South Africa v England: 1st Test, day five and match review

South Africa in disarray, England exultant.  No doubt the word “momentum” will be used.

Taking four wickets for seven runs (including du Plessis last night) probably wasn’t the expectation of anyone, with the game effectively done and dusted within half an hour of the start.  But on reflection it probably shouldn’t come as that much of a shock, from the start of the fourth day South Africa seemed almost resigned to defeat, with only the brief passage of play at the top of the second innings suggesting some degree of fight.

It was Moeen Ali, named man of the match, who did the damage, removing AB De Villiers with the third ball of the morning.  Moeen hasn’t had an unquestioned role in the side, not helped by being shunted up and down the batting order and a lack of clarity about what his role is meant to be.  He isn’t one of the six best batsmen in the country, though he is one of the six best to watch, so his primary role has to be as spinner, with his batting complementing that.  There has been considerable development in his bowling since his debut, and it’s now time to start thinking of him as much much more than the part-timer he was then called.  It wasn’t an unreasonable description either at the start, but by all accounts he works harder than anyone and is keen to learn.   The fruits of that are starting to show, though how much further he can develop is an open question.

His Test bowling average isn’t anything special, though in recent historic terms for England it’s not bad either – Swann is an outlier amongst English finger spinners – but after 20 Tests his statistics are starting to become meaningful.  The one that reflects well on him is his strike rate, with a wicket every 56 balls.  That is actually better than Swann, though no one would argue he’s remotely the equivalent as a bowler, for Swann was vastly better at the defensive role.  But Moeen does have the knack of taking wickets, and just as with Finn, this is a skill that the England are finally starting to pay attention to; “bowling dry” is unquestionably a part of the game and England’s ability to strangle sides into submission was impressive.  But the ability to take wickets out of nowhere is more impressive still – the holy grail is to have both of course, but if it was that easy every side would do it.

Therefore it could be argued that 18 months into his Test career, Moeen is actually underrated.  It is his batting where he is underperforming somewhat which is slightly ironic.

He would have had more wickets in his career had numerous stumping opportunities been taken, so Bairstow will have been delighted to get Bavuma, particularly after missing De Villiers last night.  And here we need to talk about wicketkeeping, because it is the one area of the game where people who have played at the highest level and can talk with wisdom and experience about cricket have no knowledge or understanding except in a couple of very obvious cases.

The stumping this morning was an easy one, because it went past the outside edge of the bat.  That means the keeper is following the line of the ball all the way down and the hands are automatically in the right position.  It’s therefore straightforward unless there is excessive spin taking it beyond the reach of the gloves.  The difficult ones are those that go between bat and pad.  Bairstow, just like Buttler, is a part-time wicketkeeper, and that creates a number of issues.  The taking or missing of a particular ball can’t be seen in isolation.  More than anyone else on the field, more even than the batsmen who get to switch off to some extent for half of their time out there, the wicketkeeper is involved in every single ball of the game. Concentration is an obvious requirement, but it’s about more than that – or rather it’s only part of the story – it’s about expecting the ball to miss the bat and come into the gloves.  When it goes between bat and pad there is an expectation that it will be hit, and the eyes follow the line of the bat rather than the ball.

This is not a technical issue as such, Bairstow is more than capable of taking it, and so is Buttler; the difference between a good full time keeper and a talented but part-time one is the automatic expectation that the ball will continue on its path and not be intercepted by the bat.  The best keepers do this, and it’s why in the case of either Bairstow or Buttler they will learn it should they continue to keep over the longer period.  That doesn’t mean they then become good keepers, for there are technical flaws in both of them compared to the best, but it is to explain why that one was missed, and why in itself it shouldn’t be a concern – those kinds of stumpings will come.  Prior in his first incarnation also missed them regularly for example, in his second having focused on his keeping much more, he would take them.

Still, Bairstow took the opportunity today well enough, and will certainly gain confidence from it, which also is part of the equation.

From there it was something of a procession, Finn producing one that moved away just a fraction off the seam and was frankly wasted on Dale Steyn,  Moeen again got bite and turn to account for Abbott while Woakes finally got a wicket, which was the least he deserved – he has bowled well without reward this Test.

Fittingly, Stuart Broad delivered the coup de grace to give England a thumping win by 241 runs.

