South Africa vs. England, Fourth Test, Day 4 – The Final Cut

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The end came quickly for South Africa after their batsmen at least showed some application and fight in what was always likely to a forlorn cause chasing a World Record score to tie the series. Rassie van der Dussen led the way for the home team with a battling 98 that included some very decent stroke play and whilst England were never truly in trouble of losing the game, the odd doubt might have started to creep into the mind of more than one overly pessimistic England fan. The most disappointing thing for South Africa was that all of their batsmen made a start without being to push on and stick with van der Dussen though it must be said that Bavuma got an unplayable snorter from Broad whilst Faf after engaging in a bit of argy bargy with Buttler, got a ball that cruelly kept low. When De Kock got out trying to have a mow at Mark Wood the game had already gone by that point. South Africa were well beaten by that point and they knew it.

For England and Joe Root in particular, this has been as important series win as it has been for a while for England, despite South Africa looking particularly weak. To overcome a series of injuries alongside illness which affected the whole touring party and still win in South Africa is testament to some newly found fortitude and both Root and Silverwood should both be highly praised for instilling this. I also thought Root’s captaincy was far better than he has shown previously with him refusing to let the game drift or chasing the ball as he has done previously. England were inventive in the field with both their bowling changes and fielding positions without being funky for the sake of being funky and were often able to come up with a plan for many of the South African batsmen, with the dismissal of van der Dussen today a prime example even if it was a rotten shot from a batsman obviously distracted by the nervous 90’s. It does help when you can throw the ball to Ben Stokes when you’re desperately searching for a wicket mind.

There have been plenty of positives too for England with Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Dom Bess all being young players who have put their hands up this series. Now is certainly not the time to go over the top in their praise as they are all still raw and not without the odd technical fault, but there is promise there and it was encouraging to see them do this away from the conditions that they are most used to. All of the above will have peaks and troughs over the next couple of years, but England will be happy that there is young talent coming through from the much maligned county ranks. Naturally one of the biggest positives aside from Ben Stokes being fantastic, is the re-emergence of Mark Wood, who has bowled with fire and purpose for the last two Tests after many of us, myself included, felt that we would never see him play in an England shirt again. The fact that Wood has got himself fit again after so many horrible injuries and has lengthened his run up is very promising; however the caveat is whether England can keep him fit and certainly there is a strong case for wrapping him up in cotton wool for the next couple of years (I wouldn’t have him tour Sri Lanka). If we can manage his workload and get 7-8 Tests out of him over the next 2 years, then I’ll be incredibly happy, but again this is very much in the lap of the gods. I hope for Wood’s sake that he has seen the worst of the injuries now as he is a joy to watch and is obviously an immensely popular member of the dressing room. There are negatives of course to come of out of the series, but that is for another time, it’s hard enough to win away from home and so England should be proud for winning in South Africa, even if their team resembled nothing like the South African teams of the not so distant past.

As for South Africa, I genuinely fear for them in the short to medium term (and maybe even longer). I appreciate no proud South African fan wants sympathy from an England fan, but it’s hard not to have sympathy for the fans. The South African board has spent far too much time arguing with local journalists and overseeing a T20 tournament that nearly bankrupted them than doing their job and concentrating on matters on the pitch. It is also not South Africa’s fault that some of the richer counties can go and sign some of South Africa’s best up and coming players or players coming towards the end of their careers as kolpak’s with higher wages on offer than they can receive playing for the Test team. I can’t blame the players for wanting to ensure their financial stability as you only have a short career as a cricketer; however it does leave a bitter taste in the mouth and has bled the South African team of their better talent leaving the domestic cupboard dry. It’s also clear that things are going to get worse before they get better with Philander retiring after this game and Faf and Elgar likely to follow suit fairly quickly. This could be a really rough few years for this side and I fear that without better governance and investment in the sport, we could be seeing a repeat of what has happened to the West Indies over the past 10 years. I genuinely hope this isn’t the case as Test Cricket needs a strong South African team, but the omens aren’t looking good.

I’d also like to say a quick word on Vernon Philander, who retired from international cricket today and is going to take up a kolpak role at Somerset. This series was probably one too far for Big Vern, but he has been a great servant to South African cricket over the years. He also helped dispel the myth that you need to bowl 90mph to be successful in international cricket as it was rare that he ever reached the 80mph mark; however his control of the ball and consistent line and length ensured that you could never relax when facing him and his record with the ball (and with the bat) shows what a good cricketer he was. Sure you can’t match the excitement of a genuinely fast bowler charging in and hurling it in and 90mph, but there is still a place in every Test team for a genuinely accurate pace bowler. He will be missed.

As ever, appreciate any thoughts or opinions on the game or series below.

22 thoughts on “South Africa vs. England, Fourth Test, Day 4 – The Final Cut

  1. dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 9:13 pm

    The omens are not good? You are still too positive if you are thinking of comparing South Africa to West Indies. More likely they’ll go the way of Zimbabwe or even Kenya (if governance of the game in South Africa truly implodes).

