England vs South Africa: 4th Test and Review

In common with the rest of the series, the fourth and last day of the final Test turned out to be a mopping up exercise, the outcome already beyond doubt, the uncertainty merely concerning the margin and how long it would take.  Early hopes for a spectacular Moeen century were dashed when Broad and Anderson were dismissed in short order, removing any argument about how long to bat on, perhaps fortuitously.  It made little difference to anything but a potential personal milestone, and by the end of the day it was hard to imagine Moeen would have been in any way disappointed with his lot.

South Africa fought hard, in a manner that has been in somewhat short supply this series, but a target of 380, on a surface that was deteriorating, was never feasible.  Both teams have been afflicted with top order fragility this series, the difference being that England’s middle and lower order are operating on a different level to their counterparts.  Moeen’s unbeaten 75 in the second innings probably wasn’t the difference between the sides, but it certainly gave a fair degree of breathing space.  The 90 runs added for the last three wickets turned a highly unlikely target into an impossible one, which given the tourists’ manful efforts with the ball to stay in the series was a case of hammering the final nail in the series coffin.

After a faltering start came a fine partnership between Amla and Du Plessis.  Neither have had outstanding series – that Vernon Philander is top of the batting averages makes that clear – though Amla has scored runs without ever going on to a match defining innings.  Broad and Anderson, particularly the latter, had bowled superbly early on, both swing and seam with the new ball making life exceptionally difficult.  For South Africa to reach 163-3 was a tribute to how well they had done, not that it was a time to worry about reaching the target.  Enter that man Moeen again, who must be feeling Test cricket is currently the easiest game in the world.  Three quick wickets and the game was just about done, as he finished with another five wicket haul, this time via the slightly less impressive manner of three wickets in four balls rather than three.  He was unsurprisingly named Man of the Series for England – Morne Morkel picking up the equivalent award for South Africa.

At the end of it, it was a comfortable enough series win.  England were the better side of the two, the depth in their batting and injuries, illness and voluntary absence hampering the visitors.  Yet the weaknesses identified in both sides at the start were no closer to being resolved by the end.  England’s new captain Joe Root did well enough, he was certainly more attacking than had been the case at any time during the Cook era, and if nothing else at no point where there obvious occasions where the tactics were utterly baffling, in itself a positive.  Where England tended to fall short, particularly but not solely at Trent Bridge, was in the top order batting, something not directly within the purview of the captain.   Ultimately England’s batting was slightly deeper and slightly less fragile than South Africa’s.

Cook had a reasonable series, like Amla not going on to make a really big score, but on one occasion for certain making a material difference to the match outcome with his fine 88 at the Oval.  Cook is without question England’s best opener, and can be expected to cash in against the West Indies later this month, but there are doubts beginning to surface about his ability to score big runs against potent pace attacks, particularly with the Ashes coming up.  He has always been a slightly odd opener, vulnerable to fast bowling but exceptional against spin, and with two series of highly contrasting outcomes down under, it really needs to be Good Cook for England to have a strong chance.  For this is the fundamental point: England are frail at the top, and overly reliant on their best players, of whom he is one, and the middle order as a collective.  Whether it be a matter of declining returns is an unknown, but the Ashes will likely provide a good answer to that question.

Who his next opening partner will be is up for debate, if not panic.  Jennings certainly didn’t show anything to suggest he’s the one, but it’s also true that whoever does the role next series has the opportunity to score heavily without answering the basic question as to whether they are good enough at the very top level.   Not being picked is becoming a useful means of advancing a cause, for Haseeb Hamed finally got runs today, which may be rather timely.  But it is all too easy to see the revolving door of England openers continuing for the foreseeable future.

Three and five are also still uncertain; Tom Westley did well enough to be persevered with, while Dawid Malan probably didn’t.  But England have got themselves in a pickle by running a lottery on three of the top five positions.  Dropping Malan after two Tests wouldn’t engender much confidence that the selectors know what they’re doing, because it implies the initial selection was a mistake.  There is a case for considering Alex Hales in that position, and his current bout of run scoring in that role might move things his way.

Further down is where England excel.  Stokes, Bairstow and Moeen all got the same criticism for failing to knuckle down in the Trent Bridge Test as everyone else, but their strengths are elsewhere – and to focus on what they can’t do rather than what they can (which doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be more responsible on occasion) is to miss the point about the problems in the batting order.  They have bailed England out on many an occasion between them, but it is asking a lot for them to keep doing it from 120-4.  Have them coming in at 300-4 and it’s a different matter, for in those circumstances they will scare the living daylights out of any and every opposition.