This is a remarkable margin of victory having been sent to bat in difficult conditions with England finding themselves 12-2 and then 49-3.  South Africa’s abundant problems will be much discussed in consequence, but there is always the danger of underplaying England’s wins and overplaying their defeats.  Too often England only win because the opposition were rubbish, and lose because they are rubbish.  It isn’t particularly fair, they won this game and won it well.

The first innings total of 303 is what set up the game.  It’s not a huge score but given the conditions and a pitch where run scoring wasn’t easy, it was a decent one.  Taylor and Compton can reflect on  their performances in that crucial period and be very satisfied with it.  As a combination they batted beautifully, and Graeme Swann’s bizarre and consistent criticism of Compton for batting too slowly gave something of an insight into the environment of the England team during his first spell in the side.  Compton did an outstanding job here, and deserves high praise not snide dismissal.  Had Alastair Cook done the same thing, he would have received considerable plaudits for it, for it was every bit a Cook type innings in pace, style and above all importance.  Rightly so too when Cook does it, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Swann is blinded by favouritism rather than what is going on in front of him.  It is distasteful.

If Compton had a case for being man of the match, so did James Taylor.  Doubtless Kevin Pietersen’s view that he wasn’t good enough for Test cricket in 2012 will be thrown back at him, but firstly Taylor is a better player now than he was then, but also Pietersen’s view at the time was quite clearly echoed by the selectors, who didn’t pick him.  Here he was busy at the crease, and turned the pressure back on to the bowlers.  As a combination with the doughty Compton, it worked beautifully.

That the man of the match award wasn’t an easy one to choose is evidenced by Broad being the fourth player who must have felt in with a shout.  He took fewer wickets than either Moeen or Finn, but the timing of his was the key, breaking the back of South Africa first time round, and ensuring England had a big lead at half way.  Broad is becoming a very, very fine bowler indeed.  And he seems to have got his batting back to at least some extent.  It’s going to be a big few years from him.

Lastly Finn himself can count himself a trifle unlucky to be overlooked too.  Having written about him yesterday there is no point repeating it, but he is looking in fine fettle.

England do have the nice problem of finding a place for Anderson, and Woakes seems certain to make way for him.  Harsh on Woakes if so, but it’s hard to criticise bringing back England’s record wicket taker.

Whither South Africa?

The first thing here is that a side can be comprehensively beaten in one match and gel in the next.  Even those without long memories ought to know that from the last Ashes series where the teams took it in turns to batter the other.  With that said, they do look in some disarray.  The injury to Steyn looks highly likely to keep him out of at least the second Test, but the rest of the attack – and Morkel in particular – compensated admirably here.  Their problems were not in the bowling.

De Villiers’ less than subtle hint about his workload appears to have been listened to, with de Kock being brought in to the squad for Cape Town and seemingly certain to play.  Overloading the best batsman in the side always seemed a peculiar approach, but it’s not in and of itself a reason for how this Test unfolded.  Yet for all the talk about Bairstow behind the stumps it shouldn’t be overlooked that De Villiers had a poor time with the gloves in this game anyway.

Elgar had an excellent match, looking solid and but for being on the losing team probably was the outstanding performer on either side, while Van Zyl in the second innings could well have played himself back into some kind of form without going on to make a substantial score.

The captain is clearly a concern, but Amla is a high class player and has been for a decade.  He was all at sea in the first innings, but much better in the second.  Anyone writing him off does so at their peril, for he will come good, and when he does England will suffer for it.

The immediate response to their performance has a hint of overreaction about it; England are not that good and South Africa are not that bad.  It’s one Test, and South Africa’s difficult tour of India notwithstanding, they have not become a bad side overnight, but they are clearly very low on confidence.

Newlands is a fortress of South African cricket, and while England will go there with confidence, suggestions that they are favourites to win based on this game are a triumph of hope over experience.  South Africa will probably not play as badly as they have done in Durban – if they do they are indeed in real trouble, and at that point a reassessment might be in order.

This isn’t going to stop some getting carried away, and it will be the same people who usually do so.  C’est la vie.



33 thoughts on “South Africa v England: 1st Test, day five and match review

  1. jennyah46 Dec 30, 2015 / 1:19 pm

    I very much enjoyed this first class review from TLG. It said all that needed saying and I can find nothing more to add. Thanks for the speedy and sterling effort.


