A Bad Taste In The Mouth? Day 5 at Centurion

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?

James Morgan

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?


  • Yes. Even Cook’s interview said it was poor. Unfortunately, he didn’t disclose why it happened.

    Afraid I have no answer to your final question. I’m very tempted to suggest that one series against the Saffers away is not quite enough to dismiss batsmen from the team or enough time for them to settle down and develop. After all, even our highest run scorer failed.

  • Apart from the obvious fact that Hales isn’t the right choice of opener, nothing definite has been learned about the batsmen. Taylor got a bit frantic towards the end of the series, and Compton seemed a bit tired (although unlucky first dig in this match). But otherwise we all knew that after Compton there was nobody in the order with any credentials at batting for a draw until Moeen (who was last out in the first innings and not out in the second).

    Feels to me as if the selectors should do now what they should have done before this series; put Compton in first, and bring back Ballance at three. There is no unknown Thorpe, or Steele, or Barrington to stiffen the top order . And the coach should cut out the stuff about wanting two aggressive batsmen in the top three. It encourages the solid players to bat out of character and leads to selection of batsmen with no ability to bat in Test mode at all.

  • There is not a lot more to be said, James. We have done well to win the Ashes and to beat South Africa on their home ground but nothing excuses the performance they delivered today. It was awful by all accounts. I think I’m as cross about the attitude as the silly shots.

    I heard Aggers say that Cook was going to be furious and it sounded very much like it in your clip. Mind you it did occur to me that as well as taking the team to task he should also look to himself. I stayed up till some awful hour here to see yesteday’s highlights and the way he got out was poor. He is right about the dropped catches though. No team can put down that many crucial chances and hope to win.

    That also leaves the issue of the wicket keeper open. Neither Bairstow nor Buttler seem to be fitting the bill. Bairstow was as bad as anyone else in the batting today. Not good enough, considering the amount of runs he cost us, getting in Cook’s way and missing chances.

    In his interview Baylis seemed to think that going by county performances we have the right team, they have all done a bit and some building is all that is needed. How depressing is that? Hales is a goner for me. Test match scrutiny has found him lacking, poor fella.

    I can’t see Taylor securing the number 5 slot either, although I like him as a player. Bell could well be back in time leaving 2 and 3 still up for grabs. I had thought previously of Taylor at 3 but given the difficulties he has found at 5, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea. I’m at a loss. I expect that Compo will be safe. Either at 3 or opening. He is far too one paced for me and if he tries anything different he gets out but I don’t think we have anyone better.

    A suberb effort from Kagiso Rabada. Delighted for the lad. England were rubbish but I take nothing away from him.

    • Agreed Jenny. Rabada looks like one of the best prospects in the world.

      I’ll do a full review of the test series in the coming days, perhaps with some player ratings, and we’ll surely review the contentious batting positions some more then. I feel sorry for Hales but he has to go imho. I agree with your observations re: Compo and Taylor too.

      • Rabada made his name in the U19 WC where he took six wickets to knock out Australia.

        The next U19 WC is about to start in Bangladesh so let’s hope we discover some new stars of the future. I’m looking forward to seeing Sam Curran and Mason Crane for England and others who I haven’t heard of yet.

  • I wonder… if a certain other team had lost 7 wickets in an hour and lost a Test in such an unprofessional way… would we be talking about investigations, strange betting patterns, or bans?

    Well done Kagiso. You can only expose the numpties in front of you.

    • I had exactly the same thought. I totally believe England to be as clean as a whistle in that way, but it’s so easy to look at others askance when in a similar situations. I made a mental note to remember.

      • I agree Hales is not a test player. For me Bell has to return at three and put Compton as opener. Ballance bats five for Yorshire so he could replace Taylor if required but I would keep him for a while.

  • County cricket has a lot to answer for for the poor quality top order batsmen being produced (I discount white ball cricket, only tests matter.. The rest is pure money making).

    Ecb and the media seemed destined to love the likes of hales and co in the top order, and destroy anyone like Compton who attempts to bat properly. Of course, they like producing flat roads though which help white ball players do ok in test cricket.