Of the bowlers, Moeen of course has had an extraordinary series, on the back of a highly average one in India.  If there is a difference in his bowling, it appears less about the pace at which he is flighting the ball (though he is) and more about seeming to be bowling many fewer bad deliveries.   He’s always been a wicket taker, but this series he has also been much tighter.  It’s also true that India away is hard territory for an English spinner – few have been remotely as successful as Panesar and Swann – and although he wasn’t great, he’s certainly not the first to struggle there; something that should have been noted by those complaining about Adil Rashid too.  For the Ashes, expectations shouldn’t be too high either, even Swann has an average well north of 40 in that country.  If Moeen does the same, then he’ll have done extremely well, but after this series it’s rather likely it won’t be seen that way.  He’s a very useful performer who does takes wickets, but he’s not better than Swann and he’s not better than Panesar.  Which means his success should be celebrated, but with a proviso that it’s not going to be like this all the time.  Still, as things stand his bowling appears to have improved , and with his batting as well, he’s becoming one of this side’s key performers.

Toby Roland-Jones came in and did well, though as is so often the case he was hailed as the answer one match into his Test career.  It’s neither fair nor is it reasonable, but he can be pleased with his start, and once again the obsession with sheer pace (despite Philander clearly being a fine bowler anywhere at about 80mph) comes up against the reality that good bowlers can operate at any speed.  That being said, he was in the side because of the injury to Chris Woakes, who can be expected to return, and of course who strengthens the already absurdly powerful middle and lower order even further.

Stokes is Stokes, a player who is perhaps by the strictest of measures not someone who fully qualifies for the genuine all rounder role in that neither his batting nor his bowling alone are truly good enough in isolation.  But he tends to contribute in one discipline or the other (or by catching flies at slip) most matches these days.  It makes him a highly unusual cricketer, for in terms of raw numbers he could be termed one of those bits and pieces cricketers, but he clearly is far more than that.  It may be that in years to come he reaches even greater heights, but he’s the heartbeat of this team and he knows it.  And a matchwinner.

Broad and Anderson are now the old stagers in the side, and it’s probably worth appreciating seeing them in tandem, for it won’t last forever.  Broad bowled well enough without necessarily getting the rewards, while Anderson finished top of the bowling averages.  That in itself is interesting because there was a subtle shift in his role.  Root was quick to remove him from the attack whenever he wasn’t doing what he wanted him to, which clearly irked him, and he responded in the best possible way, by coming back and taking wickets.  Today was one of those where he had the ball on a piece of string, swinging it both ways and seaming it off the surface.  Some were quite simply unplayable by anyone.  Perhaps he is finally embracing his elder statesman role, in which case it is good news for England, for as he gets older and his workload necessarily needs easing, his sheer skill will remain.  He bowled beautifully, and it’s unlikely too many West Indies batsmen will be excited at facing him under lights in Birmingham.  Career wise, today was the day when his Test bowling average dipped into the 27s.  He’s been lowering it steadily for five years, and may well finish a point or two lower yet.

It was also striking how much time he spent at midoff, talking to the other bowlers, something that Joe Root was quick to say was no coincidence.  It’s distinctly possible Anderson might make a very good coach, not just because he’s been there and done it, but because he’s had his own career mangled at various points by those who follow technical strictures in preference to common sense.  Getting the best out of those already good enough to be picked could well be a future for him.

For South Africa the next Tests on the agenda are home ones against Bangladesh, which should at least provide the opportunity to make some changes in favourable circumstances.  Heino Kuhn has likely played his last Test but the brittleness has affected the team throughout the top order, in a side that relies on it far more than England do (not that England should, but that’s how it has transpired).  Elgar had a decent series, undone twice here by two balls that would trouble anyone, but Bavuma flattered to deceive too often, as he has done in much of his Test career, while the core middle order of Du Plessis and De Kock struggled.  The loss of De Villiers undoubtedly hurts them, and that is a symptom of a wider malaise in the game where players are paid little to turn out for their national team, and fortunes to play for a franchise.  But even without him, the returns from the batting will have been a serious disappointment.

