England vs. South Africa, 4th Test, Preview

So we go into the last Test at Old Trafford with all to play for and though the scoreline on paper at 2-1 looks like it has been a closely fought series, it actually feels that it has been a slightly anti-climatic series with both teams clearly looking like they are in transition. Chris alluded to this in his wrap up of the third Test, that although the series is hanging on a knife-edge, especially without Director Comma’s ‘super series’, that none of the games have been particularly close. As I thought about it a little more, it has been a long while since England have been involved in a series where both they and the opposition have played consistently good cricket in each game of the series. The Ashes in 2015 was an example of a number of wide margin victories as was the Pakistan Test series last summer, where whoever gets on top after Day 2, normally ends up dishing out a bit of thrashing. Now whether this is particularly true just of England (I don’t think it is) or whether the fact that the T20 batting style has crept into the game, resulting in the batsmen failing to put a high price on their wicket, I’m not sure; however most Test enthusiasts amongst us yearn to see another up and down series like the New Zealand Tests in 2015. Whether or not that happens in the near future, I do have my doubts.

From an England point of view, the best thing that they can do is not to think about the dreaded word ‘momentum’. This seems to lull them into a false sense of security as the 2nd Test of the summer showed and instead concentrate on doing the basics right as they did at the Oval. Cook and Stokes played wonderfully contrasting innings in England’s first knock, which resulted in them being around 75 runs above par in tricky batting conditions and all of the bowlers (perhaps with Jimmy excepted) all bowled magnificently. From then, the game was won. It has been particularly interesting to see the reaction of the Media to Toby Roland-Jones’ performance with one or two high profile names already clamoring that he doesn’t have the pace to threaten the Australian batsmen in their home conditions. I find this particularly strange when they have quite rightly been gushing in their praise for Vernon Philander, especially as TRJ bowls around the same speed as Philander and relies on accuracy and a bit of movement to eek good batsmen out (for the record Philanders’ average in Australia is a touch under 30). Now I’m fully aware that most of the media and written press don’t sully themselves with watching county cricket, but if they had, then they might have realised that TRJ has consistently been getting wickets at an average of circa 27 on what is the flattest deck in the country, still I guess that this either doesn’t fit their rhetoric or that they are too lazy to do any research! For me, TRJ has to stay in the team for the rest of the summer at least.

It was also interesting to see Bayliss say that England don’t need 8 batsmen, especially when the English batting line up has a regular habit of falling in heap. Now it is clear to most that Malan hardly had a stellar debut (it happens), but using this as a logic to try and shoehorn Dawson, the very essence of a bits and pieces player, back into the team is just crazy in my opinion and smacks of a certain ‘mood hoover’ having a little word in his ear. For me, England should name exactly the same team for Old Trafford unless the pitch resembles something a bit like the Wankhede! I was also surprised and a little disappointed to see Finn called up as cover for Mark Wood. Now as most on here know, I am a great Finn supporter; however his performances over the past 2 years haven’t backed the selectors faith in having him around the squad; indeed he has been pretty mediocre even in county cricket, which pains me to say. I personally think that Craig Overton or even Jake Ball would have been a better choice as cover; however unless one of England’s main fast bowlers suddenly breaks down tomorrow (I’m writing this on Wednesday evening), then I would simply be amazed if they don’t go with the same seam attack as they did at the Oval.

As for South Africa, they do seem to have some standout players, some players who are probably not up to Test Cricket (yes Heino Kuhn I’m looking at you) and some players with talent who are absolutely frustratingly inconsistent. As for the batting attack, Dean Elgar has to be one of the best openers in the world at the moment, sure you wouldn’t pay the entrance fee just to watch him, but he is someone who has true grit and is able to get the most out of what is a somewhat limited technique. If I was the England batting coach, I’d be making Cook watch his innings at the Oval on repeat, as that was the sort of inning that Cook made his name from in the past. It would also be surprising if both Du Plessis and Amla bat as badly as they did in the 3rd Test, so it would not be a shock to see their batting line up roar back in the 4th Test, England certainly can’t approach it as if the job is done. The seam bowling line up on paper is also one of the best line-ups in the world with Philander (if you can keep him on the pitch), Rabada and Morkel all capable of running through the side. Morris for me, is the wildcard of the South African attack, capable of bowling brilliant spells followed by a spell of utter trash; he sort of reminds me of Andy Caddick, not through looks or bowling action, but that both could be a match winner when they were fully switched on, yet on other days when they simply didn’t fancy it they’re prone to send down a succession of floaty half volleys asking to be hit. South Africa will certainly hope the focused Morris turns up on Friday.

