Category: South Africa (page 1 of 24)

The more batsmen England pick, the fewer they have

The big question before this fourth Test was could England’s batsmen start making some runs and maybe win a few more Tests?

When the answer revealed itself to be “no and yes” it became apparent that these were actually two separate questions.

England somehow cobbled together a half-decent first innings score while simultaneously making their batting appear even less solid. The second innings was more of the same.

In Top Gun, Maverick’s “hit the brakes and he’ll fly right by” trick is a neat one, but probably not a ploy on which to base a career. We feel similarly about England’s current approach to building totals.


Old Trafford’s Anderson End

Few initially remarkable features, but you often get nice swing.

If Jimmy has an end, Cricket Badger readers will soon be aware that Vernon Philander has two – a top and a bottom.

This week’s Philander ailment is a light case of back knack. Violent full body convulsions can do that to a man.


Moeen Ali, England’s second spinner, takes a hat trick

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We’ve told you before how we once saw a story in the local paper where a woman had come second in some sort of vegetable growing competition despite being the only person to enter something in that particular category. The judges decided that her entry was only worthy of a silver medal, despite it having zero competition.

So it is with Moeen Ali. Speaking before the second Test, England coach Trevor Bayliss asserted that the man we like to call Bowling Ali was the team’s second spinner.

England promptly dropped their first spinner, but who’s to say that Moeen isn’t still second in a hierarchy of one?

People don’t call Moeen a part-timer quite as much they once did, but the all-rounder is still short of the respect he deserves.

Perhaps it’s a matter of perception and expectation.

As we’ve been saying for three years now, Moeen Ali is not a spinner to tie up an end – nor is that something he should particularly aspire to. Maybe if people accept this and realise that defensive bowling lies down a different road to attacking bowling, England’s best player might be acknowledged as precisely that.

Failing that, this hat trick should at least buy him a couple more matches.


Toby Roland-Jones: first look in Test cricket

Toby Roland-Jones (via Twitter)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from players’ debuts – but we report on them anyway.

We suppose that if people call you Toblerone, you’re kind of duty-bound to provide the odd peak. 4-39 is pretty useful for a kick-off.

Toby Roland-Jones seems to bowl at around 80mph. On another day, people would be saying that’s not quick enough. But it works for Vernon Philander and it worked for Glenn McGrath. The trick is to keep playing well enough that no-one can find the time to dissect your shortcomings.

One thing you do have, when your pace tends towards medium, is less margin for error. Fortunately, on this evidence, Roland-Jones generally bowls within effective parameters. He hits that very small spot that is inevitably referred to as “good areas”.

Tougher challenges await. It won’t often swing and seam quite like this. At the same time, it seems likely that Roland-Jones will perform if it does. Shorn of debut nerves, he might even bowl better.

So he gets a green swinging conditions pass – and with flying colours. That’s all it was within his power to achieve after one day of bowling and it’s also not a bad qualification to attain if you’re looking to do half your Test bowling in England.


What Ben Stokes’ erratic boundary-hitting says about his batting

Kevin Pietersen’s career strike-rate was 61.72. Matthew Hayden’s was 60.10. For all that these are batsmen with a reputation for intimidating bowlers, they chose their moments.

This is a large part of the art of Test match batting. It’s about letting bowlers know that you are willing to hit them for four.

Once they’re aware of that, you don’t necessarily need to keep reminding them.

Viv Richards used to come out, blitz his way to 20 and then live off the latent threat for the rest of his innings. This is a smart way to go about things. Use your strengths to make life easier for yourself. The batsman who constantly needs to prove his aggression is an insecure batsman.

Ben Stokes’ innings progress in fits and starts these days. We’re taking this as a sign that he’s increasingly sure of himself.


Tom Westley: first look in Test cricket

Tom Westley (via Twitter video)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

If there’s one thing we’ll say for Tom Westley, it’s that he appears to have a pleasing preference for the workmanlike side of the ground.

Legside nurdlery has always worked for Alastair Cook and it worked for Jonathan Trott, so we’re definitely reassured by this. What’s the alternative? The James Vince off-drive?