Losing Steyn before the series was a blow, losing Philander during it may have been pivotal. But all of the seamers did reasonably well at different times, and Maharaj too looked a cut above the normal South African spinner.  Lamenting the losses in the bowling department may ease the irritation at the result, but it was the batting that ultimately cost them, along with too many dropped catches.

This hasn’t been a great series, despite the wishful thinking of the broadcasters.  Each match has been one sided, and the interest in the outcome has dissipated often within two days.  It is a problem for Test cricket without question, but there have been highlights such as Root’s 190, Stokes brilliant 112 and Moeen’s hat-trick.  Perhaps it’s not enough, but at the moment it’s all there is to hang on to.



60 thoughts on “England vs South Africa: 4th Test and Review

  1. Sean B Aug 7, 2017 / 6:46 pm

    Spot on review and in complete agreement with Moeen (especially after our whatsapp conversation yesterday).

    Moeen has had a great series both with the bat and the ball, and whilst his batting has got immeasurably better over the last 12 months, the same couldn’t be said about the ball prior to this series.

    I do hope he kicks on, but as you said temptations need to be tempered for the Ashes. If he can keep his run rate under 3.5 an over and take some wickets at under 40, then he’ll have had a great series indeed.

    My main worry though is that the media will turn him into some messiah after this series (see HH from last winter), then turn on him when he’s not a 4th innings difference maker. We all know Mo can take wickets, but of course, we know he can bowl filth too.

    The best thing anyone can do is to temper expectations and keep the pressure off him.

    Somehow I doubt our chums in the media will choose to take that approach!


    • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      And right on time…….From The Cricketer magazine…

      “Just remember, there are actual humans out there – they are allowed to vote, drive, purchase fireworks – who don’t rate Moeen Ali. ”

      Yes, and there some people who thought A Cook was the only person who could captain England for 4 years. Who thought KP was over rated, and think the concept of the big 3 is great, and that 20/20 will save test and county cricket.

      Is it the job of a cricket magazine to imply that if you don’t agree with them then you must be suspect?

      Apparently there is nothing wrong with it according to the muppets…..

      @moghees “Again nothing in it. You’re the only one that thinks so. It’s had plenty of likes and retweets. Unless you have an agenda then maybe.”

      Ah ha, the dreaded “agenda” word. If you don’t get on board with the cricketer magazine propaganda then you must have an agenda. This magazine has had an agenda of their own for the last 4 years.

      Today England have won a test series, and The Cricketer magazine wants to point score.

      What a shame if they are going to elevate Ali to planet Cook nonsense. He doesn’t deserve that fate. Nobody does.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sean B Aug 7, 2017 / 7:12 pm

        It’s almost like it’s programmed into them. A good innings/series/bowling spell and the sheep mass at the pen…


        • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 7:46 pm

          Ali has had a great game and a good series. His role in the side is important, but to use him to make cheap points is childish and spoils a good day for England. But then whats new with these people? They always have to spoil it.

          And don’t you just love that anyone who does not agree has an “agenda?”

          Perhaps it’s the only way they can get interviews?


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 7, 2017 / 7:37 pm

        Luther Blissett once scored a hattrick for England. Didn’t make him Bobby Charlton.


        • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 7:55 pm

          To be fair to Mooen he has now taken a number of wickets that puts him ahead of many England spinners of the past. Batting down the list takes the pressure off him. I don’t think you could have him in the top 5. Too inconsistent. It’s the ideal match to bat low in the order with freedom and bowl spin.

          But the peanut gallery always have to have the “best ever”

          Also Test techiques are getting worse. More and more players are used to playing on feather bed 20/20 surfaces where the ball doesn’t turn. It’s quite interesting to see how poor players are against the turning ball these days.


          • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 7:57 pm

            On the batting in the top five thing, I’m never a great fan of compromising your strengths to try and cover up a weakness.


          • Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 8:23 pm

            I know he bats higher for Worcs and England tried him as opener in Pakistan.

            I just fear he might be another Bopara if he batted higher.


          • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 8:25 pm

            Even if he did alright, it’s still a sticking plaster to compensate for inadequacies elsewhere.


      • Ian Aug 8, 2017 / 9:24 am

        Has Peter Miller taken over their twitter account or whoever controls the account has been inspired by him.

        I’m glad Moreno is getting credit now as I felt he got far more criticism than he should have got previously.