Dmitri, Chris and myself are at the Oval on Friday night getting down with the beered up T20 massive (do say hello if you plan to be there yourselves), so Danny will be on the decks on Friday for the Day 1 report.

As ever thoughts and comments below are always appreciated.


54 thoughts on “England vs. South Africa, 4th Test, Preview

  1. man in a barrel Aug 2, 2017 / 8:41 pm

    The thing that struck me about TRJ is that he seemed to have a run up as long as Holding’s. I used to think that Robin Jackman had a long run up but TRJ seems to run about twice as far. That might be a factor down under. But he had the attributes, a full length, the ability to get bounce that might work on Aussie pitches. It’s the fast medium swing bowlers who suffer, not the hit-the-deck merchants

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean B Aug 2, 2017 / 8:56 pm

      Agree that TRJ’s run up is pretty long for a medium pacer, but he hardly charges in and we have the bonus of 4 seamers, so don’t think it should be an issue.

      Agree with your assessment of his bowling, he’s never been a swing bowler, more someone who can hit the deck on a decent length consistently..


      • Miami Dad's Six Aug 3, 2017 / 10:59 am

        How quick was Glenn McGrath? He never struggled in Australia. Tremlett was hardly 90mph either from memory.


        • Sean B Aug 3, 2017 / 11:28 am

          Yep it’s very much an English (and now Australian) obsession with bowlers who can bowl 90mph


        • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Aug 3, 2017 / 1:08 pm

          Probably quicker than we sometimes remember when he emerged. But for sure no out and out quick and far slower in the latter part of his years. Given how freakishly good he was maybe someone like Stuart Clark better proves your point? Excellent point about Tremlett, we knocked them over with great seam bowling in 2010-11, not swing nor pace.

          Interestingly, Shaun Pollock had a very mediocre record in Oz. Wonder why?

          I would though prefer a regular 90mph bowler in my side as well…


          • Sean B Aug 3, 2017 / 6:10 pm

            Yep excellent comparison. McGrath was pretty special, but Clark also took wickets consistently in Oz, whilst bowling roughly the same pace..


  2. jennyah46 Aug 2, 2017 / 8:45 pm

    Nothing to disagree with here Sean. I hope Malan gets another go. He is a good and useful player.

    A wonderful debut from TRJ and so deserved. It does give the selectors a bit of a headache when Woakes and Ball are back fully fit. He should certainly be in the Ashes squad, no matter what.

    Have a good time at the Oval you three!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 2, 2017 / 9:01 pm

    Does the fact that I’m going with a few guys whom I play football with on a Thursday afternoon post work and am due to have a few beers with before the game on Friday make me a “t20 chav’?

    Reckon that SA might enjoy a more typical Old Trafford deck both with the bat and ball with the extra pace and bounce that it usually has.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean B Aug 2, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      Ha, not at all. It’s the guys who tank it up all afternoon and arrive comatosed that I’m referring to. Normally the ones sat behind me!

      Do come and say hello, we’re in block 5. I’ll drop you a line on whatsapp…


  4. LordCanisLupus Aug 2, 2017 / 10:19 pm

    I see Alastair has been on media duty today.

    It’s lovely to see the England team supported now, and all that naughty stuff banished to the past. We have Sky’s fourth test montage paying homage to an 88, every bit as much as a 95, and then emphasising that only a world class spell by Morkel, the sort you rarely see, could remove the great man (but failed to remove dead man walking Keaton Jennings). Who needs a PR firm when Sky and the press will do it for you? Maybe he needs his tires pumped a bit more.

