 1-0 which of course was due to this freak collapse. It didn’t reflect how they had played or the fact they probably should have drawn that series 0-0.

After this, the much anticipated India tour of England took place. India were without Sehwag, Zaheer and Gambhir for the much of the series. Their much vaunted batting lineup did not perform and their bowlers were utterly toothless. India were not a strong or in form side. India lost 4-0 to England and went on to lose 4-0 again to Australia in Australia. India went from number one to losing 8 straight games. Clearly England did not beat a strong Indian side and did not exactly crush Sri Lanka. Although they were the top they had not beaten the best to go to the top.

Into 2012,  the England side came off the back of this summer beating a declining India and have had an awful time. England  have suffered 6 defeats, Despite this, If i told you that In 2012 there are 4 Englishmen in the top 6 of ‘most runs’ and Stuart Broad topped the most wickets column, you would probably say, “What is the problem?” I hope to pick this apart a little bit and show why it isn’t all as rosey as it looks.

Strauss has runs this year thanks to 2 hundreds against a weak West Indies side. It does not mask the fact Strauss continues to fail to perform against the top quality sides though. Not a single Fifty against South Africa. Not even a forty. His average in 2012 is 33.19.

In 11 matches Cook has 3 fifties and one Hundred. In the light of his prolific last few years, Cook has had a relatively poor year. Against the Proteas Cook scored one Hundred and no fifties.  Limited contributions.

A shocking leave

However, with an India tour looming, it surely isn’t a good time to drop the England opener and captain . It would be a bad time to drop a new captain in and arguably a tough time to start a new batsmen off. England aren’t even sure who to would pick. I suppose Root and Denly are the Heirs to the throne, but it would be hard to just kick Strauss out. The big pressure decision of course is that If Strauss does not go, England will not be playing Pietersen in the foreseeable future.

Just to reiterate the bad form of Cook and Strauss, In 2011 against India India Cook hit a magical 294 but scored just 54 runs in the other three tests and Strauss made it past 50 once and made a 40. This is a  deeply set , long term top order failure.

Trott has not scored a hundred in over 8 test matches now. Over 15 innings. Trott has not had a disaster in 2012 with 1 hundred and 5 fifties has failed to kick on.

Ian Bell on the other hand is having a disaster and England are paying for his failings. In 2012 has not scored a ton. Bell has 6 fifties and an average of 31.25 which is b not good enough. Bell looks good even when out of nick. Perhaps this is a reason why so few people have spoken about it. Bell doesn’t look out of nick so a score doesn’t look far away.

 Pietersen is at the top of most runs for England with two tons and two fifties. Pietersen takes games away and can score runs against literally anyone. However i won’t dwell on the Pietersen fiasco in this blog. We all know why his success is irrelevant for tours in the foreseeable future. Pietersen has been dropped.

Powerful Pietersen left out. How long will it last ?

Against South Africa England were outdone by superior opposition quicks. It was apparent that throughout 2012 England’s batsmen are struggling against simple planed out attacking bowling. Steyn and Philander bowled immaculate lines and lengths and forced batsmen to play time and time again. Especially with the New Ball they forced the game their way. Morkel was expertly was used to remove the left handers with angles. Most telling of all was how they dried up the runs and created pressure simply by having discipline.  It was planned to perfection and implemented well.

A positive could be Tahir being innefective averaging 47 in the series whereas against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, everyone struggled against Ajmal Rehman, Randiv and Herath. Then again this could just be the mediocracy and un-imaginativeness of Tahir.

The main positive with the bat has been Matt Prior. Prior scored consistent runs in the South African series simply by innovating and being natural and aggressive. Prior doesn’t get as much of a chance to bat whilst coming in at 7 so it’s understandable why Prior hasn’t got as many runs. If Prior isn’t even making the One day squad, surely there needs to be a reason ?

England’s most natural and free flowing batsmen. Selfless and aggressive

Bresnan this year has scored 81 runs in 6 tests averaging around 20 with a 30 strike rate. Not good enough for a number 8 picked on all rounder status and supposed Batting credentials. Likewise Broad only has one fifty this year. Swann has not got any fifties this year. They both played with certain freedom and fluency at Lords but that was in a chasing and losing cause. We do not see it often enough.