          • Ian Aug 8, 2017 / 10:30 am

            Oh yes oops


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 8:55 pm

          Moeen Ali has had a magical series. Thrilled for him, a genuinely likeable bloke, solid head on his shoulders, and an integral part of an England team.

          Averages 44 in away test matches. With the ball. Averages 28 in away test matches. With the bat.

          Sorry. I’m a misery. But hyperbole does no-one any favours.

          “How do you judge Moeen Ali? As a batsman he was fitfully brilliant, as a bowler he struggled. After seven wickets in the first two Tests, he claimed just three more in the remaining three. He bowled, on the whole, just about as well as he can, but found India’s batsmen more than his equal. With the bat, he contributed two centuries and a fifty but his tour was perhaps summed up by his final innings: having resisted for 97 balls to all but shut the door on India, he then drove to mid-on to allow them back in the game. It was an infuriatingly soft dismissal from someone trying to establish themselves in the top six. Australia and South Africa will have noted his discomfort against the short ball, too.”

          That from a fan.


  2. Mark Aug 7, 2017 / 9:12 pm

    It’s been a funny series. Hasn’t quite felt real to me. Partly because we had to wait so long into the summer to get some real cricket.

    They have played 4 tests in which all wickets offered something to bowlers both seam and spin. England have bowlers who capitalise in those conditions and bat long. It’s a winning formula at home. As long as groundsman keep dishing up these type of pitches England are formidable. Will it work away on flatter pitches I’m not so sure. But then that’s not important financially to the big 3 model.

    England have won 3-1 and convincingly. Yet, if SA had caught Root at Lords early on it could have been 2-0 SA at half way. But they didn’t. And quite frankly this has been a very disappointing SA team. Injuries, illness and players sitting on Twitter. It’s not a great advert for a once great team.

    England March on without a number 2, or 3 or 5. Amazingly it doesn’t matter. Has there ever been a test team that has so lopsided a batting order? As for Root as captain I have seen more from him in his first series in charge than I saw in 4 years of Cook. Small field changes, a willingness to stand up to his bowlers. Early days, and he will have bad times ahead, but I think it puts TINA to bed once and for all.

    Now onto the WI. How much are they can to charge for those tickets? It could be very one sided indeed.


    • d'Arthez Aug 8, 2017 / 5:08 am

      We can also summarise the series as: Won toss 4: Lost toss 0. The last time England won a Test after losing a toss came a year ago (against Pakistan, at Edgbaston). For South Africa it is less long, but that was against the might of Sri Lanka, in South Africa.

      Or put another way for South Africa: in both the away series they lost recently, they lost 7 tosses and won 1. For a scoreline of 1-6 (one rain-ruined draw in Bangalore included in that). All of those wickets were wickets where the winner of the toss decided to bat first, with the exception of Bangalore, since there was a lot of rain in the air (and there was no play beyond Day 1 of that Test).

      The bowling was okayish (not bad for an attack that was shorn of two of its spearheads).

      But yes, the batting was atrocious. But then again, what do you expect, when you have a debutant at 2, a guy who has made a ten year Test career out of 1 innings, a guy who made his 2nd Test appearance at 6 (after an inconspicuous start in New Zealand, and with less than 40 FC matches under his belt), Amla on the wane, and a player who flatters to deceive time and again (Bavuma). Who out of these batsmen would have made it into the side in 2003, 2008 and 2012? None of them – maybe the 2017 version of Amla could have beaten the 2012 version of Duminy, but that is about it.
      Also note that the most decent bats of the South Africans are all on the wrong side of 30. Which should scare the living bejeezus out of any cricket follower, who is not enthralled with the prospect of endless series between England, India and Australia, and the rest being reduced to has-beens or never-beens.

      Now onto the future, or whatever the hell is left of Test cricket.

      Seeing that the West Indies are “defending” two drawn series at home (to Sri Lanka and to England), and have lost everything else (and have won just 2 away Tests in the last 15 years against top 8 opposition), on merit they should not be charging more than they could for a county game – at least whatever happens in a game between say Yorkshire and Essex is not a foregone conclusion.

      Anyway, I’ll block various cricketing sites, so that I won’t be tempted to ever follow this organized corruption again. Even cycling in the 2000s was less corrupt than this.

      Liked by 2 people

      • nonoxcol Aug 8, 2017 / 9:31 am


        You might like the Guardian BTL comments I have posted below…

        This SA team had “slightly weaker batting” and “better bowling” than its forebears since readmission. Apparently.