    Anyway, SA were a poor side made poorer for the loss of steyn and philander for the series (steyn was injured first test so doesn’t really count), give England an easy ride with p SA in trouble off the field. On paper people will bull the series win up but tbh, if people are objective and honest it wasn’t a great win. A inconsistent and white ball focuses side best a side lacking true talent, fading stars and trouble off the field. Now to wait long months for tests

    • “County cricket has a lot to answer for for the poor quality top order batsmen being produced”

      Really? We’ve just beaten the number one side in Test cricket, but at the first opportunity we’re getting stuck into the county scene again? Winning a Test series away from home these days is a cause for celebration for anyone, particularly a four-test series in which you’ve lost three of the four tosses.

      Today was poor. No one can deny that. But this knee-jerk stuff – in the article above and in the comments – is as tedious as it is wrong-headed. We’re in good shape. We’ve got a very good coach with a very good deputy. We don’t ‘need’ three new batsmen. We’ll probably be looking for one come May to replace Hales if he doesn’t do something special for Notts. Bayliss – like Fletcher and Flower (before they both got a bit drunk on power) – backs the talent that he identifies. We’ve seen the benefits of that in this series and in years previous.

      The way people talk in the comments on here, the Guardian and Cricinfo, it seems there’s a passion to go back to the days of the summer of 1988 (28 players used, 4-0 Test series defeat) and 1989 (29 players used, 4-0 Test series defeat). Wholesale changes being demanded for every defeat. Fans – particularly English cricket fans – don’t do patience. But sometimes you have to at Test level, as various examples, from Flintoff and Prior through to Broad and Stokes, in recent years have shown. We’re in a much better position than we had any right to expect 12 months ago. One defeat – no matter how unacceptable – does not alter that.

      • As frustrating as this test has been, there’s a lot of sense being said here. England (at a team level) have very well for the first three tests and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

        Only change I would make is Hales out, Compton up, and Ballance / Vince in.

      • This SA team was/is beset by off field issues, under performing players, quotas and two of its star bowlers injured.. Hardly a ‘great’ series win.. Not like winning vs a fit steyn, morkal, philander and batting of smith, Kallis, ab, Amla etc. No, it’s positive but no closer to being a good test side.

        Way to many hit and miss players batting wise which is not good test batting. Feel free to huff and puff about how great winning is but this team is not a good test side

        • South Africa still had home advantage. They still won three tosses on deteriorating pitches. They still had Elgar, Amla, De Villiers, Morkel and the up-and-coming Bavuma and Rabada. We lost Anderson for one match, and Finn for another. And having seen Philander bowl in England last year, I’m really not convinced he would have made that much of a difference.

          You use ‘great’ in quote marks as if you’re quoting me. Except I never said great. You’re just making stuff up now to try to back up your piss weak argument. I said we’re in good shape. We are. I said that winning a series away at the number one ranked team in the world is cause for celebration. It is. Winning a test series away against any of the major test-playing teams is cause for celebration.

          We’re in good shape, but not ‘great’. We’re heading in the right direction too. Have you known England have the number one ranked batsman and bowler in Test cricket within the space of a few months of each other? I certainly haven’t. We have the nucleus of a very good team, but there’s still some way to go. No one would deny that. We still have weaknesses to iron out. But the negativity across so much of the cricket media yesterday and today is ridiculous. And as for getting stuck into county cricket at the first available opportunity… words fail me.

          • “” that’s quote marks

            I wasn’t quoting a word you said as I 100% disagee. County cricket is the learning area for tests and it’s failing to deliver ready batsmen capable of playing in the different positions

            No Openers coming through since cook
            No number 3 since ?? (Don’t count Trott as he was a saffa)
            No keeper (just look at how poor Bairstow and buttler are – although the fact reed and foster weren’t picked is a mystery)
            Fast bowlers seems to be ok but not that good given there are 18 counties

  • For me, there’s no asterisk against Rabada. You bowl at the batsmen facing you. No one puts an asterisk against Broad’s brilliant spell in Joburg because SA were poor. No one puts an asterisk against performances v West Indies (sorry, West Indians, but …). Rabada deserves every plaudit he gets, and I think we’re seeing the emergence of a new fast bowling star. England were poor at 3 key stages of this test: the first 2 sessions, then after the 7th wicket fell, in the first SA innings. And the 4th innings. SA saw the opportunity and barged straight through the door, and congratulations to them.