    Because I love a bit of statmining and let’s do some.

    How about in his last 48 test innings against Australia and South Africa, Alastair Cook has NO centuries, Count ’em – none. If he goes without in both innings at OT, it will be 50 innings without a ton against the two best pace attacks in the world.

    At an average of, wait for it, 27.7. Hell, if Sky can big up a mighty 88, I can point out that his record has been appalling against these two pace bowling nations for five years.

    Look for yourself and add his second ball duck in the 1st innings at The Oval in 2012. (yes, he scored a ton in the first – even adding that ton doesn’t get the average up to 30).


    But he was really, really good in 2010/11.

    Liked by 1 person

    • man in a barrel Aug 2, 2017 / 11:12 pm

      If you find time to read the email I sent earlier, you might be interested in my stat mining


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 2, 2017 / 11:17 pm

        It’s superb. Do you want to add it as a comment or wait until the end of the test?


        • man in a barrel Aug 2, 2017 / 11:39 pm

          It’s probably too close to the next match now. So maybe wait for a rained off day?


    • pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 3, 2017 / 5:55 am

      I was aware that his record against both, especially since the start of the 2013 home Ashes was pretty poor but I guess this only highlights it even more. In fairness, he hasn’t had that bad a series overall this time out, with contributions in at least one innings in all of the 3 tests so far but he has been worked over quite badly in the other innings where he has failed..

      I have had a quasi argument with an Indian fan and I put it to him that his view of Cook is somewhat tailored to Cook usually having scored runs against them when not even in much form, that 95 especially!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Zephirine Aug 3, 2017 / 2:44 pm

      I wish I could afford Cook’s PR manager. Whoever it is, is an absolute genius.


    • nonoxcol Aug 4, 2017 / 9:45 am

      No Philander.

      No better chance to change his fortunes.


      • d'Arthez Aug 4, 2017 / 1:10 pm

        He failed to do so. 0 tons against South Africa and Australia, from his last 49 innings.


        • Sean B Aug 4, 2017 / 2:02 pm

          Loving the stats. Have used them to shoot down 2 Cook fanboys in the office. Boom!

          Liked by 1 person

  5. d'Arthez Aug 3, 2017 / 5:19 am

    Oh, and the dismantling of CSA, by starving them of funding (well done BCCI, ECB!) continues. Well done. I guess those upstarts had to be punished for being competitive, despite not being part of the Big 3. So, once cricket in South Africa has been destroyed through these means, what is stopping the endless tri-series between England, Australia and India?

    I give up on the “sport.” In a few years time it will be WWE-style scripted entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sir Peter Aug 3, 2017 / 10:15 am

    See you in T20 heaven chaps. I seem to recall not exactly speedy Angus Fraser got bowled a lot in Australia to keep one end tight – nothing wrong with that except I seemed to recall he dropped Ian Healey which sort of turned the match? Or am I getting my 3am world service memories confused?


    • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Aug 3, 2017 / 1:51 pm

      Wow that’s poor, just Trumpesque rhetoric. Tests between these sides can easily be settled by one great session for one team’s seamers and one poor one by the oppo’s batsmen. That is what has kept the series balanced but the Tests within it one-sided.


  7. d'Arthez Aug 4, 2017 / 9:38 am

    England win the toss, bat first.

    No Philander. I am sure that there is a lot more going on with Philander, than is being communicated (not that I mind a lack of openness on this one; not everything should be in the public domain). No Morris, who had a rather bland outing last time around. That will mean Olivier and de Bruyn get another go.

    England are definitely the most lucky side in international cricket, since half the time they’re playing South Africa, Philander AND Steyn are missing in the last 6 years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • SteveT Aug 4, 2017 / 10:21 am

      Pissed off that Philander isn’t playing. Will never see him at this level in England again. Kyle Abbot could have made a contribution in this series, but can earn more with debt-ridden Hampshire than playing for his country. Basically see off Morkel and Rabada and there’s not much left to be frightened of. Looks like Engalnd to win the coin tossing contest 3-1.