  3. jomesy Aug 7, 2017 / 10:48 pm

    I’m confused:

    “removing any argument about how long to bat on, perhaps fortuitously.”

    “South Africa fought hard, in a manner that has been in somewhat short supply this series, but a target of 380, on a surface that was deteriorating, was never feasible.”

    MIAB said he’d declare last yesterday. Correct call.

    Do you guys want a game or cricket murder? I don’t mind the latter when we’ve been on the end of 10-12yrs of losing.

    Otherwise I’d prefer a game…a chance of a contest, where there’s an outside chance SA could win. There was no way in hell SA were ever going to get 250.


    • thelegglance Aug 7, 2017 / 10:52 pm

      Um, why would you expect any international captain whose team has spent days getting into a dominant position to offer the other team a sporting chance? It’s not the Corinthians. Why would they want to declare with two days left to improve the chances of the opposition winning?

      Yes, I want a game. But it’s not up to the side winning to offer it for free, it’s up to the other lot to make it happen.


      • d'Arthez Aug 8, 2017 / 4:39 am

        This is not on Root. This is on the ECB.

        Yes, but then it is on “your lot” to actually not poach players, make certain they can only be paid a pittance and such – i.e. not actively undermine their chances of you know being competitive.

        At the moment, I would not be surprised if there could have been picked at least an equal South Africa XI from all the Kolpak signings / players in the domestic scene in England. But that supposedly does not impact on the quality of “the other lot”?

        Well bought series ECB. Hope the destruction of the last bastion against endless series between England, India and Australia was well worth it.


        • thelegglance Aug 8, 2017 / 10:56 am

          Mmm, all the comment was saying was that it’s not the responsibility of the winning captain to offer a bone to the opposition and give them a chance. That applies to any competitive game in any sport.


      • man in a barrel Aug 8, 2017 / 3:25 pm

        You seem to be suggesting that the 20 runs England scored on day 4 made all the difference. If declaring 20 or 30 runs earlier is offering the game up “for free”, are you suggesting that South Africa would have chased down that sort of target with ease? With rain around, I really couldn’t see why England didn’t declare 350 ahead and get on with winning the match. Winning by making a conscious decision rather than amassing another 20-30 runs and being bowled out. But I can see that in your mind those extra runs made all the different


        • thelegglance Aug 8, 2017 / 3:34 pm

          No, you’re conflating two different things. There were two full days left, there was no time pressure whatever. Why would anyone declare? It doesn’t get you any extra overs, in fact you only get extra overs by scoring more runs. I find it very odd that it would be expected a team declare earlier than they needed to.

          Let’s put it this way: if you’re 300 ahead you have 100 overs to bowl them out at most. Because more than that they’d have reached the target.

          If you’re 400 ahead you have at least 150 overs.

          There’s simply no advantage declaring early. So why do it? I’m still not hearing any upside to doing so. I’m willing to be convinced.


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 10:02 pm

            Let me tell you about the time when, on International Cricket Captain, I refused to declare to let Andy Moles get a triple hundred. I was like that as a club captain when I was in charge and we batted first in timed games. Last lot into tea.


        • Mark Aug 8, 2017 / 6:15 pm

          The 20 runs they added in the morning is a red herring. The only reason it was only 20 runs was because they got bowled out. If SA had not been able to get the wickets England would have batted till lunch, (well I would have done anyway) and maybe some more afterwards.

          If you are 2-1 up in the last test match of the series why give your opponents any chance of a way back into the game? Doesn’t make any sense.

          The debate about the merits of a declaration was the previous test match when the score was 1-1 and England were looking to get into the lead, with one to play.

          Oh, and when SA were only 3 down just before tea yesterday with 200 to get this was a good example of why you don’t declare from a position of strength, based on the weather forecast.


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 8:58 pm

            The day a captain, 2-1 up in a series, declares on the basis of a fucking weather forecast in this country, is the day my head explodes. They would deserve to be sacked on the spot.

            Liked by 1 person

          • man in a barrel Aug 8, 2017 / 9:15 pm

            I would have thought the Surrey fans around here would know all about the matches Stuart Surridge won in the 50s, based on weather forecasts and instinct. But we don’t do history here 😉


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:31 pm

            But it’s a test series with plenty of time, and you lead the series 2-1, not 3-1. Why? Why declare? Win the series.