With the Exception of Cook in the first test and the deposed Pietersen, there were no hundreds from Strauss Trott Bell, Bopara, Taylor, Bairstow and Prior. A serious lack of hundreds. In India we need to turn this around. The pitches are flatter and big totals play big totals. We need bigger runs, more hundreds, Bigger hundreds and bigger partnerships. Amla style !

England need to try and get back to an attitude of hitting bigger scores through top order partnerships and having more patience against good line and length bowling. Too often Strauss and Cook got past 20 and 30 but failed to kick on. Too often Bell and Trott got past 50 and failed to kick on.

This has been the end of my look at England’s batting over the past year. Check part two for bowling and fielding !

Politics of Pietersen

An England side with KP is undeniably a better side than one without him. However, it is important to look at how and why the events that have unfolded have placed him in his current ridiculous and almost entirely self made predicament. I will look at the timeline of events in the ‘Pietersen VS ECB’ fiasco to appreciate the lunacy of the situation and explain why after reading lots of articles and watching lots of interviews. It’s the only possible outcome to see him unfortunately dropped.

The debacle began on the 31st May when Pietersen out of the blue decided to announce he has retired from ODI cricket, citing the “intensity of the schedule”. Shortly after this KP says he will carry on playing T20, which was not an option as the ECB reject this due their  policy on selection. A player must be available for both ODI and T20I in order to play either. It is totally irrelevant that this is an arbitrary and pointless policy,the fact is, that is the policy and Pietersen  thought he could take the ECB on and failed .

The second installment in this soap opera came between the 13th -18th July  when Pietersen hit a brilliant double hundred in a rare appearance for Surrey. He used this as a platform to show his talent that could be missed, but after not being named in the ECB’s provisional 30-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka he is devastated. He back-peddles and tries to get his foot back in the door but states he ‘would only play on the condition that scheduling issues are addressed.” He reasserts his desire to play “in all formats” and simultaneously says he wants scheduling changes which one can only assume are loaded with more retirement threats if not met. Utterly confusing and unstable for the team

Not only is this a not consistent with the ECB central contract regarding availability for all forms but is also completely incompatible. Either he wants to have a break from the schedule or he doesn’t. He can’t ask for a break and go to play more. What else could the ECB do other than say stop trying to dictate to us and assert their authority ?

Pietersen’s magnificent 200 for Surrey

Part three came between the 4th -6th August  with Pietersen’s most dynamic stunning and match saving knock of 149 on day three of the second Test match against South Africa at Headingley. Clearly still seen as stable enough to pick and comfortable enough to perform. Despite this, It was a very obvious nudge in the stomach to the selectors. ‘Pick me or you will will miss this’ kind of knock. The fact is the ECB could have already dropped him but didn’t. They were lenient and although Pietersen’ts antics were unsettling thus far, it’s clear that his talent was still more important than his silly comments and outrageous demands.

Part four  – After opening the batting in a short attempted run chase in the aftermath of his breath taking century, Pietersen gave a inexplicable interview to TMS. He hinted that he could retire from Test cricket  and ‘he could not confirm whether that innings would be his ‘last test innings’’. He voiced his anger that details of his meetings with the ECB have been leaked to the media and said issues within the dressing room need resolving. KP being abrasive and aggressive selfish and egotistical were completely centered around his own interest. He is clearly now harming the balance of the side by personalizing the fiasco, talking about the dressing room outside of the game. His hundred is one thing but his comments are another

Between the 8th-16th  August, after his ton and comments he had a rant about a parody Twitter account – @kevpietersen24. This humorous mocking incident was overshadowed by the subsequent revelation.  Texts   to members of the South African team during the Leeds Test by Pietersen had purportedly spoken ill of captain Strauss and coach Flower. Despite his talent with the bat and form he was in, it would be inexcusable to keep him in the side until the exact details of the messages were revealed and there was clarity over his England future.

