England’s elite players failed to live up to the expectations in the ongoing Test series against South Africa, because of which their team is on the verge of losing their No.1 status in Test Cricket. Their bowlers weren’t good enough against the Proteas batsmen, despite the attack looking similar to the Proteas pace attack. They were lethargic, given that they were playing at home and the ball is bound to move, and thought that they would gain rewards without making an effort.
Stuart Broad, one of the finest fast bowlers, has managed only a couple of wickets in the first Test and was also not accurate in the ongoing 2nd Test match as he was not getting the swing, which made him a target for Proteas batsman. Bowling a consistent line and length is not going to help you if the ball is not deviating; you need to try bouncers and slow balls. England delivered some short-pitched stuff but not enough of it, as Amla looked in full-flow.
First, the captain has to design the field in such a way that the batsmen should hesitate in going for a shot because of the fielders who are around the bat. That was completely missing from Andrew Strauss. Actually, you can’t blame England’s influential bowlers. They weren’t able to shine because of the field that was been given to them by Andrew Strauss. In fact, captaincy makes the difference, both positively and negatively as the first Test match showed us how Strauss as a captain marshalled his resources. It seems that Strauss is comfortable having the opposition’s scoring rate under control rather than concentrating on the number of wickets in the wicket column. He has been defensive by having a spread-out field and hoping that batsman would make a mistake, but that hasn’t happened yet. His strategy of plans can be employed when the batsman crosses 60-80, but he had employed that tactic too early, which obviously went in favour of the batsman.
Nevertheless, in the ongoing second Test, Pietersen’s superb century has kept England in the contest, but let us see how they will outclass Proteas while bowling. In addition, Steve Finn would have made a huge difference, because he is perhaps the quickest among all the England’s fast bowlers. But I don’t think they can give that as a valid excuse. Do Tim Bresnan and Strauss have a mutual understanding? Perhaps that may be the reason for overlooking Steve Finn. He is the kind of bowler who hits the deck hard, changes his paces and alters his lengths and moreover, he’s the right guy for Proteas batsmen as he can stun them with short-pitched deliveries. We should also not forget, South Africa played extremely well.
South Africa, though, were ruthless and put together a perfect batting performance; they played with patience initially to make sure that they got themselves into a position of strength and then accelerated their scoring to around four runs an over before declaring. While Smith and Kallis’ centuries were very well constructed, the star of the show was undoubtedly Amla for his score of 311 not out in the 1st test.
However, Strauss needs to take a chunk of blame onto himself as he has not been effective in the field. He has been waiting for the opposition to commit a mistake, but that kind of scenario is a rare one. Nevertheless, he still has a long way to go. What he needs to do now is: just go with your best XI. Start the innings with three-slips and a gully and a man at backward point in an unorthodox position. This is enough for a bowler like Broad, Anderson to strike early with the new-ball. If Strauss can correct his mistakes and attacks early, then nobody can stop England from making a come-back into the Test series!