            We weren’t declaring 280 in front at The Oval in 2005 to see if we might get them to chase it in 30 overs and perhaps sneak a win. An extreme example, I know. But when you are up in the series, take as much time out of the game as possible.

            I bow to your knowledge on the 1950s, sir.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. man in a barrel Aug 7, 2017 / 10:49 pm

    If you still want to run that essay I put in last week, it might be interesting. That last Test didn’t change anything as far as I can tell…. The TIMA will be more or less the same for everyone


  5. quebecer Aug 8, 2017 / 1:00 am

    Interesting comparing the composite top 5 with the others:

    1. Cook 1. Kuhn
    2. Elgar 2. Jennings
    3. Amla 3. Westley
    4. Root 4. Bavuma
    5. Du Plessis 5. Malan

    Pretty decent Really not

    There’s not usually that much of a gap.


    • thelegglance Aug 8, 2017 / 10:59 am

      It’s almost like the 1990s/2000s Zimbabwe batting line up where they had Murray Goodwin, Andy Flower and a load of absolute dross around them.


      • quebecer Aug 8, 2017 / 3:09 pm

        Good one. I hadn’t thought of that example. The only one I could come up with that was close was some of those West Indies line ups with Brian Charles and Shiv. India before the Galacticos maybe? Martin Crowe was often a bit of a one man band, I suppose.


      • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:03 pm

        Guy Whittall has one more test double hundred than Mike Atherton, Alec Stewart, Michael Vaughan, Comma, Mark Waugh, Mike Hussey, Richie Richardson and Desmond Haynes put together.

        Don’t diss the Whittalls. I met his brother once. Nice fella.


  6. d'Arthez Aug 8, 2017 / 4:33 am

    Well bought victory ECB. Congrats. Stuff the people who are actually interested in quality cricket.


  7. AB Aug 8, 2017 / 8:16 am

    We’re the better side on sporting pitches. I’m still concerned with how poorly we played at Nottingham, on the one relatively flat pitch of the series – not good omens for Australia.

    A captains job is relatively easy when wickets are coming quickly – the game is generally won by a couple of good innings, rather than good captaincy.

    Ultimately, the pitches flattered Root’s captaincy. The one game we need the captain to think of a way to put the pressure back on the opposition, he was found lacking.


  8. Andy Aug 8, 2017 / 8:51 am

    From what I managed to see / hear / read, there were times when either side were in ascension, but then other times where I thought my work side could give them a go.

    There was close cricket played, and but for a bit of luck one way or another, SA could have been closer. Losing key players hurts anyone (as does not finding adequate replacements).

    What really worries me about test cricket (and it has been stated by many here before) is the tendency for teams to give up, and for results to be known by day 2. It then becomes a parade of going through the motions. no one benefits and test cricket dies inside a little bit more.

    I see Hales hit Derbyshire for 218 coming in at 5. I don’t know anything about Derbyshires bowling attack, but the next highest score was 75 so no one else really ran away with it. I think there could be an argument for him coming in lower down the order (which makes the middle order really scary on their day!)


  9. AB Aug 8, 2017 / 8:56 am

    I’m fine with Hales coming in at 5 as long as people don’t complain when he scores 10 off 6 balls and then gets caught on the boundary.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. nonoxcol Aug 8, 2017 / 9:28 am

    Offered without comment (well, apart from my response on the Guardian BTL).

    13h ago

    A good win and well-deserved, but this South Africa are poor compared to their forebears in the last 20 years. This England side don’t look strong enough to compete for The Ashes in Australia.

    ID1543946 gusitin
    13h ago

    Absolute nonsense.
    Amla, Du Plessis, De Kock, Elgar, Bavuma, Philander, Morkel, Maharaj and Rabada. Throw in Morris and Olivier. That’s a damn good South African team still; slightly weaker batting but better bowling.


    • Mark Aug 8, 2017 / 10:18 am

      One of the features of the new ECB model has been to dumb down a small section of England fans. It’s similar to Skys take over of football with the coming of the Premiership 25 years ago. Football just didn’t exist before in the minds of some.

      But test cricket as evolved or regressed if you prefer. We now play a more 20/20 style of test cricket usually finishing inside 4 days. Hanging on for the draw, if it’s more than a few sessions is not an option.

