Let me start by saying that England have done tremendously well this year. There have been ups and downs, of course, but overall we’re going in the right direction. To win the Ashes at home and then beat South Africa away is a fine achievement. Hats off to the boys.
However – and here’s the big ‘but’ – today’s performance was unacceptable. It was half-arsed and unprofessional. Anyone can get out to good bowling (there’s no crime in that) but England threw their wickets away casually without a care in the world. It looked like they simply couldn’t be bothered – as if they were saying to South Africa “your win means nothing because we didn’t give a toss bruv – na na na na na”.
England’s approach, which was best described as dismally executed ‘happy hitting’, just isn’t good enough for a professional outfit representing their country. Us supporters expect more. A lot of fans had paid an awful lot of money to travel to South Africa to watch that game. The players might have had the decency to hang around and make a fist of it. Instead it looked like they were desperate to get to a lunchtime function. One of Sir Ian’s BBQs perhaps?
It’s all very disappointing really. A lot of those players were playing for their places. Didn’t they want to impress the management? It was also somewhat disappointing for Kagiso Rabada, the brilliant young paceman, who claimed an incredible 13 wickets in the match.
Rabada bowled beautifully but is there a small asterisk next to his analysis now? Some of his wickets today came against batsmen who had one foot on the aeroplane and looked about as committed as David Gower at one of Goochie’s bleep tests. His wickets were a bit like runs scored against declaration bowling. He’s an amazing prospect, and he deserves all the plaudits, but he’ll never have it so easy again.
Today’s action has also highlighted something of a philosophical divide between fans and commentators. Sir Ian repeated a number of times that England’s batsmen had to stay positive. He had no beef (geddit) with our approach because “if you just look to defend on this wicket you get out”. Erm, excuse me?!
How exactly do you have a better chance of survival by attacking everything that moves? If you get a good or unplayable delivery, and it knocks you over, what does it matter whether you left the last ball or tried to carve it to the boundary?
Each ball is a separate event in itself. If runs aren’t important, your best chance of survival is to leave everything wide outside off stump. You can’t get out if you’re not playing a shot. Duh! Botham’s theory only has some relevance if you’re actually trying to chase down a total or put runs on the board. In which case going into your shell is a bad idea.
Anyway enough of the grumbling. It’s hard to be too unhappy when you’ve won the series. As I said yesterday, even the best sides lose now and again (although I doubt they lose seven wickets in an hour).
Besides, perhaps this defeat is some kind of blessing? It proves we’re not the finished article yet. It could be a wake-up call and a reminder that there’s still lots of work to do. We’ve got to find two or three new batsmen for a start. Any ideas?
PS Just a quick heads up that there’s a new article about Dylan Hartley, the new England rugby captain, on Eat My Sports. Here’s a link Is he the right man for the job or is Eddie Jones taking a horrible risk?