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First day to the hosts

Jonathan Agnew | 18:30 UK time, Thursday, 10 July 2008

The opening day of this much-anticipated England - South Africa series lived up to its billing in every way.

Hard-fought and determined cricket from both sides produced a day which ended with England comfortably ahead on points having been put into bat on a pitch that had been sweating under the covers for two days.

Kevin Pietersen, Mark Boucher

Early in his innings, Kevin Pietersen was hit on the head by Dale Steyn to add spice to that particular side show. Pietersen then batted brilliantly as he and Ian Bell rescued England from a potential collapse.

South Africa's much-vaunted pace attack failed to make the most of the morning session because they all bowled too short. Steyn was so out of sorts that South Africa captainGraeme Smith only gave him three overs, but Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini were equally to blame, and this helped Andrew Strauss - who batted very well - and Alastair Cook to negotiate what should have been a tricky morning.

It required a poor umpiring decision to part the openers, with Darryl Harper failing to see that the delivery from Morkel to Strauss landed comfortably outside the leg stump. It is never easy for umpires, and Strauss did not help himself by moving a long way to the off-side, but right-arm bowlers almost always need to make the ball either swing or seam into a left-hander to get an lbw decision from over the wicket, and this ball did not do either.

In the next over, Michael Vaughan was cleaned up by Steyn (no-one has mentioned the captain's recent record when debating the man who must make way for Andrew Flintoff). And it was 3-3 in 13 balls when Cook was surprised by Morkel's extra bounce, and fended a catch to slip for 60.

Bell started very positively - "drop me if you dare" was the message to the selectors with Flintoff waiting in the wings - driving elegantly through the off-side, but it was Pietersen who cut loose by attacking the left-arm spinner, Paul Harris, scoring 20 from two overs. If it does come down to a battle between the spinners at Headingley, and at The Oval in particular, Harris should not be capable of holding a candle to Monty Panesar. It would certainly be in England's interests for the pitches to encourage a battle between the two spinners.

This pitch might well be faster with more bounce on the second and third days as it dries out, and England are now well placed - with Pietersen so driven and Bell so determined - to post a formidable first-innings total.


  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent blog post but on the issue of who will Flintoff replace I'd like to make a few points.

    It should be a bit obvious after 20 odd years of seeing excellent test batsmen succumb to the curse of being England Captain that it is very hard (if not impossible) to be a good Captain AND be a good batsman. Atherton, Hussain and even Vaughn have suffered from this in the past. Its something we need to get used to and I think Vaughn's record of being one of the most successful England Captains speaks for himself. The man is safe. End of discussion.

    Also, in a previous blog posting, you referred to your dislike of heavy competition for places, pointing to the fact that it'll make batsmen much more conservative and more afraid to take risks.

    This underlines the typical English attitude, compare this to Australia where they'd be critical of competition for places in a completely different light, pointing to the fact that it might force batsmen to take *more* risks, not less.

    I disagree with both, but it does show that we as a cricketing nation continue to be negative, conservative and reluctant to make any kind of change which would ruffle the existing establishment. Thus, I think its great that there is genuine competition for places, end the culture of the so called selectors favorites and lets select on form and ability and not just on squad stability.

  • Comment number 2.

    It was a very intriguing first day indeed. I was very impressed with Bell in particular this afternoon. He played a very careful innings, punching out a bit of agression when necessary. Here's hoping he goes on tomorrow morning.

    Interesting mention of a potential spin-off between Monty and Harris. I'll be very interested to see how Harris performs at the Oval.

    It's worth noting how well the South Africans bowled after lunch, though. They were woeful before lunch, but they did manage to sort themselves out afterwards. Also, did you notice how much more comfortable Steyn was bowling to the right-handers? He seemed to struggle for a line against the lefties...

  • Comment number 3.

    Agnew, on Tuesday: A batsman playing for his place can be a hideous spectacle as he clings to the crease, fearful of taking the slightest risk.

    I can only assume that Ian Bell does not, therefore, feel he is playing for his place ;^) I have to admit that when 3 quick wickets tumbled I was worried about a disastrous collapse, but what a brilliant response from Bell and Pietersen.

    I think it would be harsh to talk about dropping Vaughan *on the basis of this performance* when by all accounts he got a good one early on, but I also worry that he sometimes seems immune from being dropped just because he is captain. Collingwood, Pietersen and Strauss must all be good candidates to step into the breach if required (not to mention Freddie, unless he is still in the doghouse over the "Fredalo" incident!), and we shouldn't be afraid of dropping Vaughan if he is genuinely out-of-form.

    I also think it's premature to talk of Fred definitely coming in for the second test - he must not only physically come through this week's four-dayer, but also perform well with *at least* the ball. It seems to me that he not only needs to prove he is a better choice than one of the bowlers currently "in posession" but also that he is the best replacement - Simon Jones *must* come into contention if the selectors are looking to replace a bowler! I suppose ideally for the selectors they need Collingwood to bat badly and one of the seamers to be ineffective - then they could bring back Fred at 6 and Simon Jones at the bottom of the order!!

    Given England's good start to the match, if they go on to win with all the bowlers performing well, can they justify changing the team at all? All the talk prior to the match was about consistent selection and this group of players developing into a unit - it would seem rather hypocritical to change the team just to bring Fred back in - particularly if they win the match! It seems to me that an England win would actually be more fo a headache for the selectors than an England loss!

  • Comment number 4.

    scaryjim is absolutely right. Vaughan can't be dropped on the basis of this performance. Not everyone can make a big score in the same innings.

    However, I would feel much happier if Vaughan was batting at #4. He's played very well there since he's been captain. I don't know the stats but I'm sure he's made much more runs at 4 than at 3.

