It’s easy to fall into the trap of hyperbole when considering where the England Test team stand right now. In the last Test match, they lost all ten wickets for fewer than 200 runs in both innings. In the first half of the English season, they won four consecutive Test matches against two of the top teams in the world. Before that, they went 16 months without winning a single Test series.
It seems like there is no middle ground for this team. They seem unable to grind out a close win, or lose a tightly contested arm wrestle. They will either blow their opposition away like a hurricane hitting a matchstick factory, or collapse like… Well, like an England Test team.
England have announced a single change to their lineup, with Ollie Robinson replacing Matthew Potts. It is precisely what you would expect from England. Dropping a bowler after the batsmen embarassed themselves is textbook ECB practice from the last decade. Zak Crawley is visibly struggling, as is Alex Lees, but let’s instead get rid of the bowler who took more wickets than Anderson in the first Test. Classic.
At the same time, it would be foolish to discount England’s chances of drawing level in this series. South Africa are not a great Test side, and none of their batters currently have a Test average above 40 (unlike England’s Joe Root). It really wouldn’t take much for England to win by almost as big a margin as they lost the last game. If they had an X-factor bowler such as Jofra Archer, they’d possibly be favourites.
In other news, it has been announced that several Test grounds will host women’s internationals in 2023. This is a huge step forward. Since the sold-out 2017 Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s, the ECB have only played a single match (a 2018 ODI at Headingley) at one of the eight largest cricket grounds, in the seven largest cities in England and Wales. You might remember that the ECB’s reasoning for The Hundred included the idea that holding it in smaller grounds, smaller towns, would limit its potential growth and profitability. The logical extension of that would be that they were actively attempting to sabotage women’s cricket in this country by refusing to let them play in the largest markets. It is perhaps no coincidence that this announcement only came three months after Tom Harrison quit.
If you have any comments about the Test, women’s cricket, or anything else, please leave them below.
The strange thing about recalling Robinson–which I don’t think is an especially bad move–is not only that there’s not an equivalent move to drop Crawley, but who he comes in for.
Realistically Anderson was never going to be dropped for this game–he’s playing for sentimental reasons since it could be his last home ground test–but I think he’s one of England’s best available bowlers. So is Potts, raw though he is, and he also seems very durable.
But Broad has been distinctly underwhelming this season. He absolutely doesn’t deserve a place overseas, and I don’t think he merits one over either Potts or (provided he’s fit) Robinson at home.
Stuart Broad was England’s second highest runscorer in the previous Test. You could make an argument for him replacing Crawley…
South Africa have surprised me on this tour as previously they have not looked very good for a while. (What happened to our resident SA corespondent? Perhaps he went into total depression.) Not even a win seems to have tempted him back!
Certainly their batting looks less flakey than it was. And their bowling has looked good and potent enough to put pressure on England. In the last test neither Root nor Bairstow made runs, and that means England fail.
I’m all for England playing positive cricket, as to be honest I don’t think they can play any other way. But there is a difference between positive and brain dead reckless. At least get some foundations in first.
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South Africa drop Jansen for Harmer. Admittedly I haven’t seen a lot of Harmer but that strikes me as a bad selection. Meanwhile, Stokes says England didn’t even think about dropping Crawley. I’m not saying they should have dropped him but they bloody well should have had a long talk about it.
To be fair, the captain is not going to publicly admit that just before he sends Crawley out the door again to bat he is going to announce to the world that they nearly dropped him.
However, if they didn’t consider dropping him in private selection meetings they are not doing their jobs.
SA 60/3. Good start for England, but can they maintain it and stop SA getting a decent score?
A couple of wickets for Broad.
Been a good session for England but lets see how they bowl to the lower order / tail. If they bowl short you will my screams over in the UK.
Dropping a seamer for Harmer might not be a bad move if the pitch turn a lot later, but I too would question whether it should have been Jansen. Whatever qualities Harmer might have (and personally I think he has plenty), he absolutely certainly isn’t a test no. 7!
I still would have picked Jansen but I must admit I didn’t realise how good Ngidi’s record is: 14 tests, 48 wickets at an average of 20.8 and a strike rate of 42.