  2. cricketjon Dec 30, 2015 / 1:54 pm

    Swanns assessment of Compton is a disgrace given how dour England were in the side that Swann played in. Compton is in fact more valuable now than he was in 2013 since England have a team of stroke-makers. 303 from 49/3 was a tremendous effort in overhead conditions and Compton can consider himself to be unlucky not to win MOTM in his comeback test.

    When Swann commences his utterings on the radio, I switch it off until I can be certain he is gone. It is no coincidence how Broad has matured as a player since the Swann-Prior Axis has left the dressing room.

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Dec 30, 2015 / 1:56 pm

      Since I had to approve your comment, this must be your first post on here. Welcome!


      • LordCanisLupus Dec 30, 2015 / 2:08 pm

        It’s not. He was part of the Ashes Panel! I think I can see why he needed approving…..


      • cricketjon Dec 30, 2015 / 6:52 pm

        I confirm I was on the Ashes Panel but do not understand why people think my post requires approval?


      • thelegglance Dec 30, 2015 / 6:54 pm

        We found out why – you posted above with a different email account! No dramas, all sorted.


      • cricketjon Dec 30, 2015 / 7:49 pm

        Alas, that makes sense. I thought for a moment the Swann-Prior Axis remark had caused a diplomatic incident.


  3. Mark Dec 30, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    England went one up against the WI before being pegged back to level. Same against NZ, and they went one up against Australia before losing at Lords. They nearly won the first test against Pakistan, before losing the next two. So we have been here before.

    However, SA look a shadow of their former self. Particularly their batting. As Simon points out they did manage to bowl England out twice in this match for scores about 300. And that with their strike bowler injured. If they can get their batting sorted, it may be closer. But their big guns look out of form, and with Jimmy coming back it looks good for a series win.

    Comptons performance was almost match winning. His two scores are virtually the difference between the sides. But he is not wanted by some in the England set up as certain people (in the know) in the media have made clear. What a way to run a cricket team? The stench of cliques still hangs over this team. Shame, you would have thought they would have learned their lessons. But obviously some people want a complete air brushing of the past, and a no mercy policy to anyone who didnt get in line. I suppose it is progress that for now those people have been out voted and Compton got recalled. But if he fails the knives will be out in force. (Note to Swann, Newman, and all the other insiders. Please define what odd means or STFU) I wonder if the captain really wanted him back?

    I have no idea if Hales will make it as a test match opener. Better judges than me have their reservations. But he seems to be given a free ride by some in the media while the number 3 gets all the heat. I wonder if the Captain would ever have the number 3 back as his opening partner?

    Liked by 2 people

    • thelegglance Dec 30, 2015 / 3:29 pm

      I have my reservations over Hales, but then I didn’t think David Warner would play 20 Tests, so what do I know?*

      *I did from the start say Steve Smith would make it as a Test cricketer. So there.


    • "IronBalls" McGinty Dec 30, 2015 / 3:31 pm

      -Good call Mark. I seem to remember that Compton was dropped as he was perceived to be “difficult” in the dressing room? In other words he sat by himself immersed in his own bubble. With twats like Swann et al around who could blame him?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. SimonH Dec 30, 2015 / 3:31 pm

    The Guardian’s ‘Five England Players who made the difference’:

    No Bairstow. WTF?
    No Finn. WTFF?
    If you’ve been awake for the last two years, you can guess the rest.

    Somebody on the thread says the commentary they were listening to (not sure if it was radio or TV) expected Anderson to return in CT for…. Finn. They like the control that Woakes gives was the explanation. Did anyone hear more?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Escort Dec 30, 2015 / 3:54 pm

      I heard that, can’t remember which of the home commentators it was but Michael Holding was very quick to rubbish the suggestion.
      They can’t ,can they????


    • Tuffers86 Dec 30, 2015 / 4:44 pm

      I’ve just read it. My first thoughts were ‘they’re not going to include him are they?’ *opens link* oh bloody hell, they’ve only gone and included him. FFS.

      I can’t believe Finn was excluded. He’s on another plain at the minute.


      • LordCanisLupus Dec 30, 2015 / 5:12 pm

        Above Bairstow? Above Finn?

        Anyone want to know what continues to feed our antipathy to the press? Look there. That isn’t analysis. That’s real fanboy stuff, right there.