    But then again, we can't complain. 308-3 is a great score on Day 1, having been put in. Let's hope Bell kicks on for a century, and we can look forward to more of the same tomorrow.

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with Pressyuk, Vaughan should not be dropped whatsoever. He has been and is an excellent captain, removing him would harm the team not help it. There's some youngsters in this team and they will benefit from Vaughan's professionalism and experience.

    I can't really see why anyone wants to change the team too much. England have performed brilliantly of late and for me it's a simple choice, Collingwood for Flintoff. Colly could probably do with some time out and he won't lose much confidence because he's still captain of the one-day team.

  • Comment number 6.

    Why is there talk about a batsmen being dropped for Flintoff? Flintoff is a bowler who can bat a bit, not the other way around as anyone who has seen his scores recently and before he got injured would realise.

    Flintoff coming in at 6 would make our batting extremely weak. To bat at 6 you need to be able to score centuries; when was his last?

    Collingwood should be dropped and Shah given a few tests to prove himself. He deserves the chance and Colly is so out of touch he can count himself very lucky to still be in the team - maybe its due to him being one day captain.

    Flintoff for Broad when he is fit, which would be unfortunate for Broad but Anderson just edges him in my opinion. Bit too early for Jones I think, take him on the winter tour and go from there.

  • Comment number 7.

    I rate Vaughan highly as a captain and as a batsman. But does anyone else feel that recently he has been dismissed playing across the line (including his dismissal by Harmison in the county game).

    As for Flintoff surely a decent bowling performance by this team could keep him waiting in the wings a bit longer motivating him further to comeback as the new Freddie. before letting him loose on the SA's build the tension!

  • Comment number 8.

    Really pleased for Bell today, I've always been a fan but even i was begining to think that he might need a break from test cricket if he continued to underperform. I understand what a few people have said about Vaughan - he has done a fantastic job as England captain, his winning record is superb but it is a bit dangerous to say he is undroppable. I personally believe that if England are going to challenge Australia next year they cannot afford to be carrying anyone. Vaughan needs a big score or two in this series otherwise his place may become untennable even if England are successful in the series.

    However in the short term, if Freddie is fit and bowls well for Lancs this week, it will either be Colly to make way, unless he gets some runs in this match, or between Broad and Anderson, depending on who has a bad 1st test with the ball.

  • Comment number 9.

    i was at Lord's today. the SA bowlers didn't bother to bowl on the wicket and allowed the English batsmen to settle. After lunch G Smith persisted with the spinner even tho KP hit him for several boundaries... played into England's hands
    first blood to England

  • Comment number 10.

    Psst, Aggers, what's with the Vaughan comment?

    The reason why "no-one has mentioned the captain's recent record when debating the man who must make way for Andrew Flintoff" is because Vaughan was one of our best batsman in the last series we played and has been one of our best batsman full stop since his return from injury.

  • Comment number 11.

    I would be really interested to see the stats on Vaughan's dismissals. It seems to me that he is castled more than most International No.3's (supposedly the teams best batsmen). If this is the case it does suggest a fundamental flaw in technique, rather than lack of concentration or other factors.

    Having said that, I would still keep him in as Skipper for the moment. Back him to produce at least one ton this series. As suggested above, if Flintoff is to rejoin the team then it has to be at the expense of an existing bowler, not a batsmen. Based on wicket taking alone it would suggest that Broad is the most likely candidate. His batting has impressed, but he is supposed to be part of a quartet capable of taking 20 wickets in a match.

    For me the spin factor is going to be one of the most interesting of the series. Monster is a true international quality spinner, and from the looks of today, Harris falls some way short of that mark.

    Great day's play for the home team. More tomorrow please and let's pray for good weather!

  • Comment number 12.

    Great maturity from KP today, which bodes well for his upcoming one-day captaincy (at least something does!). There was a lot of pressure and added build up to him playing his first Test against SA, but he did brilliantly. Oddly enough, I think the SA's relative lack of chatter was an admirable ploy (and let's see more of that from all Test teams please), but it also probably allowed KP to forget about the history and focus on the cricket. Great start from England against a top side.

  • Comment number 13.

    Congrats to KP. Strauss, Cook and Bell have looked solid. There is plenty of batting yet to come from the lower middle order. Day One has belonged to the home side.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 14.

    Watching Vaughan reminds me a lot of the Mike Brearley era. His actual contribution to the performance of the team has been negligible for several years, apart from the captaincy. Can England afford the luxury of a captain advising the other ten how to go about winning test matches? Personally, I think not.

    If you look at the ball that got through him today, it was like watching an action replay of several previous dismissals. The look of bewilderment after the event trying to detract from the lack of movement during the event.

    The time for a change in captaincy is imminent. Strauss did it quite effectively. Flintoff did it quite ineffectively. Pieterson should not be asked to do it!! Collingwood should be put on the same bus as Vaughan back to the counties.

    Sorry to be so hard-hearted at the end of such a fine day for England, but the frailties of England's batting cannot be glossed over by a superb KP ton.

    England have had a very shaky middle order for several seasons. Even going back to the great Ashes series the last time the Aussies came over, most of the plaudits were taken by the fabulous seam attack, which sadly is no longer firing.

    KP has emerged as something a bit special, almost manic. The rest of the middle order simply cannot be relied upon to do the business on a day to day basis. The 40+ averages mask the need to unearth new talent at the test match level. England would certainly benefit and we could all enjoy more days like today, without necessarily looking to KP as the provider.

  • Comment number 15.

