I know, as soon as you read the title, you would’ve thought “this guy’s coming to conclusions based on just 2 tests”, but, in fact, I’ve been thinking the same way even before the series started.
The reason is, we all know that England escaped out of jail against New Zealand in the tests because they lacked the players to apply the finishing touches. It was clearly seen in the second test, where they conceded a lead of nearly 180-odd after the first innings. However, NZ, being unfamiliar in a position of utter dominance, collapsed like a pack of cards, and so England had their work cut out.
The same can be said of the 3rd test, although the eventual result made it look like an outright win when it was anything but! A good partnership between Tim Ambrose (who ended up making his 2nd century) and someone else (I think Kev Pietersen) rescued them from 82/5 and they ended up making 370-something, which proved too much for NZ.
However, South Africa is anything but pushovers! They just came from an extremely tough series against India in India, where they emerged with their reputation intact! The poor performance of their quickies in the first test can be attributed to yet another flatbed @ HQ, but they showed their true mettle in the second test, and, believe me, I don’t think SA will let the advantage slip this time around! Their team is well – complemented in all departments, and its going to take some really good cricket (and some tough selection decisions) from the selectors to get them back on track.
The first selection decision would be whether to continue with a 5-man bowling attack. Whether it’s in tests or ODIs, you need an extremely good top and middle – order (who are in form) if you’re gonna have 5 bowlers. Though Flintoff is adamant that he’s a batting all-rounder, his recent records suggests that he is a bowler (only) and so it would be better to consider him as one when selecting the team. Tim Ambrose hasn’t really found his way around in the batting department, so it would be better if they dropped a bowler and got another batsman in (obviously Paul Collingwood).
Who to drop is the problem! Pattinson’s obviously gonna make way for Sidebottom, but I feel that Broad should be sent back to county cricket to work on his bowling. Actually, I’d prefer that he work on his batting because his scores really suggest that he’s really talented. I had the good fortune of finding time to watch this match, and Broad’s innings in the 2nd innings oozed of class! Deftly placed shots, he looks every bit a batsman, and perhaps he should revert to batting rather than trying to make a living as a bowler!
I have to talk about Pattinson’s selection too! What a stupid one it is! After all, Chris Tremlett was selected when Sidebottom complained of back stiffness, and I have no idea as to how on earth Pattinson can get the nod! The England selectors should realise that the ‘horses for courses’ approach with regard to Headingley tests isn’t working (with the exception of Sidebottom and 4th umpire for the match, Niel Mallender, who took 8 wickets). They should’ve taken Chris Tremlett, who really adds venom to the attack!