Cricket: England v South Africa

Simon Hughes: Only three England players in my combined XI

All the seamers and most of the batsmen would be South African

Simon Hughes: Only three England players in my combined XI

England’s batting has been found out by some very good bowlers in this series. They’ve had an easy ride for a while because the standard in world cricket has not been so good.

Sajid Ajmal found them out in the UAE and now they have struggled against a fabulous quartet of fast bowlers, which I think is the best since the Australian attack of Lee, McGrath, Warne and Gillespie, in 2001.

Certainly, England have not faced a comparable seam attack to Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Kallis in the past 10 years. And our batsmen were not quite up to the task of facing them. England wickets cost South Africa under 30, whereas South African wickets cost England 40.

In the end, South Africa won more of the decisive moments than England. Their batting was that little bit stronger and their fielding was better. England dropped a good number of catches because of the pressure they were under.

If I pick a combined Test team between the two sides, I can find room for only three England players:

I would open with Graeme Smith and England’s Alastair Cook, who made a fine hundred at The Oval. But there’s also a case for picking Petersen after his exceptionally gritty innings at Leeds, but Cook wins out because of his overall Test record.

Jonathan Trott has been fairly consistent for England at three, but he hasn’t made a triple hundred so Hashim Amla has to go in at one man down.

With Kevin Pietersen out of the reckoning, Jacques Kallis has to come in at four. He made a big hundred at The Oval and has bowled and caught consistently well. Then at five, I’d pick AB de Villers because Ian Bell has had another poor series.

On the strength of his two innings in the final game, Jonny Bairstow deserves to go in number six instead of Jacques Rudolph. Bairstow looks like an outstanding talent and has something of Pietersen’s charisma.

Matt Prior was England’s man of the series and gets in as the wicket-keeper batsman at number seven.

But after Prior I can only find room for one more England player: Offspinner Graeme Swann has to play instead of Imran Tahir even though Swan has not produced a match-winning performance in the series.

The three main seam bowling positions go to Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Philander. The first two get in because of their pace and hostility and Philander edges out James Anderson following his clinical display of seam bowling at Lord’s.