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Brilliant Flintoff brings Test back to life

Jonathan Agnew | 18:44 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

Andrew Flintoff gave a thrilling illustration of what England have been missing throughout his long absence when he brought the Test back to life in the dying minutes of the second day.

England's bowlers had largely squandered ideal conditions in which to fight their way back into the match, but Flintoff finally tore in from the Pavilion End in a ferocious, bruising spell of six overs to rough up and then dismiss Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers as the crowd bayed in appreciation.

It was tough and dramatic Test cricket at its very best.

Andrew Flintoff celebrates the dismissal of Jacques Kallis (centre) with Monty PanesarThe heat, humidity and cloud cover helped the ball swing all day - just as England had hoped it would - but until Flintoff's late burst, far too many deliveries were aimed too wide of the off stump.

As we saw at Headingley, Neil McKenzie needs no second invitation to leave the ball well alone and, with the obdurate nightwatchman Paul Harris, removed an hour and a half's worth of shine - and English energy - before the first wicket of the day eventually fell.

The worst offender in the morning was James Anderson, who had also wasted the new ball the previous evening. He gradually improved during the day, and took an outstanding caught and bowled to dismiss Hashim Amla, giving England an opening with South Africa on 117-3.

Unfortunately, Ryan Sidebottom has been below par here - a legacy of not having bowled much recently because of his back injury, I suspect - and Michael Vaughan also gambled on the weather shortening the day.

He simply rotated his three pacemen, Flintoff, Sidebottom and Anderson until they had little left to give. Paul Collingwood - whose bowling, we were told, would be useful - was given only two overs and when Monty Panesar came on, he consistently dropped too short.

Flintoff stood out throughout the day throwing body and soul into his 24 overs. He might have dismissed McKenzie twice before he finally trapped him lbw for 72 - a catch by Andrew Strauss at slip was ruled by the third umpire to have bounced first, and Collingwood dropped him at slip.

Flintoff will return for the start of the third day with a new ball just four overs away, but with worries already surfacing about him being dangerously over-bowled.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Great bowling from freddie really got the juices going tonight-just a shame he isnt backed up with some quality bowling at the other end! Sidebottom looks distinctly average and bowled too much on leg stump and anderson cant seem to bowl straight! He bowls from too wide of the crease needs to get closer to the stumps at the point of release! Also I think england will regret picking monty how an extra batsmen or seam bowler would certainly do the trick i think even pattison would have got wickets today!

  • Comment number 2.

    England must really regret playing Collingwood instead of Broad today. At least Broad might have scored some runs and his bowling is no worse than Collingwood. Its a bit soon to write off Monty in this match. He may be very useful in the last innings.

  • Comment number 3.

    If we can bowl South Africa out for a lead of around 50, then England can start trying to get into a position where they could win the game. The pitch is meant to turn by days 4 and 5 and that means Monty comes into play.

    With regards to Freddie, this is what England fans have been waiting to see. Flintoff almost single handedly managed drag England back into the game. The only worry is that he looks the only dangerous bowler at the moment and Vaughan may up having to over use him.

    Still quibbles aside, it's nice to have Flintoff back. The only good things from the games from an English prospective seem to have come from him.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good article - I have missed Freddie - and his batting even seemed better. However totally agree that he's being over used.

    Collingwood should take a leaf from Freddie's book (or Harmison's) and go back to county cricket until he can bat, bowl and catch again! I would have had him in the team as a fielder until this afternoon...

    bring on tomorrow!

  • Comment number 5.

    Jonathan, the link to your article is not working from the cricket page on the BBC sport website.

    You have to get to it via old articles or other back routes. Thought this might explain teh small amount of comments.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nice article. Great to see Freddy back doing what he does best. In terms of passion and fire no one can match him. When he having one of his spells its exhilarating and great to watch.

    Its a shame that he is having to do it on his own. We cant afford to flog him this early, it would be plain stupid for him to get injured again and be missing for any leangth of time. Sidebottom will get better and again be useful. It is time for either Harmison to come back in on a regular basis.

  • Comment number 7.

    Terrific to see Andrew back and fired up. Long may it continue!!!

  • Comment number 8.

    Glad there's some good cricket being played. Let's hope the series keeps growing.

    De Villiers' shot was the first lack of SA discipline since the first innings of the first test... It may cost his team. But the class of the team is that some fail and others stand up. There is Kallis, if he was English the media would have had him dropped for this test...

    A few lucky breaks tomorrow morning (and probably at least one bowler spreading it) and a nice fast new ball - a lead between 70 and 100 is likely... If SA get more, Robbie15, there may not be a second SA innings...

    Can anyone really see England score more than their first innings?

  • Comment number 9.

    I said last night that Flintoff showed within two balls why he should have opened instead of a wasteful and profligate Anderson. Today it was more of the same. As much as I like James Anderson, he doesn't possess the consistency at present to be a constant threat and I don't believe England can have two swing bowlers in the shape of Anderson and Sidebottom in the same team.

    I find it peculiar that Anderson has been persisted with so much despite his erratic performance level and yet someone like Kabir Ali was pretty much dropped for the same reasons. Every time I've seen Kabir play on Sky this year, he's bowled with control and with a pace equal to Anderson. Kabir looks fitter than he did a few years ago and the fact that he's the first to 50 wickets this season shows he's bowling well. It makes you wonder why he won't get a look-in yet Anderson will be persisted with and Pattinson even got into the side. Right now Worcestershire have two guys in Jones and Ali who I believe should have been in the squad at Headingley and who should have at least been considered for Edgbaston.

    If we can roll SA out quickly tomorrow, we've got a chance of perhaps forcing a result if the weather holds. England's victory chances hinge on the batsmen performing. Over the last few years and even in the Ashes 2005, we relied on the bowlers pulling England out of the fire. England have very rarely ever batted a side out of the game as the Australians, Indians and Sri Lankans do. They really need to perform. As a bowler, it annoys me greatly that bowlers will be dropped and disregarded quickly and batsmen can swan along in no form whatsoever and retain their place.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree. I also thought Flintoff played well today.

    The one nagging worry I have is that when Flintoff is in the team, the team often tend to underperform. I think England as a team have been better without Flintoff.

  • Comment number 11.

    Freddie is good now and sure as eggs is eggs, he 'll bust something tomorrow and be out for a year.

  • Comment number 12.

    Anderson didn't get it right today, but he still bowled some good deliveries, and did you see his catch?

    He has had one poor day today, but that is after 6 or 7 tests where he has arguably been the most consistent bowler.

    I still believe in Jimmy.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yeah I think he was overused a little however Flintoff was fantastic today and certainly has given England a chance. I personally believed Broad should not have been dropped after a great batting display even though his bowling looked a bit tired and didn't take enough wickets. Tomorrow has the potential to be a very good day of cricket. Let's hope England remember how to bat when it comes to their second innings.

  • Comment number 14.

    at least one of our players is good, eh aggers? how about a bit of support for the rest of them???

  • Comment number 15.

    Another great article by Jonathan Bandwagon.

  • Comment number 16.

    Flintoff showed today that England means business and the most precious aspect was Boucher visibly cowering. This South African team are overrated and Freddy knows it. They are very beatable but it is going to take the rest of the England team to show the heart and determination in a controlled manner to prove it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Brilliant stuff from Flintoff. Fully agree with Aggers' comments about Test cricket at its very best; intense, exciting and a true battle between top rate sportsmen.

