Cricket: England v South Africa

Simon Hughes: Smith sprang surprise declaration

Smith's declaration at tea struck psychological blow to England's bowlers

Simon Hughes: Smith sprang surprise declaration

South Africa’s early declaration was an interesting move which many people would not have predicted.

I think there were two major reasons why Graeme Smith declared on 637-2 at tea, which gave South Africa a lead of 252 with four sessions to play.

The first reason is pretty obvious. South Africa did not lose two overs for change of innings by declaring at tea. With time such an important factor, Smith wanted those overs up his sleeve.

The other major factor was the psychological value of not allowing England to take any more wickets. The England bowlers will go into the next Test match at Leeds knowing they took only two wickets in 189 overs, which could undermine their confidence.

Had South Africa done the clichéd thing and slogged for 40 minutes after tea, they could easily have lost a few cheap wickets and relaxed their psychological grip on England’s bowlers.

It’s also harder than one might think to rattle along at 10 an over in Test cricket. Fielding sides can bowl defensively and set negative fields with men on the boundary. It’s far easier to go along at six an over when the field is spread.

Because the pitch is so flat and so slow, South Africa felt they needed as long as possible to bowl out England and the declaration at tea left 43 overs in the day.

Smith will also have reasoned that if England managed to overhaul the arrears, they would be confident of getting the runs. He knows there is no danger of the pitch deteriorating into a minefield.