Cricket: England v South Africa

Simon Hughes: England over-analysed bowling to Smith

England have worked out an approach to Graeme Smith, but it's clearly not working

Simon Hughes: England over-analysed bowling to Smith

England over over-analysed their approach to bowling at Graeme Smith and lost their battle with him.

England are using a computer-based system to probe for batsmen’s weaknesses and they have developed a theory about how best to bowl at Smith.

What they do is to divide the pitch little squares and work out a batsman’s scoring rate when the ball bounces in each square. For Smith, they have calculated that his weakness is outside off stump, so they focused on bowling there in order to drag him out of his target zone, which is hitting the ball through the leg side.

But they became obsessed by that. It’s worth remembering, too, that they’ve tried this approach before and it has failed. Smith’s record in England is extraordinary. He has the second-highest average after Donald Bradman.

Of course, there’s a danger that if you bowl straighter, he will hit you through the legside, but Smith’s strength is also his weakness. In the end he was out playing on to a straight ball.

England tried a similarly scientific approach with Mike Hussey in Australia, and it failed as well. In the end, if you bowl a classic off stump and just outside line, a batsman will eventually make a mistake.

England were hampered, however, by the fact that the ball didn’t swing and that can happen with balls. One doesn’t and another does and this batch is not swinging.  

England have got used to wearing sides down but South Africa have just as much patience as they do, and much greater dedication, resilience and skill than most teams. They wore England down.  

The difference with the West Indians, who came here earlier this summer, is striking. The South Africans have shown dedication to the crease rather than dedication to making money in the IPL. They are a team of hardened pros rather than novices. They are doing what we were doing to the Australians.

But England have themselves to blame for being in a difficult position. The conditions changed on the second day to assist South Africa’s swing bowlers, but I don’t think they changed that much. Dale Steyn’s spell in the morning was good, but it wasn’t that special.

England were 251-2 and could easily have made 500. From there to 385 all out was a poor effort, really.

Kevin Pietersen played a poor shot and got out. Then Cook played on with a loose drive and Ravi Bopara got himself out.

Pietersen's dismissal was the most culpable because he was well set. He could easily have got a double hundred on this pitch. He took Dale Steyn apart in the IPL.