    The unfortunate thing from England's perspective is that he has had to do it on his own. Anderson was decent at the other end towards the end of the day, but it is hard not to think of both the bowling option of Broad and the runs he would've chipped in with.

    With Flintoff bowling like he is and Broad becoming a genuine all rounder England could be scoring runs well into the tail. I see no weakness in having two all rounders if one is Flintoff and the other is Broad. Unfortunately Collingwood has been the architect of his own undoing and Vaughan is doing the same. Collingwood chipping in with a couple of runs and a couple of overs adds nothing to the side. In contrast a half century and another GENUINE bowling option in the shape of Broad is invaluable. Also we must remember this is the beginning for Broad and these half centuries and two or three wickets per innings could soon become centuries and four or five wicket hauls.

    This is a turning point for English cricket. Many established members of the side are in danger of losing their place to talented, young, ambitious cricketers. And at the moment there are only a handful of players whose place in the side is truly cemented.

  • Comment number 18.

    That final 50 mins of cricket today, yes! ''real cricket'' thats what its all about......You can keep your 20-20, its no match for that..

  • Comment number 19.

    Freddie was splendid today, he really step up a notch whilst other players flapped around hopelessly.

    Match prospects look far more interesting now than they did at lunch, IF England can grab one of the two men in now early and run through the tail to stay within 80 runs i think that, with the help of a small miracle of Vaughan and Collingwood actually becoming physically capable of putting bat on ball then this match could be closer and more interesting that people, myself included predicted at close of play yesterday!

  • Comment number 20.

    Fantastic display of agressive and quality seam bowling by Freddie. Very sad to see other bowlers struggling and not committing 100%. Collingwood should have been used by Vaughan because of the overcast conditions. Vaughan,s captaincy skills are also on the decline like his batting.Collingwood does not seem to be in good form for test cricket.
    If England lose this test match England selectors should drop Collingwood and Vaughan and make Freddie or Pieterson as captain.
    The selectors need to take some drastic steps to improve the performance of England side. Bring some new players to the team who are hungry for success.

  • Comment number 21.

    Brilliant by freddie, shows how poor the other england bowlers really are...unless major changes occur in the next few days (notably vaughn, colly, anderson and sidebottom) the england team is in dire need of an overhaul.
    The team should be:-

  • Comment number 22.

    Freddie was awesome at the end of the match today. The only other English bowler who can bowl that kind of spell when on form is Harmison.

    To me it seemed as if the South Africa's were surviving Freddie and then then taking a breather at the other end.

    For the last test I'd say bring Harmison and Broad in for Sidebottom and Collingwood.

    And tell Vaughan he has ONE test to prove himself or Rob Key's boarding the plane to India instead.

  • Comment number 23.

    There has been an element of bad luck to the last two tests bowling performances. Today, so many edges went close by or popped up to no avail. Plus two decisions (Strauss catch, Kallis LBW) that could have turned the game. Not to say that dropped catches don't make a difference also.

    Having watched the highlights it shows the minimal gap between glory and despair. It was great to see Freddie back again, and lets hope that we can see a game.

    Cricket is a great game because it can turn so quickly, and it is amazing that fans and cricketers always forget this, being so wise after the event.

    Also, how many matches, do 2 teams get almost the same score after the first innings, yet everyone, especially commentators seem to think that this is what happens in cricket.

    If England can get them out for 300, and then get 320+ we will have a great finish.

  • Comment number 24.

    Hang on, is this the same Jonathan Agnew that critised his selection at Headingley and also critised his batting at Headingley.

    Has Freddie already turned Jonathan Agnew to heap in praise, Im surpised Aggers has been happy after Headingley.

    However good to see Freddie taking wickets but I WISH reporters would SHUT UP about his ankle, he seems fine to bowl bazillion overs as his ankle looks in good nick!

    Also why is Vaughan using Panesar?
    Monty will be useful for Day 4/5 when South Africa are batting rather on Day 2 when the pitch isnt winging for Monty.

    Lets hope Sidebottom and Anderson are ready to take on the Saffers tailenders and LETS HOPE when England get into batting, that the top 6 smash 100's!
    PLEASE.....ENGLAND, Edgbaston is the real Home of Cricket rather then flatless Lords.

  • Comment number 25.

    Williamwhizz - completely agree with every word - it just doesn't get any better than Freddie this evening. Sheer willpower made Kallis' wicket inevitable. Sometimes, at top level, it's not enough to find 'the right areas', you have to take command of the situation and make it happen rather than plugging away. In 2005 we had Freddie AND Harmy able to do that and Jones as a more potent force to back them up - and actually to take full advantage of the roughing up the batters were getting at the other end. Whatever happened to them I wonder? I agree with JF about Broad too - he should tick the 'Batsman' box when applying for his place and add 'much better than Colly' in the bowling column.

  • Comment number 26.

    Yes ,you are right,England should bundle SA under 300 to stand any chance of winning the test. The first session is absolutely crucial ,and if we are able to make early inroads then we stand a good chance,but I have a gut feeling that Prince and Boucher are not going to give up easily and will go for quick runs and tru to build up a handy lead.For Monty to play a handy role we need atleast 300 on board.

  • Comment number 27.

    I agree with jfewery.

    So, now we have Flintoff and Broad in the side...

    That was easy.

    So who are the other nine?

    For me, it's the Selectors who should be replaced before any other decisions are made. It would, as someone said yesterday, be a mistake to remove Vaughan mid-series but I believe his tenure is up after this one. For the time being, anyway.

    I think far too much attention is being payed to the "selection" while those doing the selecting are getting away with murdering our cricketing reputation.

    At the rate we're going, THE ASHES are truly dust before we've started. A New Dawn so soon before the flexing of muscle? Dodgy, but it can't be worse than the current state of affairs...

    Thanks, Freddy, for keeping my wick from fizzling out completely...

  • Comment number 28.

    Freddie returning to his best is great news for England, just don't overbowl him.

    Anderson's not bowled at his best this series but still nips in with vital wickets, his fielding has been a revelation and his batting is improving - obdurate might be a better word for it. After all when did he last get a test duck? And even Freddie ran him out as he was batting too well ;)

    Sidey's way out of touch - should be the one to make way.... If Broad can step up a gear on the bowling front we have a great find as his batting has really come on great guns...

    Come on England - we can still win this one....

  • Comment number 29.

    The last 50 minutes was Test Cricket at it's most splendid set up by one of England's finest - as good a session as his last against Australia in the 2005.
    Sadly he appears to be alone in rising to the occassion and for that I must question whether the coach for all his qualifications is the right person to raise the team to the levels they must achieve to compete with best in the world - on the evidence of the last 12 months are we not tumbling back to where we were post Fletcher?

  • Comment number 30.

    I think it's a bit prem to give Sidebottom the boot...

    Four overs until the new ball tomorrow?

    Sidebottom and Flintoff? Pick your end boys! DON'T give it to Anderson, Vaughan.


  • Comment number 31.

    I can hear it now, Messrs Moores and Vaughan saying "We can take some positives from this game. Freddie's batting and Freddie's bowling".

  • Comment number 32.

