Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Reflections on the first test between England and South Africa

South Africa delivered a truly outstanding performance in defeating England by an innings and 12 runs at the Oval. The most damning statistic against England is the fact that the Proteas only lost 2 wickets in the test, while they were bowled out twice. While the margin of victory speaks for itself, they were many interesting observations to be made about the performance of both teams.
  1. If you get Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook and Jonathan Trott out cheaply, there is a good chance England won't end up with a competitive score.
  2. If the middle order is exposed to the new ball, it might be a better idea to promote Ian Bell ahead of Kevin Pietersen.
  3. If a good bowling attack has a plan against Pietersen that provokes him to attack, the plan is likely to succeed 8 times out of 10.
  4. James Anderson can be extremely predictable if the conditions don't favour swing.
  5. While Stuart Broad has discovered the benefits of bowling a fuller length, some aggressive bouncers from the days of yore could have come in handy, if only to provide a different challenge to the dominant South African batsmen.
  6. Tim Bresnan is not going to succeed against some of the best batsmen in the world bowling under 130k with no movement.
  7. In light of Hashim Amla's triple century and centuries by Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith, surely Alviro Peterson's duck has to be the worst innings of the match.
  8. Much has been made of a few last day gaffes by AB De Villiers, but the final tally records eight catches by the back-up wicketkeeper. By any account, that is a job well done.
  9. Vernon Philander bowled just as brilliantly in this test match as he has in other matches of his nascent career. Sometimes the difference between a great bowling performance and a good one, is just a matter of edges.
  10. For all of Philander's deceptive swing and Morne Morkel's unsettling bounce, if Dale Steyn is on fire, South Africa tend to win. At his best Steyn can utilize swing and bounce at an extremely fast pace, a lethal proposition against the best batsmen that makes him the best fast bowler in the world.
  11. Could this match finally mark the arrival of Imran Tahir as a genuine test match bowler? While there was still a generous helping of full-tosses in both innings, Tahir started to exert better control of his variations as his confidence grew, and used the rough effectively to test the England batsmen.
  12. That being said, for the rest of the series English batsmen would be well advised to discard the sweep as an option to negate Tahir.
  13. Keeping Graeme Swann wicketless increases the pressure on England's seam bowlers. Scoring easily against Swann however, makes Strauss more of a reactive rather than a pro-active captain.
  14. Amla and Smith put on more than 250, while Amla and Kallis put an more than 360. While those mammoth partnerships are unlikely to be repeated, if South Africa conjure up 2 decent partnerships in each innings between the quartet of Smith, Amla, Kallis and De Villiers, they certainly won't lose.
  15. It's hard to change a winning combination, but in Headingley's seaming conditions, South Africa might just try playing Albie Morkel without compromising the balance of the side. Jacques Rudolph could open with Smith, and the older Morkel could work as an aggressive no. 7 and a decent swing bowler to share the fifth bowler's burden with Kallis.