Cricket: England v South Africa

Performance of The Day: Broad seals place for Lord's

With Swann sure to return, three seamers were battling for two places at Lord's. The choice is now down to two after Broad's five-for

Performance of The Day: Broad seals place for Lord's

Assuming Graeme Swann returns to the England side for the decisive Test at Lord’s, the selectors again need to deliberate over which member of the attack will be omitted. It is safe to assume it will not be Anderson. While not quite at his best in the Headingley game, he did beat the bat from time to time without finding the edge; on another day these would have been wickets instead of dot balls.

With no result likely, even if the showers kept off, the main English interest was the competition between the bowlers as to who could make the strongest case for inclusion at Lord’s. In this connection it is worth looking at how these rival pacemen have performed in 2012 in the 10 Test matches England have played since they became the number one team in the world.  For South Africa, Rudolph would love a century on the ground which was his home for five seasons.

Broad now has 37 wickets at just under 29 in 2012. At Headingley he was close to his best in short bursts; at other times he seemed disinterested. On the first morning, in possibly his most important spell of the game, he bowled four innocuous overs to the visiting openers. But at the end of that day, with the second new ball, he took the wicket of De Villiers and could have had others, so frequently did he beat the bat.

Then, on the final afternoon, after earlier making little impression as he tended to drop short of a length, he lifted the final hours from the doldrums. Bowling a fuller length than at any time in the game, he took five wickets in 37 deliveries, giving Romantics in the small crowd the fleeting sense that they were about to witness something extraordinary. They didn’t, but Broad, finally at his best, cemented his place in the side. Which leaves Bresnan and Finn.

Bresnan missed the first four Tests of the year, the three against Pakistan and the first against Sri Lanka, so he understandably hasn’t taken as many wickets as Broad. (Anderson has 31 at slightly over 29 each, Swann 35 at 31.83.) But 16 wickets at just over 44 each doesn’t look impressive.

It can never be said that he bowls badly, but he has developed a disturbing habit of conceding runs at around four an over. True, he doesn’t have the advantage of a new, hard ball, as Anderson and Broad do, but, having entered 2012 with 40 wickets at 21.75, there has been some falling away from his earlier high standard. With the bat he still averages in the upper thirties. But again, 2012 has seen only 81 runs at 20.25.

Bresnan was unfortunate on the final day to have Smith dropped at slip by Anderson from only his third delivery (one of three slip chances Anderson has missed in this game) but figures in the match of one wicket for 138 in 36 overs are hardly impressive. His batting has always helped his case, and, as number 8, he needs to make runs. He only made nine at Headingley, although he helped Prior to add 45 for the seventh wicket.

Finn has, on the whole, disappointed slightly. England’s leading bowler in ODIs this year has generally been short of the control he exhibited in the shorter game, and his extra pace has not provided the anticipated variety and threat. Perhaps too much was expected of him. He has by no means bowled badly but has missed the opportunity to persuade the selectors he is indispensable.