KP clawed back dignity when he published a video on YouTube on the 11th of August  in which he reiterates commitment to the England team. He once more changes his mind and claims that he is now available to play for England in all three forms of the game. He also apologized for his behavior and says he must reign himself in.

Between the 12th -14th August  the apology and confirmation of commitment (which was not cleared by the ECB) still led to him being  dropped from the England squad for the third Test at Lord’s.

I know a lot of people such as Piers Morgan looked past his antics and said pick him anyway but The ECB were clear and justified with their dropping of KP. They say he was ‘unable to clarify that the text messages he sent to South African players were not disparaging about his team-mates or the ECB management’. This is a fair reason both due to upsetting other members of the dressing room and the chemistry of the side. Furthermore when the captain says he feels ‘let down’ and  the ECB say there is a ‘trust issue between Pietersen and other players’ the day before a test there is no way he can play. Regardless of his obvious natural class, Pietersen cannot find a way back.

Pietersen walking off at Headingley unknowing of the drama to unfold

Pietersen called a press conference in whcih he apologizes but essentially he had still put himself in an awful situation. The conference was largely saying how he would reveal more after the 3rd test. Little did he know by that point that  the only real option the ECB have was to drop him. He had done just about everything that a player should be dropped for. He has retired and unretired on the basis of personal gain, Slagged off players and coaches in addition to being dis loyal to England wanting to quit international cricket to play IPL.

He has said he will reign himself in. If he does then fine. Get him back. Until that he needs to cool down. I’m sure sooner or later England will need him again and this could be short lived anyway

2nd Test 2nd Day 2nd Class England

A number of bold and arguably wreckless decisions have put England in a weak position at the end of the first innings.The toss being won by Andrew Strauss and opting to bowl was, i thought slightly risky yet not a disaster. England had had just come off the back of 3 days in the field facing 600 odd for 2 declared. Clearly the England bowlers do not have a bucket of wickets to their name in this series.

South Africa after being inserted into bat were 419 all out with a gritty and anchor-like century from Petersen. He went in to the innings a little bit as an underdog that was unknown and certainly not the focus of the South African batting lineup. He was still batting by tea on day two.

The toss

This decision was even more bemusing after hearing the decision to leave out the best spinner in the world. Graeme Swann’s exclusion reinforced my frustration at the initial decision to bowl first. I felt like it was Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston 2005 all over again after McGrath not fit for play. It just didn’t make sense to chose to bowl when you have just been hammered and you are leaving out the best spinner.

Economy wise Anderson went at 1.83  an over and Broad went at 2.74  and therefore kept a lid on the runs to an extent. Bresnan went at 3.62 an over and Finn went at 3.68 an over. The overall innings run rate was exactly 3 an over therefore although Strauss had 2 bowlers he could use economically they cannot bowl all day. Two would slightly let him down. Sometimes which is often OK if you are taking wickets

Jimmy Anderson was as ever, reliable and disciplined. He bowled 33.2 overs including 10 maidens going for 61 runs and taking 2wickets but going at a very economical and steady 1.83 economy rate. Below is the iconic image for Anderson though. Alistair Cook of course, dropping Alviro Peterson on just 29 and he went on to make 182.

I certainly got the impression England had good plans for Kallis, Amla, De Villiers and Smith and rather hoped that Petersen, Rudolph and Duminy would just be got out somehow. They were seen as the side dish as opposed to the main meal. The drop cost over over 150 runs

Broad bowled 35 overs and as a return had 3-96. Once again slow, maintaining regular pace of very low 80’s and high seventies. I felt Broad bowled far too short bearing in mind he was consistently hanging around low 80’s. Short balls are supposed to be used as surprise balls not stock balls. Petersen’s signature shot against Broad was his Pull stroke which one felt he had an absolute age to play. He exploited the lack of conviction of the bowlers bowling to him and made them pay.