Dropping a bowler after the batsmen embarrassed themselves is textbook ECB practice from the last decade.
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Interesting factoid from ‘Tathya’ on Cricinfo commentary.
“After these three wickets (this morning), Anderson has 514 wickets bowling with Broad, and Broad has 466.
Adding them gives 980, which is the same number that Warne and McGrath achieved playing together – currently a world record. One more wicket and they become the most prolific bowling partnership in Test history.”
Imagine if England had a good batting line up during this period? They would have been world number 1 for a lot of time.
Warne and McGrath were in teams with better batsman. Which made Australia so all round dominant.
That, and the ability to keep their truly fast bowlers fit for overseas series.
It will be very interesting to see how South Africa bowl on this track.
The short pitched bowling seems to have started. They just can’t help themselves.
I thought it might be the same old story of England failing to bowl out the tail for hours, but they have managed to bowl SA out for 151
They would have taken that at the beginning, but let’s see how England bat.
Not a great start…………..
Hi all. Been a while since I posted. I have kept abreast of the articles but have found that I am around a lot less on social media generally. This series isn’t a great deal different so far from what I have expected. I have kept in touch enough with international cricket to know that SA had a fine pace bowling squad but a fairly woeful batting lineup. So I can’t say I am shocked at the overall outcome so far.
England should close off this game by getting a large enough lead. Think SA have made a mistake in dropping Jansen for Harmer. Can’t help think he may have helped get SA another couple of wickets and that this match would have more likely still been in the balance, whereas Harmer would have come into it later in the game and that is no good for where SA are now.
Two spinners certainly don’t seem necessary right now, although Harmer has been lethal in English conditions for years and I could easily see him running through what’s left of England’s batters in the fourth innings tomorrow.
That would be if SA actually get enough runs to do this. I certainly think a lead of 175+ would be one where either side would have a fair chance of folding if they had to chase.
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Quite a big day for Crawley I would suggest. He did the hard yards yesterday and hung around. Only 17 from 77 balls in over two hours of batting with a s/r of just 22. Some will criticise that, but facing a smallish total time is not an issue. However he needs to deliver today I feel. He has a start, and England are in a good position. If he can play himself in again this morning he doesn’t need to throw it away, but just support Bairstow and Stokes.
England need to bat overs and time today and they should be in winning position. Sounds straight forward but nothing ever seems routine with Englands batting. It’s either fireworks that burn brightly or fizzle out.
My worry with Crawley is that he’s simply gone from one extreme to the other. I still don’t see much sign of test-level game awareness, and even basic technique–specifically being able to score some runs and turn the strike over even against good bowling. A strike rate of 40, or even high 30s given his recent travails, would have been fine instead of his usual 55 or 60 (or more!), but 22 suggests a real backs-to-the-wall crisis situation. Amla’s innings at The Oval last year was that if I recall, where he batted all day with a strike rate of 9; batting second when you’ve just shot the opposition out in half a day is not.
If he can speed up and end up with a century at a strike rate of 40-odd, he’ll be vindicated; if he gets out for 33 and he’s still struggling to touch 30 then he won’t.
Well he didn’t go on to make a decent score. He added another 20 odd. Which is frustrating because he got himself in again this morning, and then got out. Thankfully Stokes and Foakes have delivered, and England are 230 ahead.
We wait for an innings when Stokes, Root, and Bairstow all fail, and the other batsman get England up to a good score. Very rarely happens.
I can’t see how they can keep giving Crawley too many chances now. He has ability but he just can’t seem to make substantial innings.
The innings did have value though. It got Bairstow, Stokes and Foakes past the new ball, which allowed them to prosper. The question is whether another player could fulfil that role more often (Dom Sibley, for example). It is funny that Crawley’s most Sibley-esque innings might help save his Test career.