    Well done Freddie! It is clear the South Africans do not enjoy facing him at all. They just want to survive his spells.

    We need the rest of the team to visibly show the same passion and belief. Let's hope it becomes infectious...

    Despite calls for him to be dropped, Vaughan will be captain until the end of this series. He won't be dropped mid-series.

    He's playing for his future, though. He has three innings and two tests to secure it.

    If we win the series, he will and should continue.

    If we draw, he should be dropped unless he scores a hatful of runs in the process.

    If we lose, he will and should be out.

    I don't think Freddie or KP should be captain - we need them to focus on playing cricket.

    As Strauss' place in the team is still a little wobbly, why not consider Alastair Cook and build for the future? He has the potential. Perhaps a little too soon, but the same could have been said for Graeme Smith...

  • Comment number 33.

    I must admit, I was a little skeptical about Flintoff's inclusion at Headingley. Not just because of his batting but also because he doesn't often take 5 wicket hauls. He's never been the most incisive of bowlers, but what I had forgotten is what a presence he can be. When he was bowling at Kallis, it felt like there was a battle of wills going on and it felt like Flintoff was always going to win, such was his determination and fire. For all the hardwork Anderson has put into his bowling, and for all Sidebottom brings to the side, no one can match Flintoff when he gets a bee in his bonnet and a real fire raging within. And it shows that we've missed it a great deal over the last 18 months.

    So, where do we go from here? Well, Sidebottom does look out of sorts and there are only two other swing bowlers in this country that I know would have exploited the conditions perfectly - Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard. I really hope that the selectors pick them for the squad for the Oval and put pressure on Anderson and Sidebottom. As for Harmison, speaking as a Harmison-skeptic, I would have liked to have seen him bowling in tandem with Flintoff. If, as county observers have been suggesting, he is back to his fiery and aggressive best, seeing these two going hell-for-leather in a right fiery mood would have been a fantastic spectacle. Then who would have had the scariest pace attack since the WIs of the 1980s?!

    But in all seriousness, if England go on to lose this test match, we should clear the England shop for the Oval. We'll have nothing to lose - the series would have been lost - but potentially a lot to gain. Not least, a good shake up could make a few people wake up and smell the coffee. So, I'd be tempted to bring in Broad for Collingwood, Shah for Vaughan, Harmison for Sidebottom, Jones for Anderson and either Prior or Read for Ambrose (I don't know how Prior has been keeping this season, but he has a healthy number if dismissals), making Strauss the captain in the process. That would be a lot of changes, but as I said, we've nothing to lose, but Strauss would get a fresh team with a healthy mixture between old and new.

    Oh, to add to the Key debate... yesterday I advocated his inclusion in place of Vaughan. I now retract that statement. So far this season, Key has been, at best, mediocre with the bat. He has scored 417 runs from 12 innings with 1 hundred and 1 fifty at an average of 37.90. He may very well do well in test cricket - Trescothick and Vaughan were two of Fletcher's county hunches and by and large they turned out alright - but now a question mark hangs over his head for me.

    To AndyPlowright (comment #9)

    Take a look at Tim Murtagh of Middlesex. He has been in sublime form for Middlesex this season, with 46 wickets and a best of 7-95. He's currently 27 years old and definitely one to watch.

  • Comment number 34.

    So many of us seem to be of the same opinion. Shame the selection panel don't seem to be.

    I think we have to stick with Vaughan. Whether it is fair or not, captains get more of a chance to recover their form than other members of the team, as changing a captain would be far more unsettling than merely dropping one or two regulars.

    Colly should never have been brought back, we all know that, and you can't help suspecting that Vaughan's tantrum had something to do with it. Certainly no one has put forward a sensible argument in favour of his inclusion that I've seen.

    England need five bowlers. If Freddy breaks down through over bowling I can't see the fans forgiving this administration in a hurry. Another ankle injury would surely threaten his career. If that necessitates the return of Prior then so be it.

    My worry is Sidebottom. I don't think he's bowled particularly well all summer. I would disagree with Aggers that his performance today was down to rusty-ness as that for me is the Sidebottom I've watched since the beginning of the summer. I've no doubt that he was the stand out bowler on the New Zealand tour but is anyone else wondering if that was a flash in the pan?

  • Comment number 35.

    Can somebody please clone another 10 Freddies and get them out there (and maybe another one to carry some drinks)? That spell leading up to Kallis's skittling was the first time I've been jumping up and down watching a test match since 2005. Well played big fella. And get some specs for those umpires!

  • Comment number 36.


    I like your observations very much. You mention Middlesex but I'm not so sure how broad your awareness of other counties is. Mine is pretty poor past

    My point, following on from my earlier remarks about THE SELECTORS, is that it seems that these people obviously don't get out and about much. I've not really paid much attention to the existence and ability of MURTAGH... but I'm not a selector...

    One wonders how much work they actually do in sniffing out new talent. There are serious gaps that need filling in in the England side. How far abroad do they go to find solutions?

    Some are obvious, Simon Jones for example, but other holes are harder to fill.

    England, as a unit, are so dispirited and poor that major change is called for at some point. The ASHES loom and are so revered that everything is geared towards getting the gang back. Very few remaining warrant the call-up, IMHO. So I wonder whether NOW is the time to make the changes, provide the Aussies with an element of uncertainty and unfamiliarity, combined with the known and feared.

    Or am I just a tired England fan spouting pipe dreams?

  • Comment number 37.

    If people insist on endelssy writing their teams down on these blogs everyday can we please leave Simon Jones out of them? The guy couldn't bowl for Worcester the other day because he'd bowled his quota for the month. I think he's a class act too but with statements like that it's clear he's still in rehab and not ready for test cricket, yet....

  • Comment number 38.

    well done freddie, who can deny his performance with the ball was magnificent? his batting also showed a level of maturity that we've long awaited.

    south africa will almost certainly end up with a lead close to if not exceeding a 100. that means strauss, cook and vaughnan will have to bat well. mackenzie has once again shown the way for early batsmen, leave the ball outside off stump.

    if they can do this, and pieterson can leave his ego in the dressingroom, a big score ise on the cards.

    we may not win but let's leave the south africans wondering .

    the oval collingwood is most certainly gone.(sadly) but what construction will the team be.

    I thinck england have to go in with 5 batters and 5 bowlers. south africa is team that can bat!! bowling resources will be needed.

    freddie has to play at 6 wih the same resolution wev've seen in the second innings at headingly and yesterday at edgebasion.

    the team would then be:


  • Comment number 39.

    A few points

    1 - Why is it that when England batters get out cheaply it is always considered to be bad batting rather than good bowling ?(before this series everyone was saying that SA have the best bowling unit in the world)
    2 - Why is it when opponents get out cheaply it is our great bowlers and never their batsmen being poor?
    3 - Why do people talk up an average day, becasue despite Flintoff's good performance SA are still on top hear, and are likely to stick at least 100 more on the board? When we all know that if Flintoff doesn't play fantastically well next year people will be saying "he's only good against the small teams"

    The anwser to all of this is the Media. And TMS is no different, could we please have a bit less hype/doom and gloom and a bit more level-headedness. You do work for a NEWS company after all, not a PR company

  • Comment number 40.

    It is good to see Flintoff back to something approaching his best, which we haven't really seen since the 2005 Ashes.