Westley faced some good bowling and didn’t really do anything stupid. We were moderately encouraged by this.


England pick some wheat and chaff and postpone their separation until later

Chaff (CC licensed by UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences – OCCS via Flickr)

As a result of Cricinfo’s redesign, we don’t actually know that a Sri Lanka v India Test is taking place and therefore cannot comment on who has scored hundreds and who has been dismissed for three.

We will instead restrict ourself to an observation that England will be picking at least a couple of debutants: Tom Westley and Toby Roland-Jones (genuinely just had to check that it wasn’t Toby-Roland Jones). Dawid Malan may also join them, once England have exerted a degree of force and so gauged “the balance of the side”.

This kind of thing happens every now and again and it has to be said that it tends to be a bit of a wheat-and-chaff exercise. For example, Michael Vaughan made his Test debut in the same match as Chris Adams and Gavin Hamilton.

Westley is “oft talked about” and “highly regarded”. This week he will become even more oft talked about and we’ll have to see how he copes with that. Roland-Jones has been in the queue since this time last year. Dawid Malan is a cricketer.


In what sense was JP Duminy “released”?

JP Duminy had initially been sentenced to a full Test tour of England but has been released early due to good behaviour and bad batting.

Duminy has been around a while. He made his one-day international debut in 2004 and his Test debut in 2008. Somehow he has played 46 Test matches, which is both more and fewer than you would imagine.

He has at various times been a batsman, a quasi-all-rounder and just a name on the team sheet. He averages 32 with the bat and 38 with the ball.

Newspapers have not for the most part expanded on his release from the South Africa squad, so we’re unclear whether it was intended as a kick up the arse, an act of mercy, or a merciful kick up the arse.

There’s also the possibility that it’s an out-and-out discardation, in which case ‘release’ seems even more euphemistic than normal.


The natmeg was the difference

Anya Shrubsole carts the winning runs (via ICC)

Just a single sighting of the natmeg in the World Cup semi-final by our count – but it secured two runs and was therefore, by all measures, decisive.

England passed South Africa’s total with just two balls to spare. You can’t honestly suggest that the natmeg wasn’t the difference. With that in mind, you wonder why batters ever choose to direct a shot anywhere else.

Either side of the legs is so passé.

England are in the World Cup final. That doesn’t happen too often. The final’s on Sunday.


England are a team utterly without breadth

England are a limited batting side. Most of the players have plenty of shots and they’re seemingly limited to a style of play where they use them all.

This article isn’t going to be a paean to the blocker. It’s about a lack of flexibility; a lack of range. England are a side whose ‘brand of cricket’ is incredibly narrow and this makes for a team who look great on their day, but who don’t enjoy all that many days.

England were asked to bat for two days. They failed to bat two sessions. If they’d instead fallen just one ball short, the match result may have been exactly the same, but at least there’d have been signs that their cricket had some breadth.

There was no shame in failing to secure a draw through their second innings efforts, but here was an opportunity to show that a different style of cricket was within their capabilities. What they instead showed was their sole dimension with searing clarity.

Lights flashed, klaxons sounded, aeroplanes trailing coloured smoke wrote ‘this is what we’re shit at‘ in the sky.

The mistake is to see the rearguard as a distinct style of cricket rather than an extended spell of a style of play that is a key part of everyday Test cricket.

On this occasion, England needed to spend two days avoiding high-risk shots, identifying dangerous deliveries and coming up with ways to nullify them. On another day, they might need to adopt a similar methodology for a shorter period, against one particular bowler, or for one particular spell.

Sometimes things aren’t in your favour and all you can do is try and improve your odds enough that you’ve a chance of surviving until something changes. A two-day assignment is deflating and dull, but it is also a magnificent opportunity to hone this kind of decision-making.

England were bowled out for 133 in 44.2 overs and the only guy who got past 30 was the one guy who didn’t really need to worry about this facet of the game anyway. The longer they’d batted, the less time they would have wasted.


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