      The idea this SA attack was better than 4 years ago is so idiotic as to not bother. Bowling wins matches,,and batsman set up matches. SA bowling wasn’t up to it.


      • nonoxcol Aug 8, 2017 / 10:28 am

        In my response, I went through all the attacks they brought here since 1998. Every visit, they had at least three (sometimes four) of the following: Donald, Pollock, Ntini, Kallis, Steyn, Morkel, Philander. How many wickets is that – well over 2000? Even with injuries, I’d be surprised if they ever fielded fewer than three of them (I haven’t checked match by match).

        This year: 1 and a half, plus someone perhaps comparable to late 90s Ntini.



      • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:12 pm

        Some idiot in the Telegraph, via a brain-dead tweet, said that because 58% of tests need a 5th day, as opposed to 77% some point in the past, we should ditch Day 5s.

        If you can decipher this head scratching wibble for me, please do. So this waste of a columnist wants more draws and more games ruined by weather? Oh, of course. They’ll all bowl 105 overs in a day. Yeah. Of course they will.

        Don’t click on the idiot.

        Liked by 1 person

    • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 10:25 am

      slightly weaker than Smith, Kallis, peak Hash, ABdeV. Put it this way. Alviro or Neil McKenzie stroll into this team.

      They may have a slightly better spinner. But yes Olivier isn’t even as good as Kallis. Who was the 4th seamer. These people are dense.


      • nonoxcol Aug 8, 2017 / 10:34 am

        I did the batting as well – simply said that adding Smith, de Villiers and Kallis makes your batting “slightly” stronger, and that’s without even considering Amla’s obvious decline. Slightly???

        Mind you, the same poster is also the only one in the first thread to think the new Cricinfo is better…


        • d'Arthez Aug 8, 2017 / 10:46 am

          Difference in career averages between Smith and Kuhn. I am guessing about 30-odd. de Villiers and de Bruyn, about 40. Kallis / Duminy / Bavuma is another 20-runs. Amla 2012 vs Amla 2017 is about 15 runs. That is already a deficit of approximately 100 runs per innings.

          That is 2 high class batsman’s worth of runs / innings. South Africa would have needed a batting XIV to make up for the shortcomings of the batting order in 2017, compared to the 2012 team.


        • oreston Aug 8, 2017 / 5:51 pm

          I hope their carer has put all the sharp things out of reach.


          • oreston Aug 8, 2017 / 5:53 pm

            …which was intended as a witty reply to Nonoxcol.
            Still, at least it didn’t go into the spam folder.


          • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:18 pm

            The Australian team of 15 years ago never existed. Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini et al, all a figment of the dewey, sepia-tinged old farts who haven’t seen the game progress, it’s all “back in their day”. After all, the receding opener says it is better than ever so who am I to argue?

            Liked by 1 person

          • nonoxcol Aug 8, 2017 / 9:19 pm

            I got it 😉


        • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:09 pm

          If Larry Olivier dreamed he was in the same league as Jacques Kallis with the ball, he should wake up and apologise.

          I have no tolerance for muppetry.


      • thelegglance Aug 8, 2017 / 10:34 am

        Although the one thing I’d say there is that England also had a much better batting order against those bowlers than they do now – it’s always a trade off between the sides.

        South Africa are unquestionably weaker with both bat and ball. On the other hand, in terms of how they played, their best batsmen played poorly overall, even within the parameters of a weaker team. Some of the dismissals were woeful (how many were out not playing a shot?).

        Liked by 1 person

        • LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:07 pm

          Which indicates what we are saying. This era is suffering from the lack of a dominant test team rising all tides. Australia 2001 would murder these teams in their sleep. But they lifted up some teams to challenge them. Now we have mediocrity wherever we look. Now teams have two key players and forget the rest (relatively) in the batting order. Australia’s second team of that era would rule the world now.

          Liked by 1 person

    • d'Arthez Aug 8, 2017 / 10:37 am

      Let’s see with that comment:

      No #2. No #6. A journeyman at 5 (Bavuma; given his modest returns we can’t reasonably expect him to suddenly kick on and transform that 31 average into something healthy for a specialist batsman).