    Nonetheless, for England to win this game still requires a good second innings batting performance and it is not clear that our top order are capable of this. I would actually push Flintoff up to 6 for the second innings on the basis that at that position, he can actually change the game in the event of another top order collapse. At 7 he is doomed to batting with the tail and being left high and dry as happened first time round. Collingwood is lucky to be in the team at all and is batting like a number 10 at the moment so he should not complain about his one-off demotion.

    If Flintoff succeeds at 6 I would then move him up there for the next test, drop Collingwood and recall Broad.

    In the longer term there are still questions to be answered about the balance of the side, Vaughan's captaincy and the weakness of our upper order, but the priority at the moment is to ensure a series win, and that means making the best possible use of Flintoff, our most valuable asset.

  • Comment number 41.


    my team would be:


    i like ambrose but one in the team is enough.

  • Comment number 42.

    I dont think monty will bowl england to victory in this test the weather is going to be pretty dreadful for the next few days it drizzled nearly all day today so the pitch wont dry out much! If england bat as badly as the first innings(weather permitting) south africa may be batting by the end of day 3 needing a paltry 150-200! I watched monty bowl his first spell today not a single change of pace or variation every ball was 55mph with a variance of 0.5mph on a non turning wicket he doesnt have the armoury to be dangerous! South africa can afford to carry harris because there pace attack is functioning as a unit england cant carry panesar but unfortunately they are

  • Comment number 43.

    Surely King Freddie has brought some insiration to the dressing room? hopefully the rest of the team will follow ihs lead and start to fire a bit tomorrow - if Monty and Jimmy Anderson can clear up the tail end, (leaving one wicket for Fred to get his well deserved 5-for), then it'll be time for MV to answer some of his critics... the ball will be firmly in his court. If ever there was a time for the captain to find his form it may be tomorrow!!

  • Comment number 44.

    in reply to laughing devil look at the teams dismissals in this match

    strauss jumped on his stumps doh
    vaughan edged a straight ball he should have left
    peiterson unlucky
    cook edged a decent ball and good catch so ok 1 good bit of bowling
    bell edged straight ball should have left collingwood playing through mid wicket to an outswinger appalling shot
    ambrose dragged on playing a half hearted shot
    2 mindless tail end run outs

    sa innings

    smith edged one not a bad shot but ball was going across him
    harris tailender edged one going across him also
    amla great catch from inswinging ball
    mckenzie great ball nipped back plum lbw
    kallis bowled convincingly by a late outswinging yorker from freddie
    de villiers bad shot
    england 7 out of 10 bad shots
    south africa 1 or 2 bad shots from 6

    Englands batsmen regularly get out playing defensive shots to balls missing the stumps you dont see south africa giving away there wickets as easy

  • Comment number 45.

    There seems to be an assumption that Freddie is solely an all-rounder, and that the team can only have one all-rounder in it. Can anyone rationalise this for me?

    If you accept that all-rounder implies 'not really great at either discipline, but possibly useful' then maybe the theorists have a point. But I would argue that Freddie isn't actually an all-rounder: he's possibly the best quick bowler on the planet, and it just happens he can bat a bit, too.

    Justin Langer has written this summer that Freddie is the best bowler available to England; that he's the bowler in world cricket Justin would least like to face. Yes, that Justin Langer - you know, one of the mainstays of the best test side we've possibly ever seen. I can't see any evidence to refute that claim for Freddie, and he has been a fearsome bowler since 2005. He doesn't need to be able to bat - the fact that he can (and is anyone going to bet against him remembering precisely how any minute now?) is just a bonus. By that argument, we still have room for an all-rounder - who is, obviously, Stuart Broad: his recent bowling may have been a little below par, but is his performance with the bat in this series not worth any consideration?

    And has Collingwood, whose determination one can only admire, but whose form is so disastrous, really kept Broad out of this team? There is no argument I can see for that: even a 'tired' Broad is a better bowling proposition, and the batting over the previous two tests has to count for something, surely? When Colly's form is even affecting his fielding, the one area that seemed impervious to the fluctuations of 'form', well ... it surely has to be time to show him some mercy, no?

  • Comment number 46.

    It seems to me that whatever lead SA gets will be too much for our batsmen unless KP or Cook make big scores. Given how appalling the selections have been for the past two tests it is probably time for Dusty and the clowns to consider a few facts. Lets take the batting:

    With the current dearth of quality bowlers, flat tracks and betters bats, a quality test player should average close to 50. Only KP and Cook are in that category.

    Strauss, I am sad to say, is probably the best we have as another opener. We really miss Trescothick.

    Bell is very lucky to be there, he is simply not a quality test batsman as he is mentally fragile. He is the best flat track bully in the game and is priceless in the sunshine at Lords when we have 300 on the board. But he cannot score runs when it matters. Other than Cook he was the only batsmen who got himself set in the last few innings and failed each time as the pressure was on. The fact that he has never scored a ton for England without someone getting there first says it all. Some more evidence? He averages 25 against the Aussies. If we're playing Bangladesh at home in the sun fine, but otherwise no thanks.

    Vaughan has a test average of 41 and this is probably about 30 odd in the past year. These are poor numbers but he is a good skipper and unlike Bell, he can score pressure runs and win games for us. Colly and Bell to go before Vaughan but if this run continues the skipper cannot possibly be retained.

    Collingwood should never have been picked for this test. Given he has scored 96 first class runs all season it was a worse selection than Pattison. If Harmo had to go back to Durham and relearn things, then so should have Colly. It also smacks of favouritism. I can only justify the selection on the basis that Colly is a centrally contracted player and is mates with Vaughan. No cricketing reason suffices and the likes of Shah and Bopara should rightly feel disgusted with events.

    So we have 2 decent batsmen. The problems started when we were announcing that run of unchanged teams earlier this year when the performances were mediocre at best. Some of the tests were against what was effectively a NZ second team and I cannot believe the Aussies would have accepted those performances. Small changes could and should have been made then to re-introduce Shah/Bopora but Miller was asleep at the wheel. The rot was not dealt with and now we are going to need a wholesale clearance and new players will have to start with blood on the walls. The selectors should take the bulk of the responsibility for this. Are you reading Dusty?

  • Comment number 47.

    good on yer fred.

    ambrose kept like a muppet again, poor chap.

  • Comment number 48.

    I've been critical of Flintoff in the past because he bowls well yet doesn't take enough wickets. Today he's come good, however he needs to perform consistently.

    People have said many things, the most common statement about Flintoff is he can't bowl as part of a four. If today doesn't disprove that myth then what does? And why then is he bowling so many overs for someone supposedly not able to bowl that many? 26 overs out of 76 is more than 1/3, while the fourth bowler has bowled less than 1/10.

    So far all Flintoff has done is keep England in the picture, they need to make most of the new ball and keep South Africa down to a lead of less than 75. I just can't see England skittling the South Africans fast enough, the lead if already 25 and they must add another 50 runs or so minimum. It would be an amazing effort to bowl them out for under 25, 50 is a more realistic optimistic aim while it could be 75+.

    As for comments on England's batting as "poor", it was. Strauss gifted the South Africans his wicket, Vaughan and Collingwood's inclusion gifted them two more cheapies and Flintoff's careless batting with the tail cost England two thrown away wickets. Add to that Pietersen's dodgy dismissal and South Africa barely had to break sweat taking five wickets for 26 between them.