    Don't understand why Vaughn is in the team.
    Collingwood is a far better player when captain.
    'Freddy' will also do us proud!
    Does the fallout of 'Yorkshire' cheating affect the England captain; maybe it should!
    Lets hope it remains dry though do not bet on it.
    Finally please get rid of boring, repetitive Boycott; no wonder Cricket suffered a downturn during his playing days!
    Could well do the same whilst he is in the chair, even the dog yawns and she only understands French.
    Here is for a great series.

  • Comment number 16.

    Aggers did Vaughan upset you in a previous life - obviously there are two reasons why no one else has been daft enough to suggest removing Vaughan when Fred comes back:

    1. Fred is no longer a top six batsman, so your point is..well pointless, you may as well talk about dropping Ambrose for Flintoff

    2. Vaughan is comfortably the most successful England cricket captain of the past 25 years - you may not think this requires any degree of skill or value, the rest of us do

    Your comments seriously undermine your credibility as a serious commentator and smack more of some sort of personal vendetta

  • Comment number 17.

    Have to agree with those who have argued that Vaughan's captaincy skills leave him almost undroppable. To replace him would leave the team significantly weaker in that regard and I think it would take england a long time for england to recover the self-assurance and confidence that his presence engenders.

    However, an international team seeking sustained success requires a number 3 who can score centuries on a consistant basis, dig his team out of holes and change the course of the game. Vaughan no longer seems capable of meeting these needs so why not move him down the order, where the demands placed on his role as a batsman would not be quite so great? I understand there is no outstanding candidate to replace him in the order (given KP's preference for the number 4 spot) but it is a position in which we should be looking to develop a player for the long-term.

  • Comment number 18.

    It won't be long before there is an overwhelming cry for Pietersen to replace Vaughan as captain.

  • Comment number 19.

    I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Bell today. This must be his first England innings where he has been responsible for winning back momentum in quite difficult circumstances. Previously he has always looked very good but rarely demonstrated that he has been able to adapt his batting to the circumstances of a game, and even more rarely performed well under pressure.

    Overall this was a great day for England and a poor one for South Africa - Graeme Smith once again demonstrated himself to be a fairly poor strategist, and Steyn and Morkel were deeply underwhelming save for a few patches. To dwell on the England negatives as is our wont, Cook was clearly rattled by Morkel's pace once he got his line and length right and Vaughan was bowled in a manner he has been bowled far too many times before.

  • Comment number 20.

    Some curious comments about Michael Vaughan.

    "His contribution to the side apart from the captaincy has been almost negligible" - As captain he has an average of 37.3 and 9 hundreds (about one every 10 innings). The average is not brilliant, but it is not as low as some people think. And a century every 10 innings is pretty acceptable for a specialist: it equates to a century in each 5-match series. His average would be a lot better but for a dreadful record in his 10 Tests as captain v South Africa where he averages just over 22 without a century.

    Does he do better lower down the order? Well, batting at 1-3 he averages 37.8 as captain, slightly better than his overall average since taking over from Nasser Hussain. Batting in the middle order (4-7) he averages 35.4: significantly poorer.

    Does he get bowled a lot? Here the numbers are curious. Yes, he has been bowled 14 times since he became captain, no less than 9 of them in England. In innings where he is bowled he averages just 24.6 (playing across the line early in his innings????)

    He has been lbw 8 times and in those innings averages just 16.3.

    22 bowled or lbw with a very low average in those innings does suggest a technical weakness early on in his innings.

  • Comment number 21.

    Seems funny to pick on Vaughan when, y'know, he was England's second best batsman behind Strauss in the last Test series against New Zealand.

  • Comment number 22.

    What a good day. Unusual, in the fact Eng were in command for the majority of the first day, which I didn't expect when I walked into the ground.

    I want Fred in for Collingwood (short of runs at test level and may be better to focus on limited overs) and Jones in for Jimmy (too inconsistent and relies on conditions being absolutely right), but am happy to reserve judgement. If we win and they both perform like Bell has so far this test, then there can be little argument to change and also would show the benefit of competition for places.

  • Comment number 23.

    Flintoff needs to prove himself fit enough to bowl for lancashire before hes considered for england let him get a 100 overs in then he can play the one dayers if he hasn't broken down again which i hope he doesn't.

    Vaughan is definately under pressure for his place both as captain and batsman he should however now see this series out.

    For once our batsmen have performed on day one we now need them to rub it well in and set a formidable total.

    Change of team now apart from for injury would be counter productive in my humble .

  • Comment number 24.

    I totally agree with 'Davedids' (#6) in that Flintoff is a bowler first so why is Vaughan, a batsman, at risk of being replaced by him? If Flintoff was a batsman first why the waiting for him to bowl some more?

    Anyway my other comment is that, from what I 'saw' while following the match on the web, Bell played a great inning today; first he scored quickly and then he dialed it back and played second fiddle as KP took over. He even tried to protect KP at the end and keep the strike. A very good and intelligent inning from my perspective.

  • Comment number 25.

    It is amazing how people go on about KP not being a team player(not to day I should add) Yet he always seems to be part of big partnerships. This is important and a hugh ket too winning games. Bell and him play well together I guess they complement each other.

  • Comment number 26.

    Even if we forget about Vaughan's record as captain and concentrate on his batting. Sinnce coming back from injury he averages 41.69. in the 5 series since his return he has averaged 62.75, 49.16, 35.83, 20.50 and 50.00. Thats one poor series, an average one in SL (where everyone was average) and 3 pretty damn good ones.

    In that same period Collignwood - a player i much admire - averages 35.50. Bell, a man with great talent, averages 35.87. Clearly, if any batsmen are under pressure, its these two. likewise, if there places ARE under pressure, it should be from someone like Owais Shah, not Flintoff who has shown less form with the bat in the this time period than Tuffers after a bender. If Flintoff is to come in - and has he proven that he can operate fully as part of a 4 man attack? - it must be for a bowler.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'd like to know which Michael Vaughan people have been watching recently. His form over the last couple of years has been terrible. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally and one or two big scores amongst a plethora of woefully slow low ones shouldn't save our erstwhile Captain.