        An absolutely superb performance but still we need nonsense like this to go out there. And his position was never untenable in your lot’s eyes.

        To call the Guardian “anti-establishment” is absolutely hilarious.


    • Arron Wright Dec 30, 2015 / 4:54 pm

      Ha ha, brilliant. Love the Graun. 0, 7, an 89-run lead and target of 400+ provided by others and still they must lick his ass before most of the rest. Have you also spotted the pre-emptive apologies for Cook-love and parochialism that have started creeping in? Never going to wash with me.

      This is precisely why his genuinely outstanding performances (Lord’s, Abu Dhabi) are still received with some cynicism. Because there is no light and shade. 43 = 100, 0 & 7 is outstanding, 95 is the Rapture, loose strokes are due to tiredness, etc etc et bloody cetera ad nauseam.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Mark Dec 30, 2015 / 6:42 pm

        We can just imagine how one particular journalist from the Guardian would have reacted if the captain had scored 134 runs in a winning cause. Almost 90% of his match report would have been devoted to eulogising the 2 innings he had played. Going in to detail about how said player reacted. How manly he looked, how calm and cool he was.

        As you say, Cooks great innings are devalued by England’s media because of the over the top praise of his failures. And no, he was never in any danger of being dropped, and he was never criticized by the professional media. Their claim he was being attacked by the press was all a figment of their imagination. Only those outside cricket raised concerns, and as we all know we are irrelevant.


    • SimonH Dec 30, 2015 / 8:32 pm

      Just when that couldn’t get much worse we have an outbreak of KP nonsense on the thread. One new name making some shining contributions.

      I’d say Selvey has created one of his new fake accounts – but said goon makes a positive mention of Michael Clarke so it can’t be him.


  5. Grenville Dec 30, 2015 / 3:52 pm

    Firstly, I want to say that I really enjoyed the match. It did not get boring till the morning of the 5th day and then, if you were an England fan, it would have been good fun. In my view, cricket is good when batsmen are on top but cannot get away from the bowlers. It is best when that holds, but the batsmen are living by the skin of their teeth and scoring around 4 an over (see Edgbaston 05). It is rare that things are for the best, so I like it when there is a tricky pitch or even slow outfield to help give the bowling side some control. This test fitted that bill.

    On the media, we should perhaps be a little bit forgiving of stupid comments about dropping Finn to keep Woakes in. There is a large team of commentators trying to pretend that there is a discussion to be had to fill acres of column inches and hours of airtime. Somebody has to say something stupid. On the other hand, we should perhaps recognise that the whole thing is a farce, and that sports commentary and journalism is pretty damn redundant.

    How is the Pringle counter at the moment?


    • SimonH Dec 30, 2015 / 4:36 pm

      He needs five from three.


      • Grenville Dec 30, 2015 / 9:59 pm

        If he gets 3 from 3, he’ll be able to claim a reasonable margin of error.


  6. paulewart Dec 30, 2015 / 3:58 pm

    ‘Doubtless Kevin Pietersen’s view that he wasn’t good enough for Test cricket in 2012 will be thrown back at him.’ Why? He wasn’t a selector.


    • Escort Dec 30, 2015 / 4:28 pm

      I guess we don’t need to go through the detail again but the selectors at the time must have agreed with Pietersen because Taylor has only just been recalled to international cricket.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alec Dec 30, 2015 / 4:50 pm

        Thank you.

        I’ve wondered for the best part of 2 years why it was that KP’s statement to Andy Flower that Taylor was not good enough (for whatever reason) to succeed was so out of line when it was clear that the selectors and probably Cook, Strauss, Flower agreed with his assessment, if not his specific line of reasoning.


      • Mark Dec 30, 2015 / 6:27 pm

        After the dodgy dossier I don’t take seriously anything that KP said in confidence to the management. It is now quite clear they were setting him up to discredit him. Why else ask him for his opinions, and them leak them to a crony tame journalist who would obediently print them with relish?

        They pulled the same stunt with the famous players meeting when he was encouraged to give his views, and then certain players ran back to tell the coach.

        It was just another stick to beat him him with. For the best part of two years they tried to drive him out of the team.

        Liked by 3 people

  7. Arron Wright Dec 30, 2015 / 5:10 pm


    Thank you for those remarks on Swann, with which I wholeheartedly concur.