    England have always fished for the ball unnecessarily while I've watch Test cricket. If it's bouncing over the stumps they still get drawn into playing a shot, sometimes only enough to get a slight deflection or edge onto stumps. Perhaps if they were more positive in defence, something I think Boycott has said from time to time, then they might not get out needlessly so often. Either play it or leave it, leaving it on length would cut out the worst. Pushing tentatively forward outside off stump is just asking to edge it with little chance of a positive outcome.

    And just to highlight how stupid four of the dismissals were :-

    Strauss - trod on stumps, a top batsman should not be out doing something so careless

    Collingwood - bowlers made sure he had no easy runs, he played legside at a ball he should have been playing offside or defensively

    Anderson - silly run, he proved more than capable of surviving at Headingley and there was still Monty to come after that, so why risk the single?

    Panesar - hit the ball, they should have stayed put as two was too risky. They should have discussed and decided before that ball was bowled, that is was the last ball and pointless even considering running

    Survival was actually relatively easy to those with any nous, Pietersen got a poor decision and Vaughan a first baller, but even Collingwood was able to survive easily until he played the wrong shot to a ball outside off. Flintoff and Ambrose faced 137 balls between them without looking like getting out, before a careless bit of batting saw Ambrose play on.

    Then Flintoff got carried away and threw it away, England were 212/6 and looking comfortable with the new ball nearly due and madness took control. 19 runs later and England had thrown away a half-chance at a decent total. 300 was on, that would be about par as the South Africans seem set for reaching and passing.

    Anyone else think maybe Flintoff felt he owed the side after the disastrous run-outs?

  • Comment number 49.

    More irrelevant stats to make Bell look rubbish, when he's clearly not....

    He's made 3 scores for 83 or more when no-one else has made a century. Whats the difference between a 92 and 100? Next to nothing.

    Just a little tick of a box! Scoring 92 or scoring 100, he's done his job either way. The same way he came to the crease at 100/3 and single handedly batted England to a winning position in the 1st Test.

    His Australia average is so low because of 1 bad series in 2005 when he was like 22 and struggled with Warne! He smashed 3 fifties in his second series against them when everyone else failed!

    And why should Shah be disgusted with not getting picked? He averages under 40 in Division 2 this season! How about learning something about cricket and not just abusing stats?!!

  • Comment number 50.

    A good day for Freddie - we know he can produce the goods when fit. For some of the others, I think time may be catching up with them...

    I'd be astonished if Peter Moores isn't trying to focus on his what his best team will be for the Ashes, and if he's thinking that Vaughn is the right man for the captaincy then bells should start ringing. Michael's had some brilliant innings, but just now he's struggling, and there's only so much you can rely on past experiences. He has to come good very soon, else why should be picked? His captaincy has been good in the past, but like his batting, it's no longer anything special. We've got to start looking to the ideal Ashes team, and at the moment, MV's taking up a valuable space.

    Same goes for Collie, who's been a real battler in the past, but again, past exploits only count for so much. Most players, however good, will go through poor patches, but unless there's evidence of coming out, you have to make changes.

    My last point is on Jimmy Anderson. He can be a very useful bowler, but the great bowlers tend to limit the 'bad' days to once in a blue moon, not every other match or day. There has to be a consistency.

    What's the solution? It sound scary to think that we should introduce untried youngsters into a well-established, well-oiled England set-up. But I'd rather bet my money on those with the potential to surprise and improve than those who've played their best. We're too sentimental with our older players, hanging onto them when their days have come and gone. The Aussies have far less compunction about dropping people who aren't performing. That's why Pattinson's selection, in some ways, was not a bad idea - if he'd got a load of wickets the media would have used words like 'inspired selection', etc, but, like other selections, the sentiments were misplaced and poor.

  • Comment number 51.

    I'd much rather see Denly get a go than Key. Denly and Cook as young openers, Strauss as captain at three. Unfortunately the selectors are all allergic to hops, so neither has a chance of getting into the special bunch.

    I agree that Broad and Flintoff together makes a whole batsman and a whole bowler. I appreciate Broad was exhausted, and there was a danger of SA winning the toss and making us field, but he must come back for the Oval - he took three wickets today.

    As for the keeper, dare I ring the Kent bell again and point out how well GoJo is both batting and keeping at the moment?

  • Comment number 52.

    When Freddie bowled Kallis after the horrendous failure for Kallis to be given LBW the previous over, was anyone else thinking Freddie should have turned to the Umpire and now said (in the best if possibly apocryphal Fred Trueman tradition) - "Bloody nearly got him that time!"... :)

  • Comment number 53.

    Vaughan can't bat, he's gotta go! Collingwood can't bat bowl or field, he's gotta go! Strauss has no shots, he's gotta go! Sidebottom is two yards slower than last summer, he's gotta go! Anderson tries hard, but too hit and miss, he's gotta go! Ambrose just has to go!!!

    Team should be:

  • Comment number 54.

    johnnygb, I agree Boycott is in good nick at the moment, but couldn't we get Pietersen in there somewhere? Perhaps he could replace one of the dead guys.

  • Comment number 55.

    great to see freddie on fire again but where was the support in the evening session anderson had no threat at all and sidebottom lacks pace. We need bowlers with passion. Monty and Flintoff may have it but the others don't. If there was a simon jones at the other end we could really put pressure on south africa and start to intimidate them.

    where's the passion !!

  • Comment number 56.

    Dr_Grammar. Yes I concede the point on Pietersen, I suppose I would substitute him for the late Lord Cowdrey; nevertheless, I feel the other late and lamented players would still offer more than most of the current moribund crop

  • Comment number 57.

    I wonder how England are approaching the time before start of play tomorrow. Are they just R+Ring in a similar way to that which they always do in the evenings during a Test? Or is there any feeling that the first 90 minutes tomorrow is just that bit different from most of the time slots during a match?

    Maybe it's just me, but I think that a group of top-knotch achievers would recognise that there was something a bit special about tomorrow morning, and that they'd go to whatever lengths they thought necessary to leave as little as they could to chance.

    I think, for example, that they'd each have recognised that there was likely to be some team involvement over and above what would be normal on a Test match evening, and that they would have prepared themselves for this by cancelling whatever private commitments they had previously made for this time.

    I suspect also that they'd all have been reminded, if reminders were needed, that in the best decisions there is a need to adjust for the natural, but irrational, mental bias in favour of the comfortable and the familiar.

    And also that, properly taken, the best decision remains the best decision even if post hoc events mean that a different decision would have been more successful. For example, if the calculation of the best decision is that it's advantageous to bowl to Morkel, Nel and Ntini with run-saving fields, then three snicks flying through the vacant slips doesn't make it a bad decision - all that would do this is if it could be demonstrated that the calculations were wrong.

    I have a depressing feeling, however, that England's approach is to give preference to familiar, homespun simplicty; intuitive common-sense ideas that strike a chord with the majority who work on the basis that if something doesn't feel right, it can't be right. Perhaps they'll prove me wrong.

  • Comment number 58.