    He's often been found completely out of ideas if our bowlers aren't cutting the mustard. Most of the recent tremendous displays against other teams have been crackerjack bowling, not clever field placement.

    Ah well. He knows as well as I do that he wont be dropped. Not that it should be for the walking wicket/wounded thing that is Flintoff.

  • Comment number 28.

    in my opinion, the team, for the next test, should be

    Strauss (c)

    flintoff offers 90mph bowling, reverse swing, and some aggression (which is seriously lacking from the current bowling quartet). If played as part of a four man attack, his batting is an additional bonus. Also, batting him at 8 means that it is more than likely that he'll end up batting with the tail, which is when he performs most sucessfully with the bat.

    Jones reverse swing is vital, and has proven to be a thorn in the australian side, giving that we should be building for the Ashes, just a year away. The only concern with Jones is his vulnerability to injury, which if it does happen (touch wood) there is always an in form Harmy, broad, and Hoggard. Hoggard performed at a consistently high level for season after season, one average game against New Zealand and he is completely out of the picture. How many average games has Anderson had against that same New Zealand team?

    Ramprakash's runs can no longer be ignored, especially as vaughan continually fails with the bat. Strauss is a more than able skipper in Vaughan’s absence.

    Collingwood is not only failing with the bat, he looks out of form. Shah has been waiting in the wings long enough, and has not been given a run in the test team yet.

    Prior has been in good form with the bat this year, and his inclusion gives much needed batting strength down the order. Ambrose looked not up to facing an extremely average NZ side (and im half kiwi). Playing prior, given his recent performances with the bat, allow the a five man attack, with prior at 6, flintoff at 7.

  • Comment number 29.

    Vaughan's batting is poor at the moment. People are saying he cannot survive on his captaincy alone. But there is another avenue to be explored in his game: bowling. He used to bowl decent off breaks, playing an emergency "collingwood" role if the main attack wasn't firing, to a much greater effect than Pietersen's bowling. If his batting isn't enough to keep him in the team, then maybe he could experiment with a part all round role. This would take the pressure off Flintoff's ankle if Fred plays in a four man attack, and leave no excuse for dropping collingwood (temporarily) bak to the counties. And if vaughan just happens to hit a double century of seasons past with the bat, then its a bonus on top of his superb captaincy and decent off breaks. I don't understand why he chooses never to bowl himself any more, and I think if he is going to remain at test level its an option that could prolong his career in the England side, which could be key in the ashes series.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm afraid it has to be Aggers pet who makes way for Flintoff. It may do Broad some good to spend a bit of time in county cricket. I agree he has been impressive though but he needs to take more wickets to cement a place as a bowler.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dead right. After all, MV's last four innings prior to this Test have been 106, 30, 48 and 16. Not a single start... Desperate, desperate run of scores.

  • Comment number 32.

    TomH93 (post 28) above wants 5 changes to the team that has just won 4 out of 5 Tests.

    Wonder what he'd do if they were losing .....

  • Comment number 33.

    Anybody who suggests Vaughan needs dropping needs to go out and face that delivery a hundred times. I doubt you'd hit it once.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'm at a loss to understand this obsession with squeezing Flintoff back into the team at any cost. He's got no fitness, he's had no match practice, there's no reliability, no form, and he won't score a run.

    Clearly Simon Jones is far ahead of him in terms of fitness and form, and if a change has to be made it should be a choice of Jones or Anderson.

    Stop banging on about the teacher's favourite pet and look at the facts. End of story.

    Freddie can come back over the winter, if he can rediscover how to bat or show for Lancashire that he can bowl better than one of the others.

    Steve M

  • Comment number 35.

    Why have South Africa sent a bunch of kids to do a man's job? They're as bad as the Aussies - hyping up their pace attack as the best thing since the proverbial sliced bread. They clearly have a lot to learn yet.

  • Comment number 36.

    Both Bell *and* Pietersen needed to perform in this Test, and rather than 'clinging to the crease fearful of taking risks' they got on with the job. Let's not get too carried away though, nothing in the commentary I heard seemed to suggest that the bowling was anything special and the wicket certainly wasn't bowler-friendly on Day 1. Considering Geoff Boycott's old mum could've scored a ton on that pitch (I'm sure he said so at least once!) it would have been disappointing to say the least if one of our batsmen hadn't. It's early days yet.

  • Comment number 37.

    Ramprakash's runs can no longer be ignored, especially as vaughan continually fails with the bat. Strauss is a more than able skipper in Vaughan?s absence.

    sorry, what runs? a year ago, you'd have a case, but as soon as he hit 99 centuries, he started choking and the runs stopped coming. his runs don't need to be ignored, theyre just not there.

  • Comment number 38.

    Flintoft was asked into the nets the otherday to help with bowling, not batting......

    does this not answer the question to

    "who is at risk from his inclusion?"

  • Comment number 39.

    The prize for the first person mentioning a return to test cricket for Ramprakash goes to TomH93.

    His prize is a 'Doctor who' tardis so he can go back in time and see just how bad Ramps was in the high pressure world of test cricket.

    Two more points

    1) Drop Vaughan ??? Mark Taylor had several barren patches during his test career and some very ordinary innings whilst captain, but did the aussies drop him?

    Vaughan is the best captain in the world and a very fine batsmen indeed. The England side is far weaker when he is not in it.

    2) where are all the "pieterson is overrated" crowd these days eh??

