Day three at Headingley

Good test match, this. And not a bad one for batsmen whose names begin with ‘P’ and end with ‘etersen’.

Compared to the dreary, run-swamped one-sidedness of the Oval, this has been proper test cricket – hard fought, and with ebb and flow. When one side has threatened to take charge, the other has responded. This is what cricket between us and South Africa is meant to be like.

Before Kevin Pietersen’s fireworks, our batsmen yesterday had several opportunities to put us firmly in front. Strauss, Trott, and to a lesser extent Bell, had all got themselves set only to then squander their opportunity through a combination of carelessness and mistakes, although in fairness the efficient Saffer bowling also played a part.

In a way, the worst score for a test batsman to make is 30-something. By that stage, you are properly ‘in’; you’ve accomplished the hardest part and can now consolidate. There are too many 30s on our batting card in this innings.

What’s currently separating us from South Africa, with the bat, is partly patience and application, but mainly mistake-making. The Saffers just don’t do it – and at the Oval, to an almost inhuman degree.

Much has already been said about KP’s astonishing performance. Mercurial and enigmatic are cliched, over-used words in sport, but if they apply to anyone, it’s KP. He has become more erratic and unpredictable as his career progressed, oscillating wildly from the bizarre to the sublime. Last week, I gently suggested that he’s losing his marbles. But yesterday he reminded us that he’s only ever one innings away from something brilliant and unique which can turn an entire match in our favour.

For all that’s written and speculated about KP’s poor cricketing politics, and his uncertain future, he’s demonstrated again just how much we’ll miss him one day. He is unlike any other England batsman I have ever witnessed, capable of things no one else could possibly perform.

What did you make of James Taylor? I thought he did rather well. In some ways, the pressure on him was reduced because expectations were low. In other ways the pressure was very much on due to the match situation. And he responded pretty impressively, remaining reasonably calm and collected and managing not to panic. You want a debutant to appear to have reasonable mental strength, and for me he ticked that box at least.

As for today, it’s very important for us to get a lead, even if only a small one. This match is most likely headed for a draw, but nonetheless a first innings lead gives us a minor moral victory, changes the balance of power, and psychologically puts South Africa on the back foot ahead of Lord’s.

Could there still be a result? Two early wickets today and we’ll be in trouble. But if KP and Prior enjoy a very brisk first hour – you never know

Maxie Allen


  • Another classic TFT about-face here, this time on James Taylor. It’s like reading The Sun!

  • Taylor looked like a tail ender propping up an end while the batsmen gets the runs. He looked very nervous to begin with, could have edged any number of deliveries that sailed past his outside edge, and got very bogged down. Swann could have made 32 remember! It’s a bit early to pass judgement. At least he showed determination though.

    As for TFT about face, give ’em a break! You can only get 11 into a team, and the majority wanted swann and Finn to play. The point about leaving out swann was valid. England have still fielded an unbalanced team in this game, and 32 runs from a youngster doesn’t change that fact. How many runs difference would swann have made with both bat, ball and slip fielding? However, having stuck it out in difficult circumstances Taylor deserves some credit. Nobody is saying ‘Taylor is world class and clearly should have played instead of Finn / Swann’. Now that would be a U-turn!

    • Impressive cricket knowledge from Maxie’s mum there but you’re not fooling anyone!

      An about-face = an about-face = an about-face.

  • Don’t feed the trolls! Struggling to see why saying Taylor did quite well makes Maxie a hypocrite. It was me who said swann should have played ahead of him, and I stand by that 100%. Having said that, once a guy is in the team you have to support him 100%. No point hoping he gets a duck just to prove a point. Nobody wants SA to win!

    It will be interesting to see what team we pick if we need to square the series at lords. I will want Swann to play in the 3rd test no matter how many runs Taylor does or doesn’t score in the 2nd inns.

    Interestingly, I wonder how the people who wanted KP dropped are feeling this morning!

    • It will be difficult to continue to take TFT seriously if, like the labour party, you intend to hold radically different positions on every subject.

      • Neale – TFT is a blog written by several very different people, all entitled to their own and differing opinions. That’s what makes it a good and entertaining read. They don’t need a party line!

        Add to the (cricketing) debate if you want to, otherwise leave the comments to those have something interesting to add.

  • Err why? Do the daily telegraph and the times etc insist that Atherton, boycott (indeed all their journalists) have exactly the same views. I suggest you read north Korean political blogs. They’ll be right up your street! Meanwhile, when was the last time botham and Gower agreed on anything? I don’t see skys audiences going down the pan.

    There will always be a five bowler versus four bowler divide in the media, in the same way fans are divided on the issue. Personally I can see both sides of the argument. On the one hand Taylor protected his wicket well, but on the other hand he only got 12 more runs than bopara got (and got out in exactly the same manner). Four bowlers has worked well for England against Australia, but any sixth batsman eng pick will be an inferior batsman to prior anyway, as this test has clearly shown. There is no right way or wrong way, it’s all just opinion – which is what makes sport great!


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