    • Hi James. I agree with much of that. I think you slightly misunderstand what I wrote about Rabada though – or perhaps I didn’t articulate it very well! There isn’t an astetix (a small one, maybe) against his figures because England were poor; it’s because England simply weren’t trying imho. There’s a subtle difference there.

      • I’m not sure England “weren’t trying”, but they certainly weren’t in “full test mode”. They’d already won the series and were probably mentally exhausted. This “dead rubber” issue affects all teams, though England are particularly suceptible (I seem to remember England winning a few against Australia in the 1990’s): it’s far worse when it’s a “live rubber” (eg Barbados).

        On Rabada, I can only hope SAf manage him better than WI have Kemar Roach (who seems to have lost 20k of pace) and Aus have Pat Cummins (who seems to be permanently injured).

        • I agree that managing Rabada is going to be a test for SA. The early twenties while the body is still growing seem a difficult time for many young pacemen.

          I hope they don’t expect him to be like Ntini. He was one of those bowlers like Courtney Walsh or Kapil Dev who seemed never to get injured.

  • A performance like this was always in the offing simply because of the inherent weaknesses in the team, discussed by others above and elsewhere in the batting lineup as well as the wicketkeeping and I’ll add to that spin bowling. To have 3 spots vulnerable, and these have been evident for some time no matter the personnel is going to become more evident when the mainstays fail.

    Indeed Cook can’t be exempt from criticism of his batting simply because this is yet another poor series against a good quality pace bowling attack. If you add this to the already failing players then you already have a large chunk of the top 7 that won’t consistently produce in exacting circumstances.

    There was talk in certain quarters, a message board that I post on, that after the win in Joburg that England might well be the best in the world in tests. Firstly the standard of test cricket is hardly in the rudest of health, secondly the performance of the team in the last year, 7 wins, 3 draws and 7 losses hardly gives one that impression.

    • I tend to agree. The general curve is upwards but it’s perhaps not as emphatic as some have suggested. There are still many weak spots in the team. 3 batsmen look a bit iffy and the spinner too.

      I suppose one’s perspective alters depending on whether you think this defeat, and the one at The Oval in the 5th Ashes test, were symptomatic of inherent weaknesses or simply a result of the team relaxing when the main job had been done.

  • I wonder if the selectors would consider picking a ‘proper’ wicketkeeper for next summer, perhaps someone like James Foster, given our depth (on paper at least) of batting? If he came in for Hales it probably wouldn’t cost us a lot in terms of actual runs scored, but should mean the bowlers need to create fewer chances to take 10 wickets.

    Compo could open, Bairstow move back into the top 5 and a 6/7/8 of Stokes/Foster/Ali would still be decent

    • Hi Loz. There’s been a bit of chat on social media about who the best keeper in the country is these days. Maybe it’s still Foster? I can’t think of someone who isn’t another batsman/keeper. I’d love to hear from Foakes fans. Is his keeping up to test standard?

    • Oh Loz, if only. I’d have picked him at the start of 2014 (or even a few years before) – added benefit that Bairstow/Buttler could play as a batsman and watch and learn. I saw Foster at the Oval last summer and he was like a Rolls Royce. Only he and Read are proper keepers for me.

      This touches a nerve. I believe England should pick their best player in every position. England have long aspired to picking 11 batsmen, a few of whom can bowl and one who knows which way round the keeper’s gloves fit.

      • I would have always selected Foster above Jos Buttler. The lad had so little real experience behind the stumps, being second to Keisy at Notts. It would have given him more time to bed in, improve his skills and be ready when the call came. He is a very talented player and throwing him in at the deep end has been a disadvantage to him. I am sad to see him on the side lines and hope he makes a return one day.

    • I liked the way Bairstow played in this series and he seemed happy playing at 7. What pleased me most was the way he adapted his game according to the game situation – in the first test, his second innings runs were fantastic, in the second test he supported Stokes and then accelerated latterly and in the 2nd innings provided some solidity when calamity was beckoning. Having been unconvinced by him as a batsman, I do like his guts, going back to his baptism of fire in 2012 against SA when he was called up with a supposed weakness against the short ball and made an impressive 95.

      His keeping was below par, but I suppose the key question is whether selectors feel that it’s a fault that can be improved. All his missed catches seemed to be a result of the little step to leg which left him struggling to make the ground to the ball.