  • Comment number 40.

    I find extremely hard hrd to believe that making any changes to the current side will have any positive effect on the England team.
    There is an old saying that if it isnt broke dont try and fix it.
    I am amazed by the negativaty shown by numorous people on this blog page.
    Vaughn to be dropped is a hidious remark as he consistantly has hi big scores in hard fought matches, and broad and anderson have bowled resnobaly well.
    people deserve to have a good run in the team, five or ix matche is not adequat.
    as a player you need at least 15 to become comfortable and then at least the nerves should die down and should be more concentrated on there jobs.

    At the moment we are one of the best performing teams in the world soi cannot understand the critisism.
    maybe the old mentality of losing is what some of you enjoy, but i prefer to win and that is what we have been doing sotheres no argument.

  • Comment number 41.

    Vaughan now averaging 30 in ten Tests since the end of last summer.

    And 37 since the end of The Ashes series in 2002-3 (the last time he was worth his place in the side as a batter).

  • Comment number 42.

    Drop Vaughn? Aggers, you disappoint me. Vaughn was second top scorer in the last series. In the last 6 home series, he has averaged 55(WI), 82(BAN), 32(Aus), 62(WI), 49(IND), 50(NZ).

    Unless he does something spectacular in his county game, Flintoff comes back as a bowler who can bat a bit. Droppping a batsman changes the balance of teh side from 6 bats and 4 bowlers to 5 bats and 5 bowlers. Obvious replacement is Collingwood, (replace a batsmen who can bowl a bit with a bowler who can bat a bit) but then who bats six? Flintoff or Ambrose, but if you even get 100-4 and need a dirty innings to keep thing together then I'd fancy niether of these two. Or he comes in for Broad or Anderson. Much more likely.

  • Comment number 43.

    Aggers - your comments are normally excellent and well put together but why have you stooped to this:

    "no-one has mentioned the captain's recent record when debating the man who must make way for Andrew Flintoff"

    Vaughny batted very well against NZ and got a good one early yesterday and straight away you start to question his place - incredible!

    The press continually put pressure on England cricketers to perform and this has a clear impact on their "confidence" and ability to perform.

    So why in this instance have you chosen to jump on Vaughan when the second day of the first test has not even started yet?! I would expect this of other more fickle journalists......

    Why are we always on the lookout for the next witchhunt?

  • Comment number 44.

    It's nothing to do with getting one good one and straight away questioning his place - the guy averages in the mid 30s over the last 5 years.

    Imagine the pressure that anyone else would be under with that record!

    Actually they'd be under no pressure - they'd have been sent back to county cricket long ago...

  • Comment number 45.

    I am also surprised that Aggers has singled out MV as under threat from AF. While he does look rooted to the spot when he first comes in, his record over the winter (up until this test) is ok, averaging 33, as Colly’s is 31, Cook’s 37 and Bell 38, they shouldn't be resting on their laurells. I feel that yesterday Cook and Bell put a stake in the ground and it’s now up to Colly to prove that he’s worth his place.

    The trouble is that Australia’s top six all average over 45, with Ponting averaging 58 and Hussey 78. Collectively our batsmen all have to work hard at their game as there is a gap.

  • Comment number 46.

    re the TOMH Eingland side
    Are we convinced that Simon jones and Freddie are fit to play test cricket. Having one in the side is a risk. Having both in the side is a very big risk. Should both go in the fetlock, we would be left with Monty and sidebottom to bowl. I think Shah can turn his arm over...but im not sure hes a new ball bowler.
    In the mean time we must solve the Vaughn problem together with the collingwood problem? Freddie may be in for one but who comes in at 3?

  • Comment number 47.

    What is the need to bring in Flintoff for one of the top six however bad their form currently is?
    If the batsmen are not performing and changes are due, then it should be with in-form top order batsmen. To drop Vaughan now would be a bit harsh on him, as his recent stats are better than others, although I feel all of his recent supposed wonderful captaincy triumphs have come on the back of inspired bowling performances not his captaincy. The WI 2007 world cup as a case to prove his lack of initiative at times.

    I can agree with Flintoff returning to the side as part of the 4 man bowling attack, if (and a big if) he is fit and in form. They may say the ankle is fine and it probably is after months of rehab work, but when Flintoff last broke down it was with a side strain. There is more to bowling than just having an ankle that works.
    He is now being mooted as a replacement for a team that has won 5 of it's last 6 games and is very well set in the 7th. How he could possibly be in better batting form than the current top 6 is a mystery considering he's played about 3 games of cricket (mainly 20 over stuff) since returnig.
    How daft does a month of sustained fitness and form for Lancashire, in ODI and championship matches, sound before he is then brought into a winning team?

    Of course if England lose then he will be in anyway with the usual merry-go-round of changes.

  • Comment number 48.

    I do not understand Agnew's unnecessary reference to Vaughan in this piece seemingly implying he should be considered for the axe.. he scored 200 runs at 50 in the last series against New Zealand! Basically, you get 1 early dismissal and questions are raised?? what a joke.. it seems that some journalists are so eager to be the first to write the ''vaughan is finished'' article that they are prepared to unjustly pre-empt it. Of course they will be right one day, but to start a witch-hunt against Vaughan prior to the Ashes next summer let alone discard him would in my opinion be a disastrous distraction for England.

  • Comment number 49.

    Aggres - I think the reason no-one has mentioned Vaughan's recent record is that he averaged over 50 in the last Test series.

    Typical English media - can't wait to get on the back of the England captain on the basis of 1 failure.

  • Comment number 50.

    "His record is ok, averaging 33"

    ok for a number 7...

  • Comment number 51.