I think the question is rather whether that’s the role that should be envisaged for Crawley at all. It’s particularly strange because there’s a batter at the other end who can perform that role more naturally: Lees is striking at 46 in the Championship this season, to go with 46 overall and 41 in tests; Crawley strikes at 56 in f-c and 53 in tests. From that point of view, Lees (who I’m also not convinced is good enough) is a better occupier of the middle ground than Sibley, who has a tendency to get bogged down in tests (so too, I suspect, would be Robson, who I also suspect might do it better than Lees).
Crawley’s natural game is fairly attacking–like Bairstow’s. I think that the desire to turn him into Sibley–and all the rather desperate plaudits he’s got this week for hauling his average since his recall up to the dizzying heights of 24–are a bit muddled. They often reflect a failure to realise the essential problem: it’s not that Crawley is too attacking, it’s that he’s not good enough. That’s not surprising–he averages less than 31 in the Championship, quite a lot of it in Division 2. For comparison, he has an almost identical record to Luis Reece without the latter’s bowling….and when did you last hear Reece mentioned as a possible answer to England’s opening batting problems?!
Surely its time to unleash Nortje against Foakes. This is a very important partnership.
This Stokes fellow is quite good when he doesn’t throw his wicket away.
Damn fine innings by Foakes
As it stands (while he is not out), he averages 44.20 in home Tests. If he played for Kent, he’d be nailed on for the winter now…
Another decision over-turned. The umpires are not having a great game.
A pretty much mirror image of the first test. But everything in reverse. And the last two days of the match lost….. as indeed the revenue.
What’s that then? six days of test cricket in August?
Of the players who you might reasonably think of as the top twelve or thirteen candidates for a seam bowling place for England’s World T20 squad eight weeks before it starts, if I’m correct at present the number who are not injured or encountering ongoing problems with illness is….three, two of whom have virtually identical skillsets that aren’t especially wonderful ones for Australia.
To add to which, two of their three best T20 batters are also injured.
Reece Topley’s decision to pull out of the Hundred to make sure he stayed fit for Australia is looking wiser with every minute…:-) Don’t fall down the stairs at home Reece!
Since 2010 – in 25 series (including 1-off tests) concluding with NZ last month – ENG’s record is:
W – 17…….49 games
D – 5……….13
L – 3………..19 (8 at Lord’s, 5 at The Oval)
Which is pretty good really.
The away record in 22 series in the same period is:
W – 7……….22 games
D – 4………..15
L – 11……….34
Could be worse – 2 series wins in SA and SL, with 1 in AUS, BAN and IND, but 0 wins in NZ, WIN or PAK (UAE).
We know that PAK are always strong at home, similarly AUS and (these days) IND……..but the very worst indictment has to be the failures against NZ and WIN.
It’s fair to say that NZ have been on an upward trajectory since we last won down there in 2008……..but WIN have been on a very much down ward one since 1998, and we’ve won once in 5 visits.
I think you’ve missed the worst one (and actually mistakenly recorded it as a win)–the failure to beat Bangladesh in 2016. Personally I’m not too worried about the last two NZ losses–they’ve been a very strong team recently.
Two other things stand out to me about the overseas record. One is that–while obviously any cut-off point is by its nature somewhat arbitrary–two of England’s six overseas wins were in the first four series in that period. 7 out of 22 isn’t exactly wonderful but it’s also not a disgrace; 3 out of 18 looks a lot less flash!
The other is that England have been absolutely trounced in several series overseas–in at least three countries (generally more than once), and they’ve failed to win against the two weakest top-nine countries.
Put together, that means that the only places they’ve won in very nearly a decade have been Sri Lanka and South Africa–one of whom had just lost three of its best ever players and the other of which has been in almost permanent disarray during that period.
Not that this is especially new. England have won in WI once since 1968, in India once since 1985, in Australia once since 1987, away to Pakistan once since 1962, and they haven’t won in New Zealand in twenty years.
Sorry, brain not functioning!
That should read 6 out of 22 and 4 out of 18 in the second para, and England having beaten NZ once since 1997 in the last…
Yes…….we have been completely trounced in Australia and India……..and have got very little from the PAKs away from home since 2000.
Must say though, I am looking forward to December in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi……..hope the players are too.
Let’s hope the government does not throw Imran Khan in jail!