      Liked by 2 people

    • BoredInAustria Aug 4, 2017 / 10:26 am

      To be fair, the england medical team gets a lot of criticism here – but the Protea management does not come out of this smelling of roses. The fact that he spent time in the hospital and played on does say a lot about Philander, but one wonders what health risks were involved.

      Too much information I know, but this from Vernon: “It was a tough week personally. Being on the loo for quite a bit and having to go out to bowl was draining. I couldn’t really keep anything down but I’m feeling a lot better now,” he said. “


      • Benny Aug 4, 2017 / 2:38 pm

        I’ve been suffering from a Vernon Philander Disorder for 4 days, eaten once. Feeling much improved now but certainly not remotely interested in bowling a few overs. No, the most popular diarrhoea pills didn’t work. Just going to have to sit here and watch the cricket on TV and it’s pretty absorbing today


        • BoredInAustria Aug 5, 2017 / 5:30 am

          I took some carbon pills after an Egypt induced bout of the Philanders. That helped. A bit. Otherwise I can just quote AB and say – Fight on. Show grit. We are in this together.

          Seriously – hope you feel better soon 🙂


  8. man in a barrel Aug 4, 2017 / 9:45 am

    Philander definitely not playing, owing to back spasms. Cricinfo are going with the propaganda line about not risking him being unfit 2 Tests in a row. My take is that he hadn’t been properly fit for the entire series. Still, Cook and Jennings will have an easier ride against the new ball.

    Does anyone else get heartily irritated when Vaughan says “earn the right”? As in, if you hang in when the ball is moving, you earn the right to get some short wide balls ;or, when you bat well you earn the right to a few half-volleys. Meaningless drivel from a truly execrable broadcaster


  9. thelegglance Aug 4, 2017 / 10:16 am

    Doesn’t exactly look very easy out there this morning.


  10. pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 4, 2017 / 10:50 am

    Here was me starting to think that England had done rather well to avoid losing a wicket, despite a couple of close-ish calls yet now Jennings nicks off v Olivier.


  11. Mark Aug 4, 2017 / 12:29 pm

    David Gower is a piss poor TV host. Volume 4567

    How many more times do I have to rant about what a f****** useless front man Gower is? The job of a TV front man is to ASK THE QUESTIONS. Not to ask the questions, and then ANSWER them before the other pundits have a chance. Oh, and in the fleeting few second the others get the chance to speak the job of the front man is to shut the fuck up and not keep interrupting.


    Sky keep persisting with this despite having Charles Colville , and Ian Ward who stood in for Gower for one day in the last test match. It was a breath of fresh air. He was relaxed, calm, asked the questions and then shut up and listened to the answers. He had enough knowledge of the game to engage the debate without taking over completely.

    While I always enjoyed Gower’s batting and his amusing escapades as a flying ace non of this can make up for the fact that he is not a front man. If you want to employ him as a pundit/commentator then fine. But please get a new host. I am paying £60 per month for this crock. I’m now muting my TV, and opening the window to listen to the delightful tones of my next door neighbours lawn mower. It’s far more interesting and entertaining.

    Rant over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Benny Aug 4, 2017 / 2:43 pm

      I’m probably going to get banned from blog for this but I think Nick Knight, crap commentator, is quite good as a front man in the one dayers. Better at asking questions than answering them.

      Shoot me now

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Aug 4, 2017 / 3:50 pm

        No, I agree with you. Knight has a relaxed manner about him, and let’s the other pundits speak. I think Ian Ward is very good at fronting. Better than being a commentaor actually.


    • thebogfather Aug 4, 2017 / 2:52 pm

      I’ve had Sky this summer for the first time in about 7 years and have been shocked/amused/not surprised as to how poor Gower is both as a frontman, and especially as a commentator… I’d rather have ShinyToy, LoveJoy, Plagiarist or even Lady HurghHurgh to listen to….