    I think Vaughan can be allowed a dip in form with the bat. The problem with being a captain is that non of your decisions are recorded in the score book, there's harldy any stats to support all those tatctical decisions which have either failed or succeded. As spectators we don't always see or acknowledge great tactical calls by the captains and I think that Vaughan's decision making wins us games. His decisions can be just as effective as a high scoring batsman or wicket taking bowler. So just because he isn't scoring with the bat, his ability as captain is far more important to the team.

  • Comment number 52.

    thank god someone else has mentioned dropping vaughn for flintoff. Move everyone up one and put flintoff at 5. Vaughn has been very poor with the bat for some time now. Always gets the easy runs and can't help but try and push at balls instead of giving them a good whack.

  • Comment number 53.

    Big question of the day - If England don't get bowled out, when do they declare?

    If the pitch is not much different than yesterday, 500+ needs to be the target

    Great performance yesterday. Solid platform from the openers and good recovery from the wobble.

  • Comment number 54.

    Those talking of the "woefully out of touch Collingwood" seem to be forgetting that since the test series v NZ ended, Colly has looked to be in very good touch in all departments, and brimful with confidence. Can't we wait until he actually gets to bat/bowl/field in this test series before assessing his current form?

    Either way, Flintoff must be considered a bowling option, which would probably make Anderson's position most vulnerable at this stage.........

  • Comment number 55.

    Thank heavens that the people posting on here don't select the Test side. We would never win another game... ever.

  • Comment number 56.

    Bell scored runs when it mattered - will you get off his back now? If people are talking about getting rid of someone to bring back Freddie, get rid of Vaughan. No doubt he has a great captain's brain but he's not in the runs is he?! He's not batted too well for a while either.

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't think we need Freddie back right now, every player in the england team has earnt there place. I'd like to see Freddie back in the winter after he's had a full summer of county cricket under his belt. There's loads of time and the current England players deserve more games together, if it isn't broke don't fix it.

  • Comment number 58.

    Personally, I find all of these remarks about putting Freddie at 5 or 6 in the batting line-up utterly ridiculous. His average in tests (32.51) simply does not stand up to much scrutiny. It's true that his first few innings in tests were very poor, but even after removing them, you won't find him averaging more than 35, and this, quite simply, is not good enough even for a test number six.

    I disagree with Aggers regarding Vaughan, at least for the moment. He hasn't shown enough poor form to warrant replacement, but I do feel that in the next year or so, we may well see a sizeable drop in his average, which should lead to a new captain being selected. In my opinion, Alastair Cook is the ideal man for the job. He has the right temperament for test cricket, and I don't hear many people questioning his place in the side. With the weight of the world already on KP's shoulders, I don't see him as our next leading man. Others who claim that Collingwood should be captain, I believe, are also gravely mistaken. I would love to see Ravi Bopara being selected ahead of Collingwood in the test side; it would be a like-for-like swap (a batsman who bowls a bit), and Bopara clearly has the better form of the two. That, and Bopara's age make him the ideal candidate for replacement.

    Wholesale changes are not what this England side needs, but when certain players are not performing, questions will always be raised.

    As far as I'm concerned, I would not bat Flintoff above Broad at the moment (on current form), which would leave him at number 9. It's just unthinkable that a batsman would have to make way for him.

  • Comment number 59.

    Why should Flintoff be rushed back into the team. You cannot replace a batsman in the team, as shown by his current record in the county championship. It would have to be a bowler, and on there present form you would not replace any of them!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    For a long while, I have thought Vaughn should be dropped since he is a poor batsman compared to a decade ago.
    I personally believed Strauss showed his fantastic potential as England captain when Eng routed Pakistan.
    He (Strauss) also knows how to perform with the bat and captain which is a sign of a qual plater
    Bell is a solid reliable player who can come up trumps with a grand innings under pressure

  • Comment number 61.

    Fantastic performance from England today, only loosing 3 wickets (2 to absolute corkers and another to a wrong decision). Was encouraging to see strength from the middle order after a solid start from the openers. The South African bowlers were largely disappointing however after being hyped up for the last few weeks. They struggled on a wicket, whilst not having as much bounce as they might have anticipated, still had something in it.

    As for the Flintoff issue. As others have said, he is primarily a bowler and batting has been our problem in recent tests. Why weaken the batting line up to strengthen our bowling attack? Anderson seems the most obvious candidate to me. Our most inconsistent bowler and probably the most similar to Flintoff. I don't understand why there's talk of Vaughan moving aside for him when he he's been more consistent with the bat than others (Bell, Collingwood), and that's before you take his excellent captaincy into consideration. Flintoff has already stated that he does not wish to be captain.

  • Comment number 62.

    At the risk of a major backlash, I don't think this team needs much changing.

    What this team needs is lots of positive support, none of the regular "X should be dropped" or "X is batting poorly so his place is on the line"

    Yes people get low scores it happens, this is cricket. I'm sure for all of you out there that play club cricket, you have had low scores but then a few games down the line you get a decent one then you feel better for it. I'm sure that's exactly what has happened to Bell, a few low scores, some negative press then a 200 boosted the confidence and that’s now reflected in this Test. As for Vaughan’s dismissal, I’m sure he would have been the first to congratulate Steyn on such a cracking delivery after the day’s play.

    I would look at making some changes in the bowling department; we need more aggression and pace, Jones and Flintoff, yes but at the expense of whom? That I don't know. Broad and Anderson? What would that do to their confidence?

    Being a selector probably isn't an easy job and its not one I would like to do, your damned if you do and damned if you don't.

    Lets not jump on the back of the team, lets get right behind them and offer full and positive support

    Well done England yesterday, Very well batted KP, Bell, Cook and Strauss, unlucky Vaughan, There is always the second innings!

