The dust settles – First Test in review

Because the weather is far too nice for us to be sat around inside at our computer writing blog posts, we thought we’d take something of a retrospective look at what might be described as the cricketing equivalent of the Battle of Isandlwana, i.e. the all-conquering imperial masters getting six-of-the-best, trousers down from the upstart inhabitants of Southern Africa. But now we’ve had a few days to react and get over the worst of the shellshock, here’s our reasoned thoughts:

1. Despite the apparent chasm between the sides, this was, actually, quite a close game. First things first, this pitch will now be used as a simile for flatness by future generations  (e.g. ‘That roadkill’s as flat as the Oval 2012’). As soon as the new ball wore off, it did next to nothing. Not to take anything away from Amla’s innings (about which, more in a minute), or Kallis’s, or Smith’s, or Cook’s, but the wicket was so slow as to allow run-scoring almost at will.

2. England lost the game in two key sessions – firstly when the ball was hooping around in perfect swinging conditions on Friday morning and secondly when the batsmen had just spent two days standing in the field on Sunday (or in Jonathan Trott’s case, running from fine leg to fine leg…). That said, there were some pretty poor shots in there. In the first innings, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, and Bopara all got themselves out, in the second it was Strauss, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bopara and Prior. Fewer daft shots and England could quite comfortably have saved this game.

3. Amla’s innings was, nevertheless, majestic. Quite apart from the easy nature of the pitch, his reserves of concentration, the deftness of his strokeplay and the sense of disdain he appeared to constantly exude towards England’s bowlers made for a truly memorable knock. There’s a reason why only 22 players have ever scored a triple ton in Tests and that’s because it’s bloody hard. Well done him.

4. What does everybody have against Jacques Kallis? The bloke is quite comfortably in the top five all-rounders of all time. Although he’s played 153 Tests, longevity of itself is not a mark of greatness (Nasser Hussain played 96 Tests, for pity’s sake), so we’re not going to throw runs and wickets at you. Instead, put on this piece of music and read slowly through these lists:

A short list of players who have a worse Test batting average than Kallis (20+ innings): Sir Jack Hobbs, Kumar Sangakkara, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Len Hutton, Tendulkar, Greg Chappell, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting, Javed Miandad, Rahul Dravid, Sunil Gavaskar, Steve Waugh, Sir Vivian Richards.

A short list of players who have a worse Test bowling average than Kallis: Harbhajan Singh, Daniel Vettori, Abdul Qadir, Sir Garfield Sobers, Andrew Flintoff, Chris Martin, Mushtaq Ahmed, Tony Greig, Lance Cairns, Lasith Malinga.

A long list of players who have fewer Test hundreds than Kallis: Everyone, ever, except Sachin Tendulkar

Now, maybe we’re just idiots, but having one of the best batting records of all time and having a better bowling record than some pretty damn fine (even world class at times) bowlers should probably get you some praise. Meh. Maybe it’s the dodgy hairdo. Perhaps we’ll address this in a longer post at some point.

5. There was just something not quite right about England’s bowlers, notwithstanding the pitch. Broad and Bresnan are not massive swingers of the ball, even when conditions are right, and they certainly weren’t here. Both were chucking the ball down at a very military 79-81mph and the batsmen had all the time in the world to spank it. The whispers have been that all of Broad, Bresnan and Swann were carrying injuries into the match and certainly all of them weren’t quite as sharp as they could have been, although we concede that Swann was defeated by the slowness of the pitch and excellent plans by the Saffers. With England seeking a win, we expect one of Finn or Onions to come in for Bresnan at Headingley.

6. With the Olympics nearly in full flow, it is a reminder that there is a lot more sport out there than this great game we call cricket. Over the next two weeks, the world’s fastest, strongest and most technically proficient sportsmen and women (except for in football – what a ridiculous Olympic sport) will compete, win and lose. At the same time though, for us it is also a reminder that cricket is a sport that is not just limited to the biggest and strongest, as some sports are. Many of the greatest batsmen have been vertically challenged, some of the great bowlers (particularly spinners) slight, unathletic-looking and even occasionally physically deformed. Cricket is a great leveller – the short, thin batsman can defeat the tall, strapping fast bowler; the diminutive bowler can dismiss the broad-shouldered big-hitter –  and it is just one reason why cricket is an utterly brilliant sport. Good luck to all those competing in the Olympics.

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