Cricket: England v South Africa

Simon Hughes: South Africa lacked element of surprise

South Africa lacked a bit of abrasiveness, but they were worn down by England's superb batting

Simon Hughes: South Africa lacked element of surprise

South Africa’s bowling attack lacked a little bit of abrasiveness and an element of surprise on the first day. To be fair to them, the pitch was incredibly dead and slow. It didn’t offer them any help at all.

But, in hindsight, they probably missed wicketkeeper Mark Boucher’s abrasive edge behind the stumps. The stand-in keeper AB De Villiers is a fantastic cricketer, but Boucher has the energy and the experience to motivate the bowlers.

They could have bowled more bouncers and tried to ruffle England up and disturb their rhythm.  I also thought it was slightly odd that they didn’t open the bowling with Dale Steyn. He’s the figurehead and not giving him the new ball seemed a bit of an anti-climax. If South Africa had had  him charging in with the new ball from one end and Morne Morkel from the other, there would have been a bit more spice about the opening overs.

Instead, Smith opted for Philander, who is obviously a good bowler but slightly flattered by his figures so far. But he’s nowhere near as hostile as Steyn and it was probably a case of over-analysing things.

Imran Tahir was disappointing. I think he will struggle in this series. If there’s a dry pitch he might be alright, but against excellent batsmen he will struggle. It’s a problem for South Africa as they slightly rely on rotating the seamers around their spinner. Tahir’s lack of effectiveness meant JP Duminy ended up bowling quite a few overs of part-time spin. But they have Kallis as an extra bowler so they are slightly less reliant on the spinner.

Kallis bowled well and was the pick of the attack. He showed what can be done by throwing in the odd surprise delivery, such as the one that got Pietersen.   

But we must not be too critical of the bowlers and should give a lot of credit to England. Cook’s innings was just immaculate not necessarily to look at, but in its performance. He realised early on that it was a slow pitch on which you needed to be patient and carried out his gameplan to perfection.