  • Comment number 63.

    STEVYG23 Michael Vaughan wasn't playing test cricket a decade ago, he made his début in November 1999.

    The idea that England drop their most successful captain ever is ridiculous in the extreme.

  • Comment number 64.

    I see that we're at it again. Last time I posted I commented on how so many people were wielding the axe over Strauss' head only a while ago and how it had moved on to Bell and Colly earlier this summer. Within half an hour or so of Bell making quality runs under extreme pressure (a feat that most commenters were sure was beyond him), the shadow of the Axe has moved over MV's head. Don't be ridiculous. Is it vaguely possible for you to write something without looking to drop someone? Personally I think, if we want to see change in English cricket we need look no further than the commentary box.

  • Comment number 65.

    i completely agree with sir-benjamin. dropping vaughan would be a poor decision, his ability as a batsman is proven and just because he's having a little rough patch in form he shouldnt be dropped from the team. i remember wen he was first appointed as captain and the praise he received from the players for his style and managment of the players. he has a respect from the team and has the backing on top of that firm foundation he's a resolute captain and as sir-benjamin said - he's Englands most successful captain ever. i also believe there is more to being captain than how you perform, obviously its important to set an example on the field but how he holds the team together, makes sound on-field decisions and organises the team, must also be accounted for.
    i dont think it will be long b4 his form returns anyway. i think it will be collingwood who is dropped for flintoff.

  • Comment number 66.

    So the position of the most succesful English captain ever is under pressure and Freddie who just came back from injury and hasnt performed since the last ashes in England needs to be included. Every single top six batsman has shown they have quality and of course they will have mediocre spells during their carreers. But look at the alternatives as mentioned before, Ramprakash nearly 39 yrs old, test match ave 27, Shah test amtch ave 34, Freddie at nr 6, test match ave 32,5, I can imagine if a young bloke in county cricket is rapidly emerging that you will have some debates but the way i see it you can only have discussions about the tailenders since England got lots of fine seamers. The team looks well balanced and hopefully Vaughan will resign as a captain by retaining the ashes next year.

  • Comment number 67.

    ....... and SECOND DAY, thus far, to the hosts also!

    Not to preach to you, Jonathan - the converted - but -

    This is delirium for, I would guess, at least 80% of English cricket followers - I couldn't give a Tinker's Cuss how many 1 Dayers (WC included!) and 20/20s they lose -

    THIS is all that matters in international
    cricket - the rest is just a circus and a money spinner, with an appeal which excites the other 20% - at the LCD level -not being abusive, just objective, I hope!

    How, therefore can one even mention the possibility of less test cricket in favour of more 20/20, new leagues, etc.,?!

    My statement of 'faith' and reprimand is aimed at the wretched ECB, ICC et al who, incredibly, do not seem to appreciate the true passion of most cricket lovers -

    Their own love of the game seems to be
    lost amidst an obsessive pursuit of more funds and the suppposed greater entertainment value of the short formats -

    I cannot believe that 'they' (the ECB and British ICCers) are not feeling as elated as the rest of us today.

    IF they can recognise the significance of it, they should darned well keep it in mind ALWAYS and remind themselves daily of WHAT THE WONDERFUL GAME OF CRICKET IS REALLY ALL ABOUT - the unique, essential and ageless magic of TEST MATCH CRICKET !!!!!

  • Comment number 68.

    Jonathon - please can you, or one of the other correspondents to 606, please tell me why, or on what basis, Andrew Flintoff should be treated as an automatic certain selection for the Second Test? Flintoff has mostly flattered but to deceive. He is certainly no "one man show" as was Botham. His "record" this year is mostly both dismal and disappointing, and not for the first time. His attitude is questionable and he has personal (and personality?) problems. 45 minutes as a "guest participant" (he invited himself) at part of England's final training was, at best, a convenient publicity stunt. Since the 2005 Ashes victory, which was a "Flash in the Pan" which could have gone either way, England have demonstrably shown by their own poor efforts subsequently that it was just that. Flintoff, with injury and personal problems, has let himself, England and the masses of devoted England cricket fans down very badly. His batting performances this year for consideration for selection are not worth consideration. His bowling only slightly more meritorius but what has he done that justifies placing him ahead of one of the established players in this line-up who are unchanged for the 6th consecutive time? Absolutley nothing is the truthful answer other than he is "Freddie" Flintoff. Those whose places are deemed tenuous are playing their guts out for england and themselves. As I write this Ian Bell has just scored an excellent century, and there are three and a half days left in which any and/or all the team members can make large contributions. The clamour for the return of Flintioff has no merit at this time - at best it would be a massive gamble and at worst a stupid decision which might also harm the confidence of one or more of the present team. Flintoff simply has not shown he is ready for Test Cricket and his recent recornd is NO basis for recalling him. Whilst others battle for England and justify their selection, let Flintoff have time to show he is worthy to replace one of them on form and fitness, and not because he is "Freddie", who unlike Botham, is not worthy of inclusion because of who he is. Sincerely, Michael McInnes.

  • Comment number 69.

    The idea being advanced by some that a winning side should not be changed in any cirumstances is nonsense. You play the strongest side available to you, and can anyone seriously argue that a side with a fully fit Andrew Flintoff is not stronger than one without him. No! The question is who should he replace.

    Personally, I think dropping one of the top 6 would weaken the batting too much, although it is worth remembering that we beat Australia and drew with India away with Flintoff batting at 6. I think you have to look at what each player brings to the team. On that basis, I would say that, harsh as it may seem, Flintoff offers more with both bat and ball than Stuart Broad. The young lad, despite having done well and shown huge promise since breaking into the side, should therefore be the one to make way. But his time will come round again quickly and he will stay in he one day side.