One of frequently seen pull shots by Petersen enabled by predictable and slow short pitched bowling

Finn bowled aggressively i thought. He had an unfortunate problem in the sense he keeps running ‘through’ the stumps. The umpire at one point decided after a chat with Graeme Smith to start calling his regular deliveries where he accidentally hit the stumps as dead balls. ut of all the bowlers on show, he was the only one to go for over a hundred. he bowled 32 overs for 118, taking two wickets (one being the nightwatchman Steyn). Broad went for 96, Anderson a miserly 61 and Bresnan 98. I was disappointing with finn.

England’s 3rd bowler was Bresnan who reeled off 27 overs and went for 98 runs taking the important wicket of Smith and affecting the run out of the bearded batsmen that tormented England at the Oval, Amla. Bresnan i just feel is a bit of a nothing bowler. he is a decent All rounder cricketer but not outstanding at anything. He occasionally reverse swings the ball.. has a decent bouncer, but does not bowl excessively fast, dosn’t swing or seam it. He just has a nack of taking useful wickets.

Too often pressure was built up and then at the crucial time the wrong bowler was brought on and it was released. Really not impressed with Strauss’s captaincy in these two tests. Unimaginative, uninspiring and toothless. He is not making anything happening and is relying on mistakes.

Nearing the start of the innings, Strauss’s fields were not attacking enough having a man out on the boundary in addition to only having 2 slips. He failed to keep lower order or tail-end batsmen on strike nearing the end of the innings. Most bemuzingly, he didn’t give Anderson the second new ball. I hope Strauss and cook continue their fluent partnership on Saturday morning though.

To conclude i think it’s fair to say that the England bowlers were slightly in disciplined but not as much as they were at the oval. The gaping hole left by Swann was obvious as the run rate was controlled by South Africa not England’s bowlers. They needed to have some more pressure held up by economic bowling. This can really only be done by better lines and lengths

Second Test preview – Make or break time

England lost the first test match at the oval and they are now 1-0 down with 2 to play. All eyes move to Headingley in Yorkshire. They were comprehensively beaten at the Oval, having pathetically managed one Hundred and only 2 Wickets in the entire game compared to South Africa who took 20 wickets and patiently compiled over 600 runs.

The prospects for the next test match are mixed for England but relatively straightforward for the Proteas. England go into the game knowing they must not lose it or else in a 3 match series they cannot come back. Ultimately this means they will be no longer the best side in the world. So; ‘Where do England go from here?’ and ‘Do South Africa need to do anything different.?’

Clearly South Africa’s immovable batsmen gave them an assailable lead and their bowlers were the spearhead. It is arguably more the fault of English batsmen for not getting first innings runs than English bowlers for not taking wickets on a deck flatter than a nuns chest. The stats don’t lie. South Africa hit over 600 and lost only two wickets, but England couldn’t get to 400 and lost 20. The disparity of first innings runs was the difference between the sides.

Run fest at the Oval for the Proteas

Speaking from past experience when a similar situation has arisen; when England have lost a game in a series the answer is that England need a more aggression and conviction. This is especially the case in the opening partnership in my opinion. If we turn out heads back to the Ashes ’05 second test at Edgbaston with Strauss, Trescothick and Vaughan and 09 at Lords with Cook and Strauss, both times coming out and silencing with the bat. Both times they went at over 4 runs per over they ran the bowlers ragged and put a cap on the pressure with boundaries. Though the South African attack are the best in the world arguably and therefore it is unlikely England are going to be able to hit 4 runs an over in the 1st innings of a test match. However we know Morkel may lose his lines and lengths if he is hit around as shown by Trego in the tour game, and Tahir is also still unproven. It is not impossible to hit the South Africans.

England need some spark. Whether its a captains innings or a Pietersen innings, they need something to really take the game away with the bat. They are not getting enough runs and not getting enough momentum. England have gone past 400 twice in 9 tests in 2012 and in that time England lost to Pakistan in 3-0 whitewash, lost a game in Sri Lanka and have lost to South Africa. It couldn’t be clearer. They are not getting enough runs and the bowlers have not got enough leeway.

