England vs South Africa: 1st Test, Day two

On the face of it, day two was similar to day one, the batting side getting themselves into a hole, and proceeding to dig themselves out of it, but there can be little doubt that England will be the happier with their work today and with the overall match position, the late dismissal of De Bruyn merely reinforced that. 

Losing Root early on wasn’t in England’s script and losing Dawson straight after added to the furrowed brows, with the possibility that 400 might even be out of reach. Given the alarming start and 76-4, it would have been churlish to consider 400 to be less than hoped, but cricket is all about expectations, and overnight there would have been aspirations towards 500. But England are a funny side, they have a raft of all rounders and players who if they don’t quite fall into that category, can at least be counted on for contributions periodically. If it’s not the same one from game to game then so much the better, and while in recent times (India away notably) the lower order runs rescued disaster rather than created a position of strength, here it both provided entertainment and took the game away from the tourists rapidly. 

It demonstrates both England’s weakness and their strength. The middle and lower order is undoubtedly potent, but the top is somewhat unreliable. We don’t need to say that the top order can’t be bailed out all the time, it’s very recent history that clearly demonstrates that. India more than anything was a failure of the batsmen, even if the bowlers were the ones who got it in the neck for failing to defend inadequate totals. It was ever thus and this one Test innings here doesn’t show anything other than a continuation of the same. 

Still, if Root is the MVP of the England top order, Moeen Ali is the king of the lower middle. Batting at seven isn’t his preferred role, but he’s so damn good at it that it’s hard to advance a case that he improves the side by being anywhere else. He gets more than his fair share of criticism, mostly focused on what he can’t do rather than what he can. Equally, his flaws are sometimes forgiven because he’s just so wonderful to watch in full flow. What we can say is that he’s clearly worked on his game against the short ball. It’s unlikely we’ll see him become truly adept at it, but he certainly looks better than he did, albeit on the evidence of one knock. 

He passed 2,000 Test runs in his innings of 87 (ended by a typically bad-Moeen shot where for all the attempts by the commentators to call it a good ball, still looked more like he missed a half volley to me), and later in the day reached 100 Test wickets. Now, there are lies, damned lies and statistics, but he did that double markedly quicker than Botham and Flintoff, and only one Test behind Tony Greig. Given his bowling limitations that’s quite startling. Flintoff had a poor start to his Test career, but Greig and Botham had anything but. It’s an achievement for which he should be proud. If the innings was ended by Bad-Moeen, the rest of his day was unquestionably Good-Moeen.

If Moeen is Mr Reliable with the bat at seven, Broad is anything but whether at eight or nine these days. Yet he seems to be slowly overcoming the facial blow that did more than anything to destroy his batting confidence. It wasn’t a fluent innings, but it was a highly valuable one, and despite getting away with an lbw South Africa failed to review (Broad escaping a review that should have been taken is deliciously ironic), he generally looked more comfortable than he has for a while. It’s deeply unlikely he will ever be the genuine all rounder he once threatened to be, but he’s a fine bowler and that was always a slightly greedy hope – for it would have propelled him into the great category. But he did well today and periodic destructive innings would be extremely welcome. 

As for James Anderson, his batting always varies from the inept to the glorious, but his truly astounding hook over deep midwicket, having charged Kagiso Rabada and been met with a fast bouncer, is one that he will dream about for the rest of his life. It was an extraordinary shot, one he couldn’t have nailed better in his wildest fantasies. Cricket is sometimes such fun. If you haven’t seen it, check out the highlights, then rewind them 20 seconds and watch it again. 

Towards the end of the innings, South Africa were looking frustrated and irritable, yet Morne Morkel could be proud of his day two efforts as much as Vernon Philander on day one. But where England have a real strength is that they can turn the tables quickly, with attacking venom. It’s what makes them often good to watch. 

Broad made an early breakthrough, as he so often does, but the visitors were looking comfortable enough at 82-1 before it all started to go wrong. Moeen was the catalyst; he might be expensive and not quite up to the job as a defensive spinner when it’s flat, but he does have a happy knack of taking wickets. The ball bowled to dismiss a set Amla was a gem. 