    Like

    • Sean Jan 27, 2020 / 9:29 pm

      I genuinely hope not. Sort of hoping this might be the wake up call needed. Test Cricket needs a competitive South Africa…

      Like

  2. dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 9:56 pm

    For what purpose does world cricket need a competitive South Africa? I know, it sounds like an outrageous question, but for what purpose?

    The same thing has been said about the West Indies, who are this year ‘celebrating’ that it has been 25 years since they won a series overseas against one of the Big 7 (the Full Members minus Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Ireland and Afghanistan). Lots of declarations, nothing substantial ever happened. And that is not just down to playing ability, but also down to governance issues beyond the West Indies.

    And obviously decrease in interest from the local population. Why support a team, that, when it receives a trashing, you can celebrate the odd decentish 50 score (like pretty much is happening now with Rassie’s contribution today), or the two decent shots in an entire team’s innings? Same holds for corporate sponsorship.

    And why should they be aiming to be competitive in Tests? James Anderson makes more for playing a single Test than South African cricketers make of a yearly central contract. Or in the case of Chris Morris, in the IPL, he makes as much for a single game in the IPL than he could make on a year-long central contract. When the numbers become that mindnumbingly stupid, why bother with the longest format?

    The only way South Africa and West Indies can regain some of the former glory, is a complete restructuring of international cricket. And the same will be true for other teams such as Ireland, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and maybe soonish even New Zealand (Pakistan and Bangladesh might last a bit longer due to large domestic markets, and cricket being national sport #1 by a distance). That will never happen, because money talks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sean Jan 27, 2020 / 10:31 pm

      A strong South Africa is the only way the Big 3 don’t take over in my opinion. Just my personal opinion as I’m not up to speed completely with South African cricket, but it would be a crying shame if they went the same way as the West Indies.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 10:47 pm

        They have already taken over, and ensured that money only flows to them, with the token crumbs being given to whoever is most compliant to their whims.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sean Jan 27, 2020 / 11:44 pm

          Unfortunately so.

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    • thelegglance Jan 28, 2020 / 11:55 am

      I would answer that by saying it’s not specific to South Africa per se, or the West Indies per se. It’s just that cricket doesn’t have enough countries playing at the highest level that it can afford to lose any one of them.

      The biggest danger I see is that international cricket ends up like international rugby league. Irrelevance beckons that way.

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      • dArthez Jan 28, 2020 / 1:05 pm

        And I won’t disagree. But that is exactly what the ICC have instigated time and again. Because if they really cared, they would have long transformed the organisation itself so that it was not driven by sheer greed and naked self-interest.

        They talk of growing the global game, and slash the funding for Associates and Affiliates. Even the elevation of Afghanistan and Ireland to Test status has been paid for by the Associates and the Affiliates. The ones that actually need the most support if you want to grow the global game.

        They talk of growing the global game, and make it as impossible as they can, for anyone outside of the bubble to even get a minute of broadcasting time in their respective nations (World Cups, or Olympics would be a good start to increase visibility outside of the usual places). As far as I know, the last time footage of an international cricket match involving the Netherlands made it to the Dutch sports news was from 2009. You can all guess the occasion. And it was glorious!

        They talk of making the sport more accessible, by taking down footage left right and centre of actual cricket. By having a digital communication strategy that would be considered extortionate in the 19th century in general.

        They talk of meritocracy, and then happily divide the spoils between three nations, no matter how good or bad they are. See World Cup organisation hosts.

        They talk of integrity, and openly admit to fixing the draws in ICC tournaments. And no one in any position of authority sees any problem with that whatsoever. Never mind all the fixing that the ICC effectively encourages by its own neglect of anyone that is not India / Australia / England.

        They talk of a fair distribution of resources, and yet they don’t see a problem with the fact that money that is generated through international cricket (TV deals) is subsequently used to eviscerate international cricket. That includes poaching of talent, but that also includes making certain that no one in most nations is interested in having a FC career since it can hardly even pay the bills.

        Even a team like the Netherlands is filled with South African / Australian expats. And that is because these expats often have (had) the opportunity to play cricket competitively in South Africa / Australia, unlike homegrown talent (remember the whole hullabaloo that English counties could not pick Rashid Khan for the Blast, because he was not from a Full Member nation at the time?)

        With regards to a future similar to rugby league, you may well be right. The ICC is simply doing everything in its power to accidentally stumble into some kind of global T20 league (with probably teams from 3, or at most 5 nations (filler teams), with all the games being played in … you guessed it). They may well get there, as anyone half-decent simply falls by the wayside, with the vultures enjoying the carcasses of what was once West Indian cricket, what was once South African cricket, what was once …

        Liked by 1 person

        • thelegglance Jan 28, 2020 / 1:39 pm

          Agree. I am always struck by the difference between the approach of World Rugby and the ICC – not because the former are some paragon of global governance, because they aren’t. But with the usual health warnings about global governing bodies in place, they remain infinitely more committed to growing their game than cricket is. The difference is so stark, it’s a joke.