      My feeling is that he’s worth persevering with for the 1st half of the summer – a combination of Jimmy, a Duke ball and English conditions is (hopefully) going to bring plenty of edges which will either make or break him….

      • I agree with all you say but I never forget Jos Buttler. He is so talented. If Bairstow fails to cut it I hope to see Jos back and in form.

        Bairstow has had a rough deal all in all, carrying the drinks for so long and I feel for him. He has deserved his chance and he’s batted very well. Time will tell.

    • Good digging. Sometimes I think his Beefiness is too chummy with the players to be objective. Obviously doesn’t practice what he preaches!

    • I remember it well. Everyone used to say Botham was a brilliant batsman – if only he’d take it more seriously.

      • He scored 5000 runs and 14 test tons – he was a cracking batsman and spent a significant amount of time in the Top 10 of the batting rankings.

  • Bayliss is in the funny position tonight of being very happy at an unexpected win against the number 1 side in the world , very angry at a poor performance in this test and a pathetic display today and very confused because after 7 tests this winter we haven’t found any answers to our issues.

    I think there are only 6 certain positions filled for the next test.
    Cook, Root, Stokes, Broad, Finn, Anderson
    Bairstow is certain of a place but in which position?

    The batting hasn’t come on and we could easily pick 3 new players in May.
    Mo although handy may not be required under slate grey Yorkshire skies.
    If we start with spin, we’d do well to prepare a couple of turners this summer in preparation for india.
    As for the batting I’m at a loss. Hales is not my idea of an opener, Compo is not my idea of a test match number 3 for the future and Taylor although there is a lot to like isn’t doing it.
    I maintain the best player (Root) should bat at 3, maybe we bring Bell & Ballance back at 4&5.
    We could do the strange thing and pick the player in the best form to open in the 1st test (whoever it is)

    Its been an odd year.

    • I think that’s a very good summary. Not sure about moving Root up to 3 but I’m naturally cautious about protecting our star asset. But who else can bat there? I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Vince but haven’t completely made up my mind yet.

    • only 6 certain positions filled for the next test.
      Cook, Root, Stokes, Broad, Finn, Anderson…

      Given Cook’s contributions this series, that’s pretty harsh on Compton, who averaged considerably more and made a match winning contribution in one of the tests.
      Atherton in today’s Times makes a similarly strange assessment, rating Cook and Compton 8/10 and 6/10 respectively for the series.
      Was Cook’s captaincy really so influential ?

      Pretty silly to think that Taylor, Moeen and Bairstow aren’t also certainties for the next test; whether they are certainties for the rest of the year is, of course, a quite different matter.

      • I’m amazed at that rating for Cook from Athers. Nasser gave him a 5 on Sky. I think 6 is about right for Compton. Re: potential changes to the team, there’s obviously a difference between what many think ‘should’ happen and what ‘will’ happen.

        • Yep, I was astounded too. Is that the captaincy equivalent of the fast bowlers’ union ?
          Anyhow, I don’t think any of the three I named ought to be dropped for the next test.
          Whether they should be around by the end of the summer is down to how they perform, and whether they can address some obvious shortcomings.

          Taylor has the technique, just needs to improve his mental approach; Bairstow will either improve his keeping technique or become a specialist batsman; Moeen… is something of a conundrum, but is without an obvious replacement (though I still have hopes of Rashid).

  • Always pick your best wicketkeeper.

    One mistake, or indeed one brilliant act, can make the difference between removing Bradman/ Tendulkar/ Lara for 0 or for 501.

    But what do I know.

    • Absolutely. I seem to remember Geraint Jones, although not the best keeper, “catching” Kasprovitch at Edgbaston with the Aussies 2 runs from victory. Wickets win matches.

  • Thanks to everyone for all your comments. It feels like TFT really is back!

    This site would be nothing without all your contributions, so I really appreciate it. Keep them coming :-)

  • Shahid Afridi is one of the best captain, pakistan can find. In the comming psl you will see an amazing performance by the team.You can watch PSL t20 live here .When it starts. Pakistan Performance will improve highly in the comming T20 Worldcup due to PSL. Afridi will play a major role in the next T20 Worldcup.


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