Archive for December, 2009
So after one Test, the series is still level and England should be confident that that is the case given they played nowhere near their best.
First let’s go through the positives.
The middle order of Trott, Pietersen and Collingwood played well. They combined for 118 runs in the first innings and 176 in the second innings. With five wickets in the first innings and a top score of 85, Graeme Swann was clearly England’s best and was a deserved man of the match. Had he not contributed with the bat and reduced the first innings deficit to just 62, England would have lost.
For whatever reason it never felt as though England were going to comfortably save the first Test against South Africa. Despite their obvious improvements as a team in the last couple of years, they always seem to make batting out on the final day as tense as possible.
Even when Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen took the score to 169-3 at tea there was always the overwhelming feeling that a couple of quick wickets would make the South Africans believe they could win the game, and so it proved.
After Pietersen ludicrously ran himself out, England suffered a collapse that their mid-90s side would have been proud of. By the time the last ball of the Test was bowled they found themselves on 228-9, scraping a draw on a day that should have been far more trouble free.
In the end, they had a patient knock from Paul Collingwood and some resilient final over batting from Graham Onions to thank. The Durham No.11 blocked out six balls from Makhaya Ntini to save the game.
As mentioned though, it shouldn’t have been that difficult and England shouldn’t have been relying on Onions to step up his game with the bat.
Strauss knows this too. In the aftermath he said that the final sessions included a ‘crazy hour’ meaning that the entire squad were ‘very relieved’ to have got away with a draw.
The England captain reserved praise for Onions, despite it ‘not being his job to keep his side in a Test match’. As for what was arguably the turning point of the day, Pietersen’s run-out, Strauss refused to place blame. He said that ‘mistakes happen on a cricket pitch’ and he would rather concentrate on the way Pietersen and Trott performed during their partnership.
He is probably right to focus on the positives. England deserved a draw from this one even though they struggled in the final session. Graeme Swann was terrific throughout, Onions was consistent, Pietersen and Trott DID look the part during their time together and the team as a whole showed they could compete with the best Test side in the World, something that is reflected in England’s second Test odds.
They will have to improve as the series goes on though. There needs to be more from the opening batsman, more from Stuart Broad and an improvement with the bat from Matt Prior. Hopefully, this will come and England will be inspired after salvaging a draw in the first Test, much like they were in the summer against Australia.
Meanwhile, the odds for next year’s Grand National are already starting to get interesting and could be worth keeping an eye on.
It has been said many times that the most important batting position in any cricket team is number three. It is crucial that you have someone who can rescue the situation when the team loses an early wicket, but also be prepared to help build on an excellent start if the openers are in the runs.
Basically, you need somebody with an excellent temperament. You could be waiting for a long time in your pads, after all. With these points in mind, I am very pleased Andrew Strauss has confirmed that Jonathan Trott will bat at three for England this winter, something that could have an effect on England’s South African Test odds.
The South African born batsman – who has enjoyed an excellent start to his test career – strikes me as a perfect number three batsman in international cricket. He is composed, patient, has an excellent attitude and can play his shots when needs be.
We have seen already that Trott can adapt to different team situations and that is what batting at three is all about. Sometimes England will need him to steady the ship, sometimes they will need him to push the run rate up a notch. To my mind, he is very capable of both requirements.
As for Strauss’ opinion, he says that Trott “has all of the attributes” to succeed in this role against South Africa. The Warwickshire man “plays quick bowling very well” according to the England captain. Another pivotal factor in batting up the order, of course.
Overall, it really should work well for Strauss, Trott and England. The way he has taken to international cricket is a huge help to a batting order which is now taking shape.
Strauss and Alistair Cook will open, followed by Trott, the best batsman in the team Kevin Pietersen and the in-form Paul Collingwood. Then, a rejuvenated Ian Bell, will hopefully be able to round off a top six that looks extremely strong.
The first test gets under way tomorrow and it would be an excellent start to the series if England can have a strong batting day first up. Something, in my opinion, they are more than capable of doing.
Meanwhile, in other sporting news the odds for the 2010 Cheltenham Gold Cup are really starting to hot up and could be worth keeping an eye on.
Make no mistake, the Test series between South Africa and England will be big. A lot hinges on the next four Test matches. Was the victory over Australia the exception or the rule? South Africa hasn’t played test cricket since it lost the series at home to Australia earlier in the year so they will be extra keen to bounce back. While cricket betting has the hosts as favorites it could be a lot closer than many think.
For England this is the start of a new era. They will be without the services of Andrew Flintoff and it will be interesting to see how they fare without him. As a bowler, batsman and fielder he contributed a lot. Even in the Ashes when he was clearly struggling and not 100% he was able to make a difference. There was his five wicket haul at Lords and then there was his run out of Ricky Ponting at the Oval.
Thus far, the England-South Africa series has resembled a roller-coaster. There have already been a number of twists and turns and one can only wonder, how many more there will be between now and the end of the tour.
One team puts in a bad performance, but the next game they follow it up with a great one. Or vice versa. As far as cricket betting goes, the series has been a nightmare. You never know which of the two teams is going to turn up.