There is one change to the batting partially forced as Bopara is not going to be playing due to ‘personal reasons’. Bopara has always been plagued by hype and expectation that inevitably turns to disappointment and honestly I am not sure whether he would have played anyway. But the long and the short of the situation is that young James Taylor of Nottinghamshire and skipper of the England Lions looks like he will get a debut test cap. He is a fine player and brilliant prospect. I get the feeling he is being picked more because they see him as the future rather than the present. Then again he is the hier to the poisoned challis i.e. the number 6 position for many fans and selectors alike.

The other day, Taylor scored his first century of the season with a timely and magical 163*. Coincidence that on this same day he received his call up for England, not a bad day.

It’s clear that Taylor’s recent form is poor as he has only scored 1 ton and 1 fifty  in 2012 for Notts in FC cricket. He has a good record though. In 2011 he scored 1602 runs averaging 55.24 hitting 3 tons and 10 fifties .This was on the back of 2010 in which he scored 1134 runs averaging 42.00 with 3 tons and 4 fifties. He was impressive for the Lions and has been successful in CB40 and T20 Cricket smashing 115 of 77 balls this year. Small in stature with a genuine raw ability and good record he is an exciting prospect at 22 years old much like Bopara was a few years ago. Taylor needs to fill a gap that has never really been solved since the likes of Flintoff and Collingwood stopped working well at 6. Being thrust into the England side it may be interesting to see if he can he perform against the touring South Africans though, and if he can fit into the side well.

Taylor scores a brilliant captain’s hundred for the England Lions during day two of the tour match between England Lions and West Indies

South Africa should only have one selection dilemna really as there is no reason at all to change a winning side. The few errors made by AB De Villiers behind the stumps could mean a test return for Tsolekile. However, i genuinely think that the balance and depth of this South African side is much better with this set up even if just until a permanent keeper is found.

The bowling was benign and toothless. The fact is that South Africa didn’t even need De Villiers who is ranked 3 in the world, nor did they need Rudolph or Duminy. Their bowlers rested for 3 days and they were utterly clinical once refreshed even on a flat deck. England can’t even get to the supposedly weaker or less cemented in the side batsmen so South Afirca will fancy their chances of getting big scores. England clearly need a change with the ball to make sure they have the capacity to take 20 wickets.

Here are a few key areas they need to look at. 

Firstly a lack of pace – Anderson, Bresnan and especially Broad were slow. Bowling high seventies and low eighties consistently. It was completely un threatening for class batsmen like Kallis and Amla. My first solution is simply try to bowl quicker (which England definitely can).. Solution 2 (my preferred one) is pick Steven Finn. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all about pace. Plenty of bowlers do well regardless of pace, but they do so because they do something with the ball, which bring me on to my 3rd Solution; bowl better and with more discipline so you don’t need to bowl as fast (and preferably also pick Finn for some pace too..)

The severe indiscipline in both length and line was evident. Too much short and wide bowling outside off stump to Amla and Kallis. Amla is a wristy back foot cutter and driver. Kallis a nervous starter.  Once in nick both able to also supremely drive of both feet and whip away the ball more straight and leg side. They needed to bowl straighter and fuller early on.  Also wrong lines to Smith; worried about bowling too straight so they overcompensated by bowling too wide. It felt a little bit like England had no plan at all. Severely down on pace, wrong lines and lengths, they looked a little bit like my Sunday side with bat and ball.  (And that’s no complement )

Anderson had no luck with the swinging ball

A bloke called Graeme was also a minor issue. Nope, not Graeme Smith… Well i suppose yes actually Smith was too, bearing in mind he scored a century.. but Swann is who i am really referring to. Where was he? I don’t think he has bowled that badly in the last year taking 35 wickets but he has not been as dangerous as his initial burst of international cricket. Smith played him expertly coming down the wicket to him and working his good length balls to the leg side but advancing and turning them into fuller balls.  If Swann is not taking wickets that is possibly ok providing he is economical, but if he is going for runs and not holding up an end then it only reinforces the fact that he is not the bowler he was a year and a bit ago. With the exception of Sri Lanka, he has not been in the best form of his life recently and needs to rediscover his Mojo or England are short.

