Blogging about cricket is more difficult than you might think. We’ve got to differentiate ourselves from the mainstream journos. One way to do that is to write purely from the heart. Let all those familiar emotions – the hopes, fears, blind optimism and excessive pessimism – run rampant. Nobody comes to sports blogs to read comparatively bland copy that strives for professional objectivity. It’s the visceral nature of blogs, with their strong opinions and heart-on-their-sleeve honesty, that attracts their core audience.
Unfortunately however, this leaves bloggers more vulnerable than most to the absurdities of cricket: when thoroughly unexpected and inexplicable events make bold predictions and emotional assumptions seem foolish. Today was just the latest example. No sooner had I expressed what many England supporters were thinking yesterday – that this awful pitch had condemned the game to a boring draw – than a flurry of wickets set up a tense and enthralling finale … until the weather buggered it all up, of course.
I guess we should’ve known. We’ve been around long enough to know that anything is possible with the England cricket team. We’re past masters at turning impregnable positions into shaky ones. The most surprising thing about today’s events was that I was even remotely surprised we collapsed pitifully and almost lost. I guess I forgot myself.
Anyway, at least this latest (near) disaster could be somewhat explained. The pitch might have been the same one that made batting stupidly easy on the first four days, but conditions were entirely different this morning: the weather rolled in and the ball started to swing. Having played its part in reducing England to 159-6, at the least the weather had the common decency to rescue us though. We might have been within touching distance of safety when the rain arrived anyway, but it was still a relief to see the final session wiped out. Phew! That was too close.
Because of today’s batting collapse, it’s hard to tell which side has more momentum heading into Joburg. England obviously bossed the first two days, and it was South Africa hanging on for survival for most of this match, but their batsmen would’ve gained a lot of confidence from days three and four.
I fear the most important aspect of this match was the return to form of Hashim Amla. He’s a quality player and England really needed to keep him quiet. It gives teams so much confidence when the captain is in good nick.
England’s captain, on the other hand, might be heading in the wrong direction. Cook’s head position doesn’t seem quite right again, and he’s leaning over to the offside a little too much. Let’s hope he can correct the issue before the third test. With Dale Steyn likely to return at Joburg, we’ll need our best players back in form.
Both teams can take a lot of positives from this game. England will be delighted with Stokes and Bairstow, and pleased that Anderson came through a tough match unscathed. he should swing the ball at the Wanderers and could play a crucial role.
South Africa meanwhile will be absolutely delighted with their fightback. They’ve finally managed to score collective runs – even if they came on something of a featherbed – and they might be spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting their attack for Joburg. I was actually very impressed with Harris’s debut, so it will be interesting who they pick if both Steyn and Abbott are fit.
*** Just in: Hashim Alma has stepped down as South Africa’s captain. He wants to concentrate on his batting. I feel it’s the right decision. He didn’t seem like a natural captain at all and has obviously come to realise his limitations. AB de Villiers is taking over for the rest of the series.
Personally I think this move will strengthen the Cricket Boks and reinvigorate them further for the 3rd test. It’s going to be a great series from here. Thoughts?