    Wonderful last hour! Our pride in English cricket recovered through a magic bowling spell by the only English cricketer, apart from KP perhaps, capable of great things. He didn't have the kind of support he had in 2005, but I would certainly argue that he inspired Jimmy Anderson to raise his game.

    We should rightly be concerned about Flintoff being overused. If he were to break down again it would be a tragedy. However, I think he has been fit enough to join the fray again for more than two months and it is only the selectors that have deprived us of his services through their shortsightedness. If you are wondering why I think that, I refer you to the opinion of Justin Langer in May. Langer is not the captain of just any old team, but of Somerset, and before that, as we all know, an exceptional opening batsman for Australia. I think his credentials are impeccable and his opinion merits a lot of respect.

    On May 1 Langer, after facing him a few days earlier, said "Flintoff is the best fast bowler playing international cricket" and "absolutely ready to be picked for the first Test against New Zealand". His article explains why:

    Of course, noone was listening, least of all the selectors. They were so worried about his waning batting abilities that they were unable to see that here was one of the best fast bowlers of his time, fit and ready to play his part again. What did it matter if he couldn't hold down the number 6 or 7 position any more? (Langer says all the rest).

    The performance of the selectors this summer has been pathetic, at best, and totally negligent, at worst. Today, Flintoff showed why with an inspiring performance, not one of his very best perhaps, but enough to rouse the English Lion and pave the way to an outside chance of victory.

    We are three games into the series but, until the last hour today, neither the team nor the country had enjoyed the feeling of confidence that all is not lost, not just a vain hope but something much more solid.

    Thanks, Freddie!

  • Comment number 59.

    England need to revert to a better batting lineup. Prior needs to come as he is the only wicketkeeper who is making any runs at the moment. If Ambrose is in for his keeping skills then I'm shocked he's stayed in the team for so long time. We need a properly fit Simon Jones again to add a bit of spice into the attack. Flintoff and Anderson are carrying England. Sidebottom swings it nicely but seems a bit slow at the moment.

    I'm surprised the England selectors have gambled on playing without Monty in this series. Both teams have persevered with a spinner for the sake of it when English pitches offer little spin for finger spinners. Bell needs to relieve Vaughan from the pressure of no 3.

    My current team would be:

    CookStraussBellVaughanPietersonFlintoffPriorBroadAndersonHarmison Jones

  • Comment number 60.

    Big hand to Freddie, Tops stuff fella!!

    But we cant always rely on one man.................................can we??

    I'm still in disbelief that England went into this test without 5 bowlers. I see it as madness condsidering we are struggling to take 20 wickets!

    Oh Lateralis, your point about Key may be a valid one, but he still has a higher average in Championship cricket than Vaughan or Strauss over the last couple of seasons.

    I say take him to India on the winter tour and see what happens. He did a good job for the England Lions as captain a few months back! Its got to be worth a punt.

  • Comment number 61.

    to "The Darkness Is Calling":
    please walk towards it!
    The answer to your question - a resounding NO!
    Cricket is often over-analyzed and I've noticed you join in with glee.
    Also, as with far too many bloggers and site authors, it's far too easy to pick out the negatives with an England side in transition.
    I agree with many observers that the transition isn't being helped by some weird selections but let's not forget that we're playing the 2nd best test side in the world and haven't thus far in the series, had the rub of the green with decisions.
    It was just fantastic to see Flinny roar back onto the scene, not with the sulky teenage demeanour of Steyn (good bowler, shame about the attitude) or the Arnie-esque antics of Nel, quite amusing but maybe a fine due from the match ref for the outburst directed towards Cook after his dismissal?
    Finally - "he owed the side"? - seems to me you have no concept at all of team sports, you make a mistake, you try your best to make up for it.
    On that balance sheet, in this test and many before, he's in credit.

  • Comment number 62.

    Fire in the belly, that is what it is all about! Not Pietersens fire in the belly! Flintoffs fire in the belly! Controlled professional aggression, he hates the opposition, even if they are friends off the pitch. Pietersen wants to succeed, Flintoff MUST succeed!

    The only mittigating thing I can say is that batsmen only need to make one mistake, whereas bowlers have a degree of latitude.

    I must admit I was concerned about Freddies comeback! I wondered whether it was possible to 'revisit the past' and whether the team ought to be 'moving on'.

    Freddie has proved that the Halcyon days of 2005 were not a dream, and if you get a bunch of guys together with that much 'fire', they can do anything.

    I wish Broad had been playing also Matt Prior, I am sure they would have been fired up and would have learnt from Freddies fire in an England shirt!

    For too long we have been 'playing the game' not 'winning the game'. Pietersen has got it, he needs to harness it, Bellys got it, likewise, Collingwood had it, Bopara has got it, Shah has got it, Ramprakesh and Key, likewise. People like Freddie wear an England shirt with real pride, this is the ethic which must be instilled in all our professionals, maybe it should be there automatically. I don't think it is natural in everyone, a good manager who is not constantly quoting platitudes and current jargon and really motivating (including bollocking when necessary) will gain a lot more respect. 2005 proved how infectious a few really motivated people can be.

    We need to find a Captain who can harness, motivate, be in total control, oh and score runs regularly.

    As I said last night, I don't think a lot of our players have confidence in the system, mainly because the system is not good enough, if they haven't got confidence in their employers, how can they have confidence in themselves.

    Freddie, Beefy, Goochy and others don't need others, it is personal, they have enormous personal pride, if they fail they are letting themselves down and the team. They rarely make captains and most of them should not try.

    I used to play club cricket in Sussex and subsequetly Hampshire league and was a quick, I always got my best 'hauls' against the top teams in the league, best was 9 for 37 against IBM Hursley. I was always fired up against the big boys. When you are really fired up it happens! Either the individual does it for themselves or the Captain needs to do it, - no I think it has to be self motivation! Freddie is not a strategist, but he is certainly a motivator! Watch England tomorrow! Lead by example!

    A captain is a 'pupeteer', he gets the best from his team, but he does have to perform, their are only 11 people in the team. If the team were bigger you could incorporate a strategist who rarely performed.

    Remember Mike Brierly?

    Regards again

  • Comment number 63.

    Great performance from Fred today. Hopefully he can come out all guns blazing again tomorrow and the rest of the team can feed off that. If England can get 4 cheap wickets tomorrow then they're right back in this game.

    I'm all for giving Rob Key a chance on the India tour.

  • Comment number 64.

    Well done Freddie!

    Last week the board was full of prats who doubted his re-selection. It's funny how they've gone quiet now.

    Yet again, several more dubious decisions going against England. If we have a bit more luck - or even get a few 50-50 decisions from those senile men in white coats - then we have a chance of turning this test - and the Series - around.

  • Comment number 65.

    Dear ExcellenceFirst, I am fascinated by your analysis of the decision making process. To decide and remain undecided requires decision making in a decidedly one sided dimension. Who decides the side prior to the side being decided upon, whether rightly or wrongly, for that is for us to decide and should not be a decision for selectors. What they decide, whether our decision on the side should coincide, must be decided upon with finality. No decision left to chance and nothing to remain undecided once the decision has been decided.

  • Comment number 66.

    Has everyone forgotten how good Broad actually is as a bowler?

    He is top class, and it wasn't long ago that everyone was prasing him for the improvements he was making with each match he played. Broad should bat at 8, and Vaughn should show more faith and give him the ball more. Though to be honest he did look very tired in the last test match.