From there South Africa appeared a trifle laboured, even as they fought to stage a recovery. They aren’t out of this game by any means, and any side with Quinton de Kock still to come (Rabada is not the least capable nightwatchman in the world) will believe they can get somewhere close. But they remain a long way adrift, and England are beginning to turn the screw somewhat. The visitors are now in a position where they need to play almost perfectly to stay in the game. They can certainly do so, but it’s not the place they want to be. 

The pitch is going to be, as so often, key. And here South Africa will be hoping it is in keeping with recent Chairman’s pitches which get ever slower and ever more frustrating for the bowlers. The possible difference is that the last month has been dry and hot. Some deliveries from the spinners are dusting the surface, and there is certainly a little bite. Liam Dawson didn’t have a perfect day by any means, but he may yet come into his own. 

On a personal note, it’s good to be back. A month away is a long time, and my thanks to those who popped over to read my travel musings thoughtsonatrip.com . 

Advertisements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whither South Africa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

South Africa v England: 1st Test, Day Four

By no stretch of the imagination could this Test be called a classic, for one thing England have been edging ever further ahead in it over the course of the game, but to go into the final day with all results (just about) possible is indicative of a match that has been fascinating throughout.  The most likely outcome remains that England will go 1-0 up some time tomorrow afternoon, but South Africa showed admirable grit in their second innings; had they done so in the first innings, it could be argued they wouldn’t have been in such trouble.  Yet ironically enough, they finished the day with a near identical score to that they had at the close on day two.  Perception is a funny thing.

England appeared relatively untroubled by the loss of wickets in the morning, a lead already approaching 300 tends to limit any sense of panic after all, and it was Bairstow who was the undoubted star of the show.  On a surface that started slow and is edging towards the turgid as we approach the conclusion, fluent run scoring has proved difficult, yet Bairstow merrily thrashed his way to 79 at better than a run a ball.  England do have an abundance of strokemakers, but they also require the latitude to play that way, both in terms of the match situation and the allowance from the captain and management above.  The signs are positive that coach Trevor Bayliss is keen to allow the players to express themselves, a welcome change from the years of rigid game management, but it still requires the groundwork done by others – Compton’s 85 and 49 are not going to win any awards for entertainment, but a team requires different kinds of batsmen who play in their own way to to bring out the best in the others; he did exceptionally well, and while no judgements can be made going forward on the basis of a single game, it can be said he played the role of the perfect number three here.

England’s long batting order also demonstrated its value, as first Moeen Ali and then Chris Woakes provided competent support, with South Africa merely looking to limit the damage.

Indeed the approach from the hosts was quite instructive.  The new ball was already available when Taylor was dismissed to leave England 224-6, 313 ahead.  It wasn’t taken.  What this betrayed was that South Africa didn’t truly believe they could win the game; for a side that did would surely have wanted to grab the new nut, knock over the tail and set off in pursuit of 330, with a belief it was possible.  Sure, England would have been strong favourites to win still, but it would have by no means been out of the question.  Equally of course, the new ball could have gone around the park, but not to take it was extraordinarily defensive given from there South Africa could still have won.  It is hard to credit that the view of Amla and/or the coaching staff was that their best chance of doing so was to retain the old ball, it seemed purely about being content to stay in the field as long as possible to avoid batting, and that is fair enough if the opposition are already 450 ahead, but not when they are only 300 and a bit on, with six wickets down.   A few things about this South Africa outfit seem rather muddled.

The debate then turned to the timing of any declaration.  Once again though, there was so much time left in the game.  As it happened, England were dismissed before it became an issue, but with a target of 416 and the best part of 150 overs remaining, it was by no means a pressing matter.  Put simply, if South Africa batted the remainder of the match – and no rain was or is forecast – they wouldn’t be too far away from that target.  Therefore England weren’t going to be losing potential overs that might be needed to take a last wicket or two.  Had they gone on much longer, then yes, it would have become a topic of debate, but it didn’t arise.