      • Mark Aug 4, 2017 / 3:48 pm

        I don’t mind him as a commentator/pundit because he has to shut up during the actual deliveries. He is an ex test player and a very good one so he has insights to offer. But he is just useless as an anchor man.

        He just doesn’t shut up. He keeps interrupting and you feel the others get about two lines before he is hassling them. Even when he does let them speak you can here him in the background saying…”yes, yes……er yes” Not even Paxman used to do that. And he was interviewing politicians who’s aim was to be un helpful as they can.

        Just because you played at the highest level doesn’t mean you make a good front man. People rave about Gary Linneker. I think he is awful. So fake. Pithy one liners that he has scripted before hand. Iam astonished they pay him what they do. I also find it ironic that he is one of those that criticises people who haven’t played at the top level from criticising professionals yet he waltzes into a job he has not done before.

        Spare me Lady HurghHurgh. I don’t listen to TMS anymore. They turned it into a clown car.

        Bar humbug


  12. d'Arthez Aug 4, 2017 / 2:07 pm

    Root got saved on broadcaster’s call.


    • Benny Aug 4, 2017 / 2:45 pm

      Nasser followed it with “appeals are still an important thing in Test cricket”. Clearly a genius


  13. SteveT Aug 4, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    Those little KIA adverts are getting right on my tits! Makes me yearn for the Vitality Dog!
    It’s only taken the Sky lot until the fourth test to realise that QDK is a seriously good keeper.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thebogfather Aug 4, 2017 / 2:55 pm

      Agreed, even #39’s village idiot ads are less annoying than the KIA krap


    • SteveT Aug 4, 2017 / 3:16 pm

      They’ve put the curse on him! He’s just let an edge go from Root which he should have dived for. Great ball from Morkel as well.


      • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Aug 4, 2017 / 3:34 pm

        It was an excellent ball wasn’t it? And what can only have been a lapse in concentration by de Kock. This partnership feels like a pivotal moment in the match.

        Interesting conditions in light of our previous discussion around seam bowling. Roland-Jones won’t be unhappy and his presence, along with Root’s bowling change at the Oval, should encourage Anderson to bowl the length that Morkel found with that Root let-off just now.

        Root passes 50 for the 10th Test in a row.


  14. SteveT Aug 4, 2017 / 3:48 pm

    Sean Pollock the first to mention Root’s conversion rate


    • Mark Aug 4, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Nobody mentions Cooks conversion rate.

      Only obsessives!


      • SteveT Aug 4, 2017 / 4:06 pm

        He did get a daddy forty!


      • d'Arthez Aug 4, 2017 / 4:25 pm

        Well, at the moment his most recent 50 innings against South Africa and Australia, have had a conversion rate of 0%. Maybe they think they’ll run into a divide by 0 error?


    • mdpayne87 Aug 4, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      I find any talk about conversion rates a bit pointless really, no matter who it’s about. Never understood the obsession with it.


      • Mark Aug 4, 2017 / 5:07 pm

        That’s fine, but the issue is not really conversion rates but consistency.

        If the media are going to bang on about certain players poor conversion rates then they can’t hide other players who they favour.


  15. Rpoultz Aug 4, 2017 / 4:32 pm

    Has anyone else noticed Joe Root has become England’s Shane Watson?? Any LBW decision against him he sends upstairs…did it a few times against Yasir Shah last year when plumb in front.


    • Keeper99 (@PaulKeeper99) Aug 4, 2017 / 5:17 pm

      Haha – but he’ll never replicate that quizzical look of Watson’s, like a dumb animal not understanding why pain is being inflicted upon it. That was a shocker today, I thought it was plumb straight off.

      I wonder if we need to just accept that the purpose of the England top order now is to get about 190-5 as a platform for the all-rounders and tail? It would at least avoid a lot of angst about who to select.


      • Rpoultz Aug 4, 2017 / 10:42 pm

        I make you right. England have middle to lower order stroke makers who just carry on regardless. As long as the top 3/4 wickets get to 150 then I’m not sure they worry too much


    • LordCanisLupus Aug 4, 2017 / 6:49 pm

      Meanwhile AB… Mr Grit


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