England need some spite and zip with the bowlers. This year Broad Anderson and Swann have all had fantastic years, but nothing compared to Steyn Morkel and Phillander. They need to step up a gear and take them on. Set some new standards and really put England into a stronger position. Steyn Morkel and Phillander are bowling quicker, more accurately and have better bouncers but England’s attack got them to the top so they need to show they can keep them there.

In my view It is a straight swap between Bresnan i can only assume, and that of either Steven Finn or Graham Onions. Finn offers pace and bounce, Onions offers experience, line and length. The change in the bowling is likely to be Bresnan but this in my view is purely because you cannot really drop Broad after his phenomenal year. Broad was not test match standard in the Oval test match, bowling medium pace and Un-threatening lines and lengths, but he shouldn’t be dropped on that as the T20 skipper and top 15 ranked bowler, he is quality and has proven that so lets not have a knee jerk reaction. Bresnan unfortunately has been down on pace for a period of time now. After his elbow injury he has been changed into an 82-5 MPH bowler instead of a 84-7 or 88 MPH bowler. He occasionally reverses it but Finn or Onions offer a lot more. The fact Bresnan and Broad can bat a little bit are irrelevant in this choice as far as i’m concerned. Lets make sure we can take 20 wickets and not give away 3 or 4 cheap ones..

England need some record breakers. Big partnerships. They have done it before. Big wickets which they have also done before. England Did not lose to SA the last time they toured here or we toured there so it is not un doable. They need to take a lead out of South Africa’s book. Need More patience and conviction with the bat, Better solid partnerships and slightly faster and more accurate bowling. They are still 1 in the world until they lose and they can still salvage this series but if they lose the second test it is all but over.

The most anticipated series – England Vs South Africa preview

We have been waiting for an England versus South Africa series with such anticipation, that one could be mistaken that it is an Ashes series. Six out of the worlds top 14 bowlers and 8 out of the worlds top 17 batsmen are on show in a mouthwatering heavyweight spectacle.

Notably the major head to head will be with the ball.  In English conditions with Steyn Phillander and Morkel against Anderson Broad and either most likely Finn or Bresnan with the newer ball and a world class spinner in Swann against Tahir who has still to prove his International credibility . Of course the batsmen will be the ones facing this barrage of world class bowlers. Pietersen against the incomparable Jacques Kallis for me will be the biggest standoff. It will also be interesting to see how the captains fair with Strauss back in nick and Smith with very fond early memories of England.

People are labeling South Africa as the better side with faster bowlers, higher ranked batsmen and better fielders. They apparently have the hunger to win which could be the edge.  I hugely respect the South Africans obvious class and professionalism and am looking forward to this contest but i simply don’t agree that in a three match series England at home are the underdogs at all.

An incredibly unfortunate incident  forced retirement of Mark Boucher. His 147 test match career over 15 year span made him the experienced wicket keeper and a gritty number seven. He is irreplaceable and has left a gaping hole in the South African side. He was a thorn in England’s side last time scoring a huge amount of runs including a 95. Most importantly however, South Africa have been majorly disrupted by this change because their batting lineup is now unsettled and filled with bith inconsistency and a lack of stability.

Boucher’s horrific and cruel moment

Many assumed before the series the two batting and bowling lineups would lock horns. After the retirement of Boucher, South Africa’s lineup doesn’t look as strong especially with Kallis’s abysmal record and England’s recent triumph against Australia both with bat and ball in the ODI series. Australia only managed to take 13 wickets in 4 games. England’s batmsne are in good form and there is a string of top quality bowlers to reel off if there are any injuries. Tremlett and Dernbach don’t even make the squad.

South Africa are having to give AB De Villiers the gloves and shift the order around slightly. Thami Tsolekile might fill in after the first test which means a batsmen will have to drop out.  It’s also fair to say he is a keeper not a keeper batsmen. I reckon AB may just carry on with the gloves. Currently in the first test it’s likely all of the three batsmen; Duminy Petersen  and Rudolph could play due to De Villiers now taking the gloves. This is very different to England’s situation with a solid top 5 and newbie Bopara in at 6. England do bat right down to 10 though so if South Africa really are as good as people think they are about to meet their match.