In the customary manner, South Africa batted much better second time around initially.  Van Zyl in particular started off exceptionally positively, to the point one or two who had been questioning England for not setting about 350 actually queried whether they should have (if they could) gone on longer to make the game safe.  Sometimes there is a desire to have it all ways.  For let’s put it simply, if South Africa were to achieve the second highest run chase in Test history, then you simply doff your caps to them and say they deserve it.  If they instead manage to bat out the game for a draw, then you may wonder why they didn’t get close enough to win in the time available, but you still doff that cap.  The target was exceptionally challenging, the time remaining extensive.  England and Cook did nothing wrong, however it turns out tomorrow.

After that strong start by the Proteas, and with a ball that resolutely refused to swing or seam to any great extent, it was Stokes and then Finn who made the difference.  Firstly, patience is always needed in these situations, for the wickets will usually come, and secondly you need to have a strike bowler who takes those wickets.  Earlier in his career Finn was criticised – and then dropped – for leaking runs, but he takes wickets.  His strike rate is the best of any England bowler with 100 Test victims, at an outstanding 47 balls per wicket.  This is a serious weapon.  Who cares if he goes for a few runs when he can do that?  So does Dale Steyn for that matter, and while his economy rate is a little better than Finn’s, it’s hardly impressive either.  Trying to force the square peg of potent strike bowler into the round hole of line and length operator consistently missed the point about the attacking wealth offered by him.  When he comes on to bowl it’s quite clear he will drop the odd one short and get hit to the boundary.  It’s also equally clear there is a decent prospect of sending one or two opponents back to the shed.  Leave him be, let him do what he’s excellent at – England have other bowlers to tie an end up.

And on that particular matter, Broad is becoming nigh on unhittable in Test cricket these days.  Indeed an economy rate in this innings of 2.27 probably represents something of a disappointment to him.  Add to that that he takes wickets, as his record over this calendar year shows only too well, and it is time that it was more widely acknowledged that he’s a fantastic bowler, one of the best England have had in a long time.  Appreciation of his skills (if not his DRS expertise) is overdue.

Standing in the way of England emerging victorious is one AB De Villiers.   England did have a chance to get him, Moeen Ali’s beautifully flighted delivery turning sharply through the gate with De Villiers out of his ground, only for Bairstow to miss the stumping.  England are choosing wicketkeepers who are primarily batsmen, and the reality is that while they do so, stumpings like this are going to be missed.  The same applies when it’s Jos Buttler doing the job.  In both cases they tend to miss the stumpings when the ball goes between bat and pad.  The eyes follow the bat rather than ball, expecting it to make contact, and by the time the ball has passed the bat, it’s far too late to adjust.  This certainly isn’t to excuse an error that Bairstow himself was in despair over, but it is to explain how it happens and why.  The very best wicketkeepers don’t make that kind of mistake because they always follow the line of the ball instinctively.  It’s a much much harder skill than might be supposed.

With Du Plessis and De Villiers at the crease, memories of their monumental match saving rearguard against Australia were well to the fore, but Finn returned just before the end to produce one that lifted just enough to take the shoulder of Du Plessis’ bat, Cook taking an excellent catch, and England will breathe much easier tonight.

There was still time for two items of note – firstly that Dale Steyn came out to bat as nightwatchman.  There are two ways of looking at that, either surprise at taking such a risk with a key player with the Cape Town Test only days away, or that he’s already ruled out and therefore there is little to be lost.  A slight puzzle though.   Secondly, immediately after Du Plessis was out the ball was changed.  It had been looked at earlier in the over, and the change itself was routine, and nothing need be inferred from the decision.  Just as nothing needed to be inferred from the decision to change the ball when South Africa were bowling.  It is unlikely that those who cast aspersions through innuendo and suggestion in that case will do so here – and that says it all.

A further 280 is required from 90 overs tomorrow.  More realistically, England need six more wickets.  It probably won’t be easy, but it probably will happen.  On the basis of the first four days, England deserve it.

 

South Africa v England: 1st Test day three

England should wrap this match up at some point on the fifth day barring something special – and something special is always possible in sport, that’s the point of it – so strong is England’s position.