      Elgar compared to Graeme Smith? Uh, Graeme wins that time and again.
      Alviro Petersen compared to Heino Kuhn? Alviro time and again.
      Amla 2017 vs. Amla 2012? Amla 2012 hands down.
      JP Duminy compared to Jacques Kallis? Whoever votes for JP Duminy wants to get an easy wicket.
      Faf vs. Rudolph? That one is trickier to call. Rudolph was a bit unlucky with a couple of marginal decisions in 2012, but he certainly did not look as bad as some of the specialist batsmen in 2017.
      Theunis de Bruyn vs. AB de Villiers? Even Philander comfortably outbatted him this series. And AB tends to bat a little bit better than Philander, as AB has double the Test batting average.

      Seriously, it is hard to think of any batsman from this 2017 side that would have made any of the three previous sides when they toured England in this century.

      By comparison of the 2012 side, Alviro Petersen had been playing Test cricket for 2.5 years by then, and he was by far the least experienced / good batsman in that side, (with the possible exception of JP Duminy in terms of quality).

      At its most generous you can say only Elgar, Amla (though declining) and du Plessis have nailed their spots in the 2017 side – and even du Plessis was dropped less than 2 years ago for poor returns (same happened to de Kock). Compare that to the veterans of Test cricket (Smith, Kallis, de Villiers, Amla), and you might get the idea there is a bit of a reduction in quality.

      Olivier has played all of 3 Tests now, and I am guessing not many people would argue that he’d be an improvement over Steyn (2012). Philander and Morne Morkel were there in 2012 as well. Philander struggled with his fitness, unlike 2012. Morne was given a more attacking role, so not entirely surprising that his returns have improved a bit – hard to argue that either of them has improved in those 5 years (this is not to say that they are / were bad). The only bit of SA bowling that has improved is the spin bowling (mind you, Tahir was not as useless as he is often made out to be; he definitely contributed).

      I am really not sure in what universe Olivier is a better bowler than Steyn, but maybe I lack the myopia …

      Liked by 2 people

    • quebecer Aug 8, 2017 / 3:19 pm

      All fair points on this thread and yes, the lack of understanding BTL is a bit staggering sometimes. Opinions differ and that’s all part of the fun, but it’s tough to discuss opinions when they are so… well, you know what I mean.

      Obviously, South Africa have had better attacks, but I still think they bowled pretty well in this series. Put it this way: I’m not sure we bowled that much better. The pitches (mostly) had a little juice which helped all (and was good to see), but the series came down to who batted better, or at times, less badly. South Africa batted better in the second test, we did in the last two, and Joe Root did in the first. 3-1.

      Oh, and their catching was horrible, and ours was pretty bloody good. TLG rightly points to Stokes – and he really was something in this regard – but Cook and Root close in were very good too.

      And in general, poor old Morne. Best bowler on either side.


  11. LordCanisLupus Aug 8, 2017 / 9:14 pm

    I’m in a mood as it is. But #39’s attempt at a gag on Twitter was so teeth-itchingly bad, he’s off to make a new Kia advert to bring the tone up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aug 8, 2017 / 11:15 pm

      I didn’t realise his sister was Bettany Hughes the historian. She looks nothing like him. His dad was an actor, one Peter Hughes….. who played the notable roles of a bank manager in Bergerac. And the P&O official in David Lean’s A Passage to India.

      Minor parts in well known productions. A bit like his Son Simon, who also informs us his batting average was 11.37 and he bowled 28984 balls in his career.

      Of all the people in all the world, and Kia chose him. Ffs!


  12. nonoxcol Aug 10, 2017 / 11:22 am

    Following up a recent debating point, here is yet another example of what happens when your studio contains four former sports people and no actual journalists:

    And here’s something on the subject from two years ago. Certain sentences could have been written about cricket…


    ‘A few weeks ago, during a long and reflective afternoon with Eugene McGee, we started chatting about ‘Fallopia Journalistica’ – the ugly and invasive knotweed of former sportsmen and women that’s strangling journalism around the globe. McGee, a journalist to his core, was not a fan.
    “You’re not thought much of if you’re not a former player these days,” he said. “Unfortunately, we have this trend where these players are replacing journalists and it’s disgusting. I hate it.”‘


    • thelegglance Aug 10, 2017 / 11:41 am

      Mmm, I have some problems with that article, I don’t for a second see what Jonathan Edwards’ battle with his religious beliefs has to do with anything at all for a start. As an example of journalism (and I’m well aware of what Kimmage has done in the past) it’s not his finest moment. Gatlin doesn’t deserve the benefit of any doubt because he was caught cheating twice.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s