Monday, 7 July 2008

Is it time for South Africa to stop choking?

It is the first England v South Africa Test match at Lords' on Thursday. South Africa usually starts the series strongly and wins the first Test match. Something odd then happens and their domination wanes and then disappears. South Africa has not won a Test series in England since, well, before I was born. They played cricket in black and white then, so it is quite a while ago. So, what do I predict this time around: more of the same? I expect South Africa to trounce England at Lords’ – weather permitting. Why? They have better bowlers, better batsmen and better fielders. Oh, and they probably have more desire too.

South Africa has two bowlers in the top five in the ICC rankings - Steyn (2) and Ntini (5). Steyn is genuinely quick and I am looking forward to see him bowl. His pace and reverse swing could be devastating against England’s mediocre batting line-up. In addition they have Kallis (25) and Morkel (56) who are more than useful first change bowlers. England in comparison lacks fire-power and that could be their undoing. Sidebottom is England’s top ranked bowler (6) with Panasar next (11), Andserson (26) and Broad (63).

South Africa has two quality batsmen – Smith and Kallis, both of whom have made big scores against England. These are the two key men, possibly in the series. If they fall cheaply England may prosper, if they play near their potential, England’s bowlers will toil. England’s batsmen have been poor recently. They have just played six tests against New Zealand and their highest first innings score was 364. England last scored 400 in the first innings… wait for it… in June 2007 against the West Indies. Yes, England has not made 400 in the first innings for over a year (they did make over 400 at Napier in the second innings). South Africa has passed 450 in two out of their last three Tests.

Is it all doom and gloom for England? Vaughan (assuming he is fit) may play well against South Africa. He likes batting against pace and the same could also be true of Strauss and Cook. The problem is that I don’t think Pietersen likes pace and the South Africans know it. He can expect plenty of chin music and lots of pressure. If any of the wickets take spin then Panasar could be a big factor and he can produce when the pressure is on.

Who knows, England could be beaten that badly that the selectors even have to change the side. Now I am being silly.


Som said...

Rob, I think India is giving South Africa a good run for their choker's tag, isn't it?

Rob said...

No, they won the 20:20 World Cup less that a year ago...

After yesterday this looks like 'most wrong post of the year'