At the end of day two there was a feeling that England were the side in the ascendancy but that was on the basis of how the game appeared rather than the raw figures of the score, and from there the game could have gone in any direction. But South Africa couldn’t have had a much worse day that they did, from the collapse in the morning which left them 89 behind to the injury to Steyn and dropped catches as England built a lead.

It could have been worse. Dean Elgar carrying his bat through the innings was the only thing that kept South Africa in the game. The deficit was substantial enough but not insurmountable. What lent a feeling of inevitability to proceedings was the injury to Dale Steyn early in England’s second innings. And here we need to be wary of straying into wise-after-the-event territory.   For South Africa lack an all rounder in this post Kallis/Pollock era, and like most teams in such a position, selected a four man attack to try to balance the side. For injury to take out the spearhead is desperately bad luck, provided of course that there wasn’t that risk going into the game, and that’s the question for the South African selectors rather than the four man attack in itself.  To put it another way, England had a four man attack for a number of years and it was rare that they lost a bowler, the same applies to the great Australian team of the first part of this century; in and of itself it’s not flawed selection, but it appears to be when injury strikes. Certainly Morkel did all he could to make up for the shortfall.

And of course balancing a side with only four bowlers becomes difficult, but you do need a keeper who can bat, hence asking De Villiers to do the job. He’s quite clearly a superb player, the question is how sustainable it is to ask your best batsman to do two jobs and whether that impacts on the primary role.  It’s exacerbated when said batsman has to come in at four rather than later, limiting the amount of rest. De Villiers does have a worse record as batsman when he has kept wicket, but it’s hardly a disastrous one to say the least. Yet it’s a huge ask of him, and perhaps his keeping in the second innings is an indication of that.  For while every keeper can and does drop catches, to come in to a Test match having not done it in a while, and to still have to do the primary role, is going to be exhausting, mentally more than physically, though that plays a part as well.  And then we have to consider the first two Tests are back to back.

For England Stuart Broad has been exceptional, but what has impressed has been the back up.  Moeen Ali was excellent, while Woakes was consistently unlucky and Finn cleaned up the tail expertly.

England’s batting too was purposeful. The third innings can so often be one where the side nominally in front can panic and throw away the advantage. After the loss of Cook, Compton set about building the platform, and he did that extremely well. By the time he was out, those following were able to start to increase the pressure on the reduced attack, circumstances that the likes of Root are ideal at exploiting.

England will doubtless look to accelerate in the morning, and wear the pitch a little more. It may not be the worst thing in the world for England to be bowled out, forcing South Africa to go for the win with time left in the game. The danger of batting on too long is an ever present with England in recent times. Tomorrow is not the time to do it again, for here is a chance to pick up an opening Test win away from home, and that’s not a common experience.

27th December Cricket – Comments Thread

Australia – 345/3 (Khawaja 144, Burns 128) v West Indies

England – 179/4 (Taylor 70, Compton 63*) v South Africa

The two tests could hardly be a greater contrast. In Melbourne Australia are participating in what looks like another total mismatch, as Burns and Khawaja picked up centuries, and there’s probably at least another one in them hills for either Smith or Voges given their propensity these days in cashing in. The West Indies seem further and further away from competitiveness. I must confess that I was watching the Cavaliers v Warriors NBA game rather than this lack of a contest, but what I did notice was David Warner setting off like a train and getting out quite quickly. I saw one of my Aussie-based Twitter followers had something to say about that.

England find themselves in a much better position than 49 for 3 suggested, especially as the “two rocks” had both been dismissed. Nick Compton looked very solid, not offering much in the way of chances, and ground out 63 from 179 balls. It’s 300 ball hundred pace, which while is important in situations like this, it’s not match-winning stuff. That sounds harsh, I know, and he’s played the situation magnificently. But that question will remain until we see something slightly more multi-faceted.At this stage England need to take solidity and composure any which way they can. We’ve been spoiled on Tres, Vaughan and even Strauss who could keep the scoreboard ticking over. My fear is Compton is going to be too one paced. Today, that’s not a problem.