South Africa have a big problem in the sense that One top of the batsmen of all time,  Jacques Kallis has a dreadful record in England: In England, between 1998-2008 Kallis has played 12 games and had  20 innings. Despite his career average being just below 60 his average in England is 29.30. He has only scored one hundred and 3 fifties in his entire time in England  in which he has only accumulated 586 runs. Kallis’s form is so shocking in England that his bowling average of 27.51 (35 wickets) is only marginally different to his batting average which in the high twenties is very unusual baring in mind his career batting average is so brilliant. Kallis is obviously a world class batsmen and stats don’t lie. He now has over fourty test tons and will be an invaluable member of the side and i think most fans want this abysmal record to turn around so we can all watch some world class batting

Kallis has only ever scored 1 ton and 3 fifties in 20 matches in England. Any chance of a reversal of fortunes

England’s side more or less picks itself with only two minor selection issues, that of number 6 and number 8. One of these is now sorted as it’s now clear Ravi Bopara will play after having an unfortunate injury against the West Indies that opened the door for Johnny Bairstow, now back, and in serious nick he has a chance to prove himself.

The dynamic mix of attack and defense, orthodoxy and innovation that exists between both teams will be compelling to watch. The Settled settled and in form opening partnership of the assured Andrew Strauss and confident Alistair Cook is a far cry from South Africa who have an  under cooked and unpredictable opening pair who are fallible. England not only have most areas covered in the top seven but the depth of the batting is second to none. Bresnan Averages 40 with the bat at number 8 (3 fifties in 14 games), broad averages 27 with 9 fifties and a test 150 in 47 games. Even Graeme Swann averages 21 at number 10.

South Africa on paper also have a very good batting lineup with Smith Kallis Amla and De Villiers but one feels there is a little frailty after the big guns are out. Petersen is not assured of his place in the side, especially knowing fullwell that once AB changes back to being a specialist batsmen someone will get dropped.  Duminy has never played in English conditions,  Pietersen although scoring a ton in his last test also, has not been in the best of form in English conditions for Essex and Rudolph.down at probably 6 or 7 or opening , has  been a little bit of a disaster in test matches upon return scoring just 1 ton and 2 fifties in 12 innings. His record previous to this was equally lackluster. There is no long wrong of form to speak of despite scoring runs in his last few games

The Bowl off between Steyn Morkel and Phillander and the England Bowlers is one of the most anticipated and long standing rivalries that we have been waiting to see unfold. Phillander has been brilliant coming into the side and being one the quickest to 50 wickets. He isn’t the same pace as Steyn and Morkel but has an impeccable line and length and regularly extracts something from the pitch or conditions. He has been very good also for Somerset taking 23 wickets in 5 games during a short stint. he knows England well.

England’s only minor issue is “who they pick as the third seamer ”  is a good one to have. Bresnan , Finn or Onions. Each offer something a little different. Each have had some success in test cricket before. It isn’t as if England have a choice between Darren Pattinson, Amjad Kahn and another horses for courses of bowler of yesteryear. These are high class bowlers that are keeping the likes of Chris Tremlett out the Squad let alone the side.

The big bowl off

England have had a little drama with Pietersen with his retirement but he is in very good form having smashed a double century for Surrey and being one of the players that ‘rises to the occasion’ he could be a vital player for England. Of course Steyn has already chirped away at KP and the series is hotting uo

This series is going to be a heavily dominated by the bowlers one thinks. Whereas there are a few kinks with both batting lineups, the bowling units on both sides are seriously strong and there is so much depth. Even the second string of bowlers for both sides are world class. England can call upon the likes of Tremlett, Onions, Dernbach and have the likes of Meaker waiting in the wings. South Africa although without Merchant De Lange have Tsotsebe abd  Albie Morkel to come in.

As long as the weather holds up it will be a cracking 3 game series.