    There is also talk about dropping Collingwood in any case, but I would resist this. Firstly, because Colly has proved he's got what it takes in the past and if he regains form is our most nuggetty play. Ricky Ponting really rates him. Need I say more? And secondly with England playing 4 frontline bowlers, with or without Flintoff, Colly's ability to provide a few overs of canny medium pace becomes significant. We shouldn't forget he is also our best fielder.

    Those factors taken into account. My chosen line up for the next test would be:


  • Comment number 70.

    It's not cricket as we know it.

    Yesterday apparently, someone announced the Lord's Taverners were playing at FROME on Saturday.

    In fact they are playing FROME CC on Sunday at 2.30 pm

    Team includes Jeremy GUSCOTT Capt., Brian ROSE, John FEAVER amongst others.

    Raising funds for the new FROME Community Hospital, whose Fete takes place tomorrow, Saturday

  • Comment number 71.

    68. Since the Ashes victory which was a 'Flash in the pan that could have gone either way.


    Absolute rubbish.

    Lords- Beaten by McGrath, tame batting performance. Huge anticlimax

    Edgbaston- Ponting gifted us a way into the series, we put on 400 in a day. It was certainly close by the end but we put ourselves in a position whereby we shouldn't have lost the game. We were the better team overall and it was for us to lose, all the way until the last ball.

    Old Trafford- Miles better than Australia who were saved by the rain and still nearly lost. Don't you remember the wild celebrations of the Aussies enjoying their 'hard earnt' draw?

    Trent Bridge- We were far better from start to finish and even the England batsmen couldn't collapse fast enough to reach the small total set by Australia.

    The Oval- Australia batted well but we got back into the match with some great bowling and at that point in the series we batted superbly and the Australian bowlers couldn't do it.

    Let's face it- it was a great series because both sides had frailties and it led to unpredictable moments of drama. It was not a test series that could've gone either way. Australia were very lucky not to have lost it 3-1, and that series score wouldn't have flattered us. If we'd picked Thorpe for the series instead of Ian Bell at that stage we might have won even more convincingly.

    Let's not forget that the 'flash in the pan', as you put it, was part of a long run of victories carved out by England and Duncan Fletcher since 2002 lasting pretty much until the Ashes down under in 2006.

    The inconsistency since then has been frustrating because it seems like we have all the equipment at our disposal but for one reason or another we can't get the best players and their best form out on to the field at once.

  • Comment number 72.

    Is Stuart Broad going to be the next Shaun Pollock?

    Wht not ask Shaun?

  • Comment number 73.

    Whilst I think any talk of second test selection during the first test (and even the first day) is absurd and does nothing to benefit the England team, I wonder if consideration of the batting order might assist?

    Time will tell, but I find myself wondering whether Broad is currently good enough to bat at 7 with the potential to be a genuine all rounder (i.e. at 6). Why MUST the wicketkeeper bat at 7 and average anything like a batsman? A keeper should be picked on glovework alone, especially with a quality spinner in the side.

    I would see Ambrose (if he is considered the best glovesman at present), Flintoff (when he returns) and Broad as interchangeable at 6, 7 and 8 depending on form and the match position.

  • Comment number 74.

    Is Stuart Broad the 'Elephant in the Room'?

    To make space for Flintoff, why not bat *Broad* at 6 (current batting average is 30, and he is in-form), Flintoff at 7, Ambrose at 8?

  • Comment number 75.

    The only way that Flintoff should come back into the side is if a) one of the bowlers is clearly struggling; and b) he makes such a case for inclusion BY PERFORMANCE that it becomes impossible to pick anyone else.
    As for Vaughan, it's the same old story: one failure and they're baying for his blood - seem to remember him scoring a test hundred not so long ago, and Dale Steyn is going to get the wickets of ANYONE every now and again, because he bowls unplayable balls every now and again.
    Finally, I'm not surprised that England have raised their batting game here: I've said here before that England have a habit of LOWERING their standards to just below the quality of the opposition! The trick now will be to do it again in adverse batting conditions!

  • Comment number 76.

    James 1504 talks a lot of sense. England shoud pick 6 batters, the best gloveman at 7 and 4 bowlers one of who could/should be Andrew Flintoff. The best gloveman in the country is quite clearly James Foster who would not do any worse that Ambrose and from what ive seen he seems to have more "balls" for the fight.

  • Comment number 77.

    The idea being advanced by some that a winning side should not be changed in any cirumstances is nonsense. You play the strongest side available to you, and can anyone seriously argue that a side with a fully fit Andrew Flintoff is not stronger than one without him. No! The question is who should he replace.

    No, the question is, has he proved that he is fully fit and can carry the full workload of a bowler in a 4 man attack? the answer is quite clearly 'no'.

  • Comment number 78.

    Let's face it- it was a great series because both sides had frailties and it led to unpredictable moments of drama. It was not a test series that could've gone either way. Australia were very lucky not to have lost it 3-1, and that series score wouldn't have flattered us. If we'd picked Thorpe for the series instead of Ian Bell at that stage we might have won even more convincingly.

    as much as i admire thorpe, people always forget the massive impact Bell had on that series. he may not have done much with the bat, but his catchign at short leg was exceptional, taking more than his fair share of very difficult catches, off people like Langer who were wll set.

  • Comment number 79.

    Of course the 2005 Ashes series was tight and could have gone either way. It's rewriting history to suggest otherwise. Australia were a thick edge away from going 2-0 up, and Wisden says they still had a chance of victory - to retain the Ashes - after tea on the last day of the last Test at the Oval. England escaped with it, against the odds, hugely to their credit, and that's what made it so much more enjoyable.


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