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          • dArthez Jan 28, 2020 / 2:18 pm

            And the thing is, if say Japan does develop in a good rugby team, that basically grows the value of rights as well.

            In cricket, we’re basically in a situation that World Cups will be contested between the same 3 or 4 teams over and over again, which sooner or later, will result in a near-complete collapse of the value of the rights, because only 6 matches or so will be relevant for the outcome of the tournament.

            And then there will be no money to fix things. Then there will be no money to even (re)develop the infrastructure in places with proud cricket histories, that have been neglected far too long. Or even public interest in taking up cricket. Because other options are far less restrictive (individual sports, or sports like rugby), in terms of getting opportunities (because in cricket, one’s pay is primarily determined by nationality, far more than any other sport) or making money out of one’s sporting skills. And that is because cricket is organised around the international game, rather than the domestic / franchise game.

            Liked by 1 person

          • thelegglance Jan 28, 2020 / 3:35 pm

            Japan rugby is an interesting one in another area too. The only tv companies interested in the 2015 World Cup were pay platforms. Because of the stated aim of WR that it be free to air wherever possible, it put them in a bit of a bind as to what to do. Now they could have just accepted that and taken the money, but they didn’t – they negotiated for some of the matches to be shown FTA. They were a bit unlucky in that the famous victory over South Africa was behind the paywall, but the following game wasn’t, and got a huge audience as a result. You could say they reaped the benefits of that in 2019. Strategic planning – it’ll never catch on.

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  3. Mark Jan 27, 2020 / 10:16 pm

    For all the positives that England will take from this winning test tour have you seen anything that seriously leads one to believe this team has any chance of winning in Australia in the next Ashes?

    SA are a basket case, and with huge problems off the field as well as on. Test cricket can’t afford many more teams to hit bottom. SA,WI,SL, PAK (although maybe not quite as bad) are all struggling.

    I don’t want to be negative, but England’s much maligned 1990s team would have convincingly beaten this SA team.

    Liked by 2 people

    • dArthez Jan 27, 2020 / 10:45 pm

      Statistically speaking we have to go back to the 19th century to find such weak batting performances from South Africa – right now, in their last 18 innings (!) they have passed 300 just once.

      I struggle to think of any team from the 1990s that would not have beaten this South African side to be honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mark Jan 27, 2020 / 10:52 pm

        I agree completely!

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      • man in a barrel Jan 29, 2020 / 12:46 pm

        Those Test matches that helped Surrey’s George Lohmann to achieve so many bowling records?

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        • dArthez Jan 29, 2020 / 1:48 pm

          He played in some of those. 35 wickets at a bowling average of 5.80 in just 6 innings. At least the Aussies averaged 13.01 against him (77 wickets). That was the batting line up of 1896 which lives on in infamy for gifting 8 wickets for 7 runs to Lohmann. Which will forever remain the cheapest 8-wicket haul in Test cricket (or at least one hopes).

          John Briggs is another one. 21 wickets at 4.80 from 4 innings. That was in 1889.

          In 1899, the damage was done by Albert Trott, Willis Cuttell and Schofield Haigh. None of them averaged sub-10 though. And in the first Test South Africa actually had a useful first innings lead (106), only to be bowled out for 99 in 77.1 overs (!) to lose by 32 runs.

          Those were the only 3 series at home, of more than 1 Test, in which South Africa failed to register even a single 300-score, up to Sri Lanka visiting in 2019. There had been a few one-off Tests as well. One of which say John Ferris return eye-catching numbers, (13 wickets at 7.00 from a solitary Test in South Africa in 1892 in his solitary Test for England (all the other Tests he played were for Australia), and with a career bowling average of 12.70, one can say he was mildly successful.

          But obviously, scores in that era were much lower. There have been only 3 totals of 300+ in South Africa in the 19th century (all by England of course), out of a total of 28 innings played (of which one was incomplete as England won chasing 66 in Port Elizabeth in 1889, by 8 wickets).

          Liked by 1 person

  4. man in a barrel Jan 27, 2020 / 11:37 pm

    One puzzle about Philander is his proneness to get injured. In the last 2 Eng v SA series, he was hampered by injuries. For a medium – quick bowler, who didn’t seem to put in marathon spells, this is a bit mind blowing.

    Like

    • pktroll (@pktroll) Jan 28, 2020 / 8:41 am

      I think there has always been the suggestion that he possibly isn’t the most dedicated to looking after his physical fitness compared to some.

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        • Marek Jan 28, 2020 / 1:42 pm

          …not to mention the comments a couple of years ago from his (now) Director of Cricket!–which, if I recall, weren’t a whole lot more subtle than Buttler’s.

          It’s crossed my mind that the timing of Philander’s retirement and Smith becoming DoC may not have been entirely unconnected.

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  5. rpoultz Jan 28, 2020 / 10:27 am

    This series win is being given a lot of fanfare. I personally have found this series difficult to watch. The reason is that English cricket has mostly gobbled up any half decent South African players. Obviously there a many reasons for this economically for instance. It has just been hard to watch knowing that there are better players in pre season training at several counties rather than playing against England.

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