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South African quicks fail to live up to the hype

Oliver Brett | 14:32 UK time, Thursday, 10 July 2008

Like a Hollywood blockbuster that flops at the box office, South Africa's much vaunted high-velocity pace attack was unable to live up to the hype as the Lord's Test began on Thursday.

All the preamble had billed the tourists as the team with the aces, whose coach Mickey Arthur had gone so far as to imagine a future where his two younger quicks, Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, would one day be the best two bowlers in the world.

Michael Vaughan, meanwhile, talked of his team as the under-dogs, and the journalists who offer sports betting advice had urged the punters to "lump large" on South Africa.

Even English fans turning up at Lord's in the morning - typically, thousands arriving an hour before play started - were downbeat.

One teenager, dressed in pink/and blue horizontal stripes, creased white linen shorts, and sporting a public school accent and haircut told his younger brother: "Collingwood's s---.. Have you seen him bat? He's got a terrible technique. If he gets a fifty something [perhaps underhand?] is going on. They need to get Shah."

Relieved, finally, that the clouds had stopped dumping rain on north-west London, South Africa's pacemen practised long into the morning, on a strip about 20 yards wide of where Graeme Smith and Michael Vaughan tossed up.

When play started, the Lord's crowd was both excitable and quiet, as only the Lord's crowd knows how to be.

(Arsenal's former Highbury ground was sometimes known as "the library" but our biggest cricket ground remains a temple to those who speak in hushed tones).

We expected, however, that the cricket would provide plenty of drama. But after 19 dot balls, Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss sauntered through for the first single of the morning, and England's score gently ticked along from that point onwards.

England v South Africa matches are notorious for needle, jibes and sledging, but there was none.

Their coach had insisted silent aggression was the best policy, and while we got the silence we did not see the aggression, whether through the distinct lack of positive body language from the South Africans, or the absence of any short-pitched bowling.

The pitch, it must be added, played into England's hands by being slow - but its lack of pace was not surprising given the wet weather of the past few days.

After lunch, Cook notched his fifty, the 100 partnership came up, and the Lord's spectators, went even quieter - possibly the contents of their hampers were providing more intriguing possibilities.

The South African fans in the crowd - many of whom, apparently, are already preparing some fruity abuse for Kevin Pietersen should he appear within ear-shot of them - were left wondering if the livewire Andre Nel should have been picked.

At least he might have stirred things up by yelling a few pleasantries at Strauss and Cook, but it took a bad decision by umpire Daryl Harper to separate them.


  • Comment number 1.

    It's still early...

  • Comment number 2.

    #1 is quite right, it's still early days. The mini collapse, apart from Strauss's dismissal, suffered by England shows what Steyn and Morkel are capable of provided they get the ball in the right areas.

    To be fair, the pitch has shown very little life at all, the South Africans have not been at thier best but the English batsmen have not been able to dominate.

    Wait and see what the English quicks can manage to extract from the pitch during the South African innings.

  • Comment number 3.

    It is indeed still early but the South African attack is looking extremely one-dimensional at the moment. I'm frankly fascinated by how are bowlers are going to do. They're playing for their places with the entire Ashes 2005 line-up fit and in relatively good form.

    As for Steyn being the number 1 quick bowler in the world? Well, he's good but if and when Freddy comes back we'll see about that... And as for KP, he's not too shabby is he? Cheers for that little acquisition...

  • Comment number 4.

    We should look to use our spinners KP and Monty. I believe KP used to run through South African batters when he was a spinner out there, living with his English parents! :=)

  • Comment number 5.

    Very, very disappointing SA quicks. As the TV commentators pointed out, in the first 14 overs of the day, only 3(!) balls would have hit the wickets. That's just not good enough for county cricket let alone test cricket.

  • Comment number 6.

    To northernmidz

    You are misinformed. Kevin's mother Penny is English and his father Jannie is an Afrikaner. You could have deduced that from his surname which is spelt 'Pietersen'.

    It's early days yet!

  • Comment number 7.

    Hmmmm. First day of the series and people want to write-off South Africa. Despìte all the abuse that England have suffered in the run-up to this series (one fan happily predicted 3-0 to South Africa, with rain saving England in one match), many of us thought that this England side was a bit better than that and would raise its game. Well, we did raise our game, but the South African bowlers looked underdone. This is definitely the moment for England to cash-in because they probably won't bowl this badly again in the series.

    The first task is to set down anchor tomorrow, see off the first hour without losing a wicket and then bat at least until tea, bringing up the 500 in the process. Depending on that first hour England could reach 550, or they could subside for less than 400. It needs to be the former and be followed a declaration by Michael Vaughan as a statement of intent for the series.

    Incidentally, about that mini-collapse. It should never have happened: Strauss was sawn-off yet again (he gets a ridiculous number of appalling decisions), giving the South Africans a chance to bowl at a new batsman that they scarcely deserved. However, Bell and Pietersen have proved that they are good enough to see off a crisis. And some fans wanted to drop BOTH of them for this Test!

  • Comment number 8.

    I was quite concerned that England's upper and lower order were going to collapse again after a good start and we would end up less than 200 all out. It seems as though it's a good batting pitch but I think the weather will win this match and the teams will be frustrated by rain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Why so much talk of an England declaration? As far as I can see they're scoring at a healthy rate, and I don't see any reason at all why they wouldn't try to pile on the runs as much as possible. Try to only bat once - there's no sweeter way to win.

  • Comment number 10.

    Uh-oh , uh-oh
    England fans seem to be already going overboard with the first day's play. All this talk of trashing the S A bowlers, their not living up to the hype, KP's innings is all fine.
    But it is early days still - the match is not over yet and now someone has even mentioned declaration as a possibility !!

    Well , I don't want to douse anybody's enthusiasm. England have had a good start but need to do a lot more before they think the match is in the bag. Best of luck England !!

  • Comment number 11.

    I totally agree with Stazz229. Yesterday was a fantastic day for England when we won at least 2 out of the three sessions. However the period after Strauss's horrendous dismissal, showed just whet the saffers can do. Write them off at your peril. Personally I won't make judgement until lunch today.

    I think yesterday was probably a bigger day for Bell than KP in many ways. If ever a man looked driven it was Bell. He has undoubted talent and is a joy to watch when is is flowing, but too often he has looked set before getting himself out. Yesterday was by far and away his most mature innings. Touch wood he can retain the focus today.

  • Comment number 12.

    Kevin's Dad is more English than an Englishman in England on St George's Day.


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