    This was the match in which he went from “massive irritant” to “literally so unbearable I have to switch off while he’s on”.

    In 26 years of TMS (and throw in 33 years of FTA and pay TV) no-one has come close to matching him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rohan Dec 30, 2015 / 10:02 pm

      Arron, I concur wholeheartedly with you and TLG, regarding Swann. He is just a fanboy, who is biased and clearly has a vested interest in certain players in the side. I do not find him balanced in his commentary, moreover I find him quite vindictive and borish. I must concede, however, that his tactical knowledge and the way he speaks about spin bowling is generally very good and insightful.

      Another point I would like to add about Swann, was that I was listening to TMS and he was on with Simon Mann. Swann’s constant sniping and teasing of Mann was tantamount to bullying, it was relentless. The kind of humour where the one dishing it out (Swann) laughs at themself in a very smug/conceited way, with a complete disregard of the other persons reaction. I could well imagine, that if this was his approach and attitude in the England dressing room, that KP’s allegations of bullying were not unfounded……

      TLG, I enjoyed your review and agree with your well-balanced argument about England not being as good as we might think and SA not being as bad as we might think. The MSM, however, seem to be in normal overreaction mode, i.e. England can dominate South Africa – Jonathan Agnew, latest headline from his most recent article; ludicrous to make this kind of prediction, after one test match!


      • thelegglance Dec 30, 2015 / 10:47 pm

        The way he treated Simon Mann was noticed by a few people. He obviously became aware of how it sounded because he apologised. A bit too late.


      • Rohan Dec 30, 2015 / 11:07 pm

        Thanks TLG, I missed the apology. I heard a particular section where they started talking about animals on cricket pitches and discussed a Mongoose. Which Swann teased Mann about. Then when I tuned back in later, Swann was still ‘having a go’ at Mann about incorrectly stating the plural name for a mongoose, even though he himself had earlier got it wrong. I was not impressed……glad others noticed it; schoolyard bullying, behaviour so reminiscent of that described in that mans book.


  8. Rohan Dec 30, 2015 / 11:10 pm

    Post has not appeared again. I think I have worked out why. In the wordpress section on details, if I type in ‘telegraph’ it’s fine. If, however, I let WordPress remember my details for me, it puts http//: in front of telegraph and these posts seem to go to SPAM!? Does this seem right, or am I delusional…..


  9. SimonH Dec 31, 2015 / 9:01 am

    “Since Kallis’s retirement, they have really struggled to get the balance of the side right, which is why they gave the gloves to AB de Villiers. But this has clearly irked him — and you don’t want to be aggravating your star player when you need him most”.

    “You should always pick your best team where possible”.

    Nasser doesn’t really do irony.


  10. SimonH Dec 31, 2015 / 11:14 am

    From GD’s post-match analysis:

    “”Investment” might be an apposite word in understanding the development of this England side. As the previous England team – which included the likes of Graeme Swann, Jonathan Trott, Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen – fell apart, it became clear that England may need to show some patience in their successors”.

    “It is a reminder that, for all the frustration a Ben Stokes dismissal or Jonny Bairstow drop may provoke, the virtues of continuity of selection tend to outweigh the negatives and that it inevitably takes time to acclimatise to the standards of Test cricket”.

    At best, this is half-true. From the first team of the ‘new era’, Robson has disappeared off the radar, Ballance and Jordan have been dropped from the team and only Moeen Ali survives. Later that summer Buttler and Woakes came in – the first has been dropped and the second was only playing because of injury and contributed little (sorry TLG – but I just don’t see what you see in him).

    What the key architects (Compton, Taylor, Bairstow, Finn) of Durban seem to me to have in common is that they’d all been dropped at some stage and forced to go away and work on their game.

    It seems whenever England do well, continuity is now always one of the first reasons highlighted. The traumas of the 1990s seem ineradicable (the chopping-and-changing of the 90s was real enough but also rather exaggerated). In GD’s case, I also feel there’s an element of being too close to some players and what is coming through is more their hurt at being dropped rather than a more detached analysis. Very few good players weren’t dropped at some stage – how now remembers that David Gower, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were all dropped at some stage but they were. The important thing is that when a player’s dropped he isn’t forgotten about – that’s what England were guilty of in the 90s. Players like Chris Read, James Foster and Rikki Clarke were picked too early and not recalled when they became much better players later on.


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