But look, this has been a top innings today and probably one in the eye for a few people (including me, who has never been convinced he’s the answer). I’m a bit different on Taylor who looks like the least worst option in that position, and again played well in a tight situation. He has that attitude of persistent motion, an energizer bunny, reining himself in before he fires off at all different angles. This is his second 70-ish score and yes, they’ve been accumulated in the right way and tight situations.  A shame he got out just before the close, but he has been a bright spark today.

It’s too soon to make a comment on Hales – of course it is. That’s a lot different to people “thinking” he’s not up to it as a test opener, because I know, like others, those that think that way want to be proved wrong. If you want to know the ultimate example, you should have seen the text messages between me and a Millwall mate after HIM was dismissed in the first innings at The Oval. I’d love Hales to do well, I really would, but already you can hear the jungle drums. “Compton open, Compton open, Compton open”.

A couple of other observations. I see it’s a mixed South African / English team under the SuperSport banner. I thought, for the larger series, and I thought this was one, that we had the full Sky treatment. What with the car park settings for the BBL, are there serious cost-cutting measures on board at the home of England Cricket?

Also, the game will be poorer when Dale Steyn isn’t playing it. What a champion. Also self-deprecating in his interview afterwards, saying he’s not as skilled as Jimmy Anderson. Hogwash. They are different types of bowlers, and Steyn has skill in abundance. A top player. It’s a disgrace he’s not been seen playing against England in his home country since 2010, and in this country since 2012.

Happy to have all your comments on the games today and those for the play tomorrow. The beloved is dragging me down to the Garden Centre in the morning – I’d rather have an hour of James Brayshaw if truth be told – so I won’t be around for all of it.

Comments below……

2015 World Cup Semi-Final – New Zealand v South Africa

The first semi-final will send a new team to the World Cup Final. Will it be Dmitri’s tip for the championship, South Africa, or will it be everyone’s darling team, New Zealand.

Needless to say, I have a job to hold down and need to sleep, so won’t be watching much. But you can comment away downstairs….

2015 World Cup Quarter-Final – Sri Lanka v South Africa

Feel free to comment, and that includes all the journos who had to fly home because their newspaper budgets don’t stretch to watching the denouement of a major world tournament because England have been knocked out. You want an indication of how cricket is falling out of our fabric of sporting life?

Still, never mind. We were never any good at this one day lark.

Enjoy proper players playing properly because they aren’t paralysed with fear and their coaches aren’t in love with Moneyball. Well at least until South Africa come out to bat, but then again, they are there at least.

Comments below.

2015 World Cup – Game 36 – South Africa v UAE

Game 36, and the last group game for South Africa, sees the associate nation try to get on the board…

Comments below.

Apologies for not being online too much in the past few days. It’s been a really difficult time, as things threaten to overwhelm me, and the blog takes a back seat. There’s a huge amount of transition going on in my life, and although I’ve checked the data, I’ve taken the positives and the buck stops with me, I blame you lot.

2015 World Cup – Game 24 – South Africa v Ireland

After the stupidity and rancour of the last 36 hours, let’s get back to cricket. Tonight’s game looks like a walkover, with AB the Unstoppable in prime form, and with Ireland looking a little over-matched. But this Irish bunch is a resilient team I think we all get a lot of fun from watching, and who we want to see a lot more of. Canberra can mean runs……lots of them.

Any comments from those who can should be left here.

If anyone is interested, John has followed up my blog post with a comment. You can read his views. I’m not particularly interested in responding, if truth be told. I made my point. He made his. Would I prefer restraint in the comments? Probably. Do I moderate? As little as possible. I’m not The Guardian BTL, that’s for sure. I would, actually, prefer if you all just left it where it is, and didn’t chip in now. But I won’t stop you. Keep it clean.

Enjoy the game, for those who can get to watch it.

2015 World Cup – Game 19 – South Africa v West Indies

Any comments on this game, please add below. West Indies have made 300+ in all three games, while South Africa’s big guns – Amla and ABdeV – have not fired. Should be an interesting contest, because if the Windies win this, suddenly South Africe might get the nerves.

Sorry there’s not been a lot else. I hope to do a full comment on the week’s nonsense tomorrow or Saturday. But to the person who suggested four day test matches – leave. Now. Just leave.