    As for the selectors, Broad and Hoggard both get dropped after one bad test while the likes of Collingwood, Ambrose, Anderson etc, are given numerous chances. Hoggard was our most consistent and best bowler for a numerous length of time! What did he do wrong?

    For me Matt Prior still has some work to do at Sussex. His batting is slightly erratic with Massive centuries and short cameos. As for his keeping, he has good and bad games. The selectors have to take this into account when choosing the team - However with the currnet mediocrity of our batting, Prior's runs could prove very useful.

    Flintoff = Outstanding, and Inspirational to all of us following the game.

  • Comment number 67.

    It was truly wonderful bowling from Freddie, he even can call himself unlucky with his return! How sad it is though also. When Australia was without Glen Magrath did they become a poor side, no they merely we less great. England, on the other hand, without Freddie is only just about good enough to beat NZ. Sad point #2 is that at Feddie's age he will not be the match winner/saver for very much longer. Just a tragedy that we won't get 10 years great service from him, but that's cricket. Without him where are we? From this series we can say that we don't have an attack capable of taking the 20 wickets needed from the tops sides to win. For the home of cricket (till it moves to Mumbai) this is not much dividend from the so called miracle of 2005. Perhaps this is not a skills problem just a selection problem, after all only the bowlers selected can perform! Are there 5 really top class fast bowlers out there just ready to become the next Larwood, Statham, or Trueman?

  • Comment number 68.

    Plod49 aimed a broadside at the coach, and I´m all for more of that. If the old football managers chestnut that good pros run themselves on-pitch is true, then all we have to measure PM´s effectiveness by is the demeanour of the team. Today it took one man to paint in starkly contrasting colours the chasm that exists between individuals who are willing to FIGHT for the privelige of wearing the three lions, and those who care not.

    Much as I admired Vaughans ability to coordinate a team strategy and hence galvanise players to a common purpose in years gone by, I think his bell is tolling. Invention must arise on the back of inspiration, and at the moment he is sadly lacking in either.

    Finally, has the ECB actually heard of the term ´selection policy´? Accusations of the old boys club are not too far wide of the mark and with the urn beginning to smolder in the distance, the team is in danger of arriving at the cook-out severely underdone!No stress though, Flintoff ´ll win the whole thing for us!!

  • Comment number 69.

    England fans should not be so down

    I will stick my neck out and say that S Africa are arguably the best team in the world and I cannot wait for the series v Australia next Spring.

    The test rankings do not lie-England are up there behind S Africa and India. Nothing to be ashamed of.

  • Comment number 70.

    This was a much better performance by England. There was much more purpose, desire and penetration that was exemplified by Flintoff. He makes such a difference to the bowling attack.

    What makes this even more positive is that this came during (yet another) day that the South Africans had all the luck. Two big decisions - the Strauss catch, the Kallis lbw - went their way, and there must have been nearly 10 catches that wove their way between slips and gullies, as well as Colly's drop. England showed true character to overcome this disappointment and end the day very much in the match. South Africa have had the rub of the green so far this series, and almost every one of the (too many) bad decisions has gone against England. This could well even itself out so long as England hang in there and make the series competitive.

    Anderson bowled like a drain last night and this morning, but in a way, this showed his growing maturity as a test player. 12 months ago he would have been anonymous and leaked runs left right and centre, today he ran in hard, and still managed to contribute with that brilliant caught and bowled. He is developing a "b" game and is now an integral part of the team.

    Those are the positives, but we must not ignore the negatives.

    Tim Ambrose does not look like either a test match keeper or batter. There has been a lot of vitriol directed at English wicketkeepers, with both Prior and GoJo seemingly hounded out of their positions. At least both of these looked like test match batsmen, even though their keeping at times let them down (though GoJo was dropped because of his batting at a time when his keeping had eventually come of age). I would have dropped neither, at least not on a permanent basis. Much of this vitriol seems to have emanated from the Chris Read fan club, who are seemingly unable to look beyond Read's undoubted ability with the gloves and see the faults beneath. He has a reputation with successive managers for not being a team man, and though he is a more than capable county batsman, he appears to prefer facing test fast bowling from somewhere next to the square leg umpire. Add to this his unwillingness to take on difficult catches between him and first slip lest he be accused of dropping anything, and you have someone patently unsuited to test match cricket. Without any potential batting all-rounders (a la Kallis) to provide a quality fifth bowling option, it is vital that the wicketkeeper is a quality batsman. Prior and GoJo remain by far the best qualified for this job, and one should be recalled. Read fans should relax and get used to this.

    Collingwood is a fine player with great qualities, but he is hugely out of form. Picking him here was unfair to him, as he has had no chance to score runs for Durham yet. The selectors should look at the example of Strauss when he was in a similar state last year. He was dropped, returned to county cricket, regained form and came back his old self. It is true that form is temporary and class is permanent, it is also true that Collingwood is test match class, but he is not going to regain his form against a high class South African attack. Send him to Durham for the season, and recall him in the winter when he's back to his best. Meanwhile try someone new or something different.

    Vaughan is a more tricky proposition. Like Collingwood he is struggling badly, with little sign of a good knock round the corner. As captain of the team, moving him in and out of county cricket is not possible. The selectors need to decide whether his batting ability has waned or whether he is simply out of touch. His poor form goes back quite a while now, so it could well be an ability problem, in which case two big decisions need making - a new batsman, and a new captain. With Collingwood sure to go, I would keep with Vaughan until the end of the series, but would not restrict myself to picking Collingwood's replacement purely as a number 6 batsman. Vaughan must bat at 6 if necessary (if, for example, the selectors go for Rob Key or Paul Horton, both of whom would bat in the top 3).

    The other big issue in the team is Monty Panesar, whose good days are becoming rarer and rarer, and who offers nothing other than his bowling ability. He is worth persevering with, but he appears to me to be resting on his laurels. He still tends to bowl at the wrong pace on certain wickets, and does not have an effective arm ball (unlike, for example, Daniel Vettori).

    There is still a slight lack of balance in this England team, but at least today shows that the attitude is right. Cook, Strauss, Pietersen, Bell, Flintoff, Sidebottom and Anderson represent a fine core of players to go forward with. I would add Collingwood and Panesar to that list, despite their current problems. I am not convinced by Peter Moores or his methods (I was a big admirer of Duncan Fletcher), but now is probably not the time to change coach.

    Back to this match, tomorrow morning's session could well be the key to the whole match. Bowl South Africa out, and England could well win the match - a lead of 200 could be enough with South Africa to bat last. Fail to do so, and I expect South Africa to win match and series comfortably.

  • Comment number 71.

    Totally agree, Flintoff was magnificent. pity that Kallis didnt have the option to clearly see those magnificent balls. England has (this team anyway) a composition of good but NOT great bowlers. Flintoff (world class) showed the difference. If Harmison and Hoggard are over the hill as many seem to think, then England are in for another hammering come the ashes next year. Sorry, Sidebottom, Panesar, Anderson, Broad dont do it for me. England must rejuvernate Harmison and Jones if they are to contest this series and the ashes next year.

  • Comment number 72.

    #65 johnnygb

    Not quite sure what you're getting at, but take the decision about how to bowl at Morkel/Nel/Ntini, and how to set the field.

    I'd suggest that there's two distinct lines of thought:-

    1. They're not very good batsmen, so let's set attacking fields and get them out as quickly as possible.


    2. They're not very good matsmen, and we're likely to get them out pretty quickly even without having close catchers, so the best thing to do is to try to starve them of runs and wait for them to make a mistake.

    In the context of this particular game, I'd suggest that it's more important than usual to try to minimise the first innings lead, so it MAY be the best decision to go for option 2 tomorrow morning rather than option 1. But I think that the OBVIOUS answer is to take option 1, because there is a perception that the taking of wickets is more directly important than the conserving of runs. For this reason also a decision-maker will be mindful that if he chooses option 2 and it goes wrong, he's going to get a bigger bollocking than if he chooses option 1 and it goes wrong.

    So what I'm saying is that there are all sorts of pressures on people to make decisions that are obvious, and feel right to most people. Yet if you take away the popular pressure, and remove the intuition bias, you often find that the decision MOST LIKELY to succeed is the one that has been discounted by most people because it is unusual and therefore feels wrong.

    History is littered with examples of victories against the odds by people who've realised that thought can be multi-dimensional.

  • Comment number 73.

    NoRtHeRnMiDz? - if you have another look you'll see that I am not saying Belly is rubbish, quite the contrary, he clearly is not. However, he is unable to score runs when we really need them - a trait he shares with the likes of Graham Hick. What is fascinating about this is whilst some of us have noticed this weakness (Skid Marks has been on about it for a while) this is a rare case when the stats actually display the mental frailty that would otherwise only be spotted by the more observant fans - which you clearly are not.

    For the record, Bell averaged 35 in his second series against the Aussies, with no centuries . Oh dear.

    Lets give another top quality county perfomer the lattitude we have given Bell and see if they have the mental strength to dig in when we need runs. Bell has the talent and I hope he overcomes this - but how long must we wait?

  • Comment number 74.

    To be fair one day you can trust colly's bowling but not in test cricket. Siddy and Anderson are good bowlers but I just feel they dont have the x-factor you get from freddie and harmison.

    To win the ashes england need 2 top-up all ranks and I think either broad (with real potential) should work on his batting or another all rounder should be placed in the squad. Colly cant be seen as a 4th pace bowler. So unless He sorts his batting out fast, i would go for this team.


    Anyone up to 8 could get a 100 and you have also have 5 really good bowlers. Perfect.

  • Comment number 75.

    #70 NiceLinesGiddo


    "He has a reputation with various managers for not being a team man"

    Yet not, perhaps, with his manager at Notts, where he has been made captain of the team that, as far as I am aware, is leading Div 1 of the County Championship.

    Still perhaps you are able to demonstrate that Notts are top in spite of Read, and that under a better "team man" they'd be even further ahead.

    Or could it be that Read's problem with being a "team man" is that he has the misfortune not to have been brought up to behave like a discourteous and histrionic teenager and that this causes some friction with the England camp these days.

    "he appears to prefer to face test fast bowling from somewhere next to the square leg umpire"

    Ignoring the exaggeration, from what period of his test career are you making this judgment? Australia 06/07, when he was thrown into a beaten side by someone who had no time for him, having not played any first-class cricket for 4 months, Pakistan 06 when he averaged 42, or sporadic matches in 99-04 when no one is disputing that he was a much lesser batsman than he has since become?

    Prior is certainly a better batsman than Read, but he's a converted batsman, who makes and will continue to make all the keeping mistakes that every converted batsman will, because late teens and twenties is too late an age to start to learn how to compete with the top-quality keepers who've been doing it all their lives.

    This isn't to say that everyone who keeps from an early age will turn out to be a top-quality keeper, but I'd stick my neck out and say that the best of them will always be streets ahead of the best of the converted batsmen.

    "Add to this his unwillingness to take on difficult catches between him and first slip lest he be accused of dropping anything"

    Funny, I haven't read that his technique vis a vis first slip was due to his fear of dropping something. I did read that his learned technique is to cover a narrower arc than Jones does, and that he and Trescothick hadn't quite got this worked out in the relatively short time they played together. But this isn't an insurmountable problem is it? You have also to bear in mind that Jones' technique of going for everything he could reach did cause him to spill a number of catches that were difficult for him but would have been straightforward for first slip. So it works both ways.

    "Without any potential batting all-rounders to provide a quality fifth bowling option, it is vital that the wicket-keeper is a quality batsman"

    Well, this is the mainstream perception, I know, but I'd suggest that it hasn't been put together too logically. The problem, as it always is with surface-skimming decisions, is that the definite, the obvious, the measurable is given far more weight than the nebulous, the possible, the unquantifiable.

    What happens in this case is that the batting differential is fairly easy to quantify - just compare the batsman/keeper's expected average of 35 with a specialist keeper's 20 and there you have it: an easily calculated 20-30 runs per game.

    When it comes to the other side, the additional missed catches/stumpings that you would expect with a lesser keeper, the quantification is more difficult. You can't just go through each chance and say which ones you would expect Read, say, to get and Jones, say, to miss. But you DO know that over time there will be more spillages in total by a lesser keeper than there will by a better one. The fallacy that occurs now is that because something's difficult to measure it's better to ignore it completely. So an assumption is put in that as the difference in keeping quality cannot be quantified it's OK to assume that it won't be significant.

    And therefore to be able to measure the suitability of keepers on batting ability alone. This is poor decision-making.

  • Comment number 76.

    England must have had a good day today, only 70 odd comments up to now on this blog, seems like all the usual whingers don't want to come online to talk about a good day for the team they are apparently "supporting". Congrats to Andrew Flintoff for bringing us back into the game all by himself, if the other 3 bowlers turn up tomorrow we may get away with a 50 run defecit and be right back in this test and the series.

  • Comment number 77.

    They come in and average 45 after 30+ Tests good on them. But they won't.

  • Comment number 78.

    Thats why many rate him as the best fast bowler in the world today. Just checking through for the humble apologies of the many who said he didn't justify his selection.
    I'll make a gesture as I advocated sticking with Collingwood-that appears to have been a mistake, but good to him Saturday (I hope).
    Others, get over Stuart Broad being an all rounder, he's a great tail end batter who can't take wickets. He needs the rest of this season back on te county circuit. Hopefully he'll get among them, have a good winter with England and then could be really useful against teh Aussies next summer.

  • Comment number 79.


    You make many interesting points re: Chris Read. Indeed his record at Notts, and the regard in which players, spectators and management hold him is not in doubt. Maybe suggesting he's not a team man is a bit extreme. However, the message that he's not mentally cut out for test cricket has seemed to jump out loud and clear from Duncan Fletcher, Peter Moores and Michael Vaughan.

    England's recent history is littered with players who struggled to adapt mentally to the demands of test cricket. Some, like Graeme Hick, Mark Ramprakash and John Crawley had long, but ultimately fruitless careers. Others, such as Andrew Caddick and Nasser Hussain, eventually managed to adapt and became excellent test players. Chris Read is just another on that list. I would question whether he is so talented as to make it essential that England persevere with him, though.

    I understand your comments on differentials, but I do not entirely agree with them. As many of Ian Bell's critics are quick to point out, averages can be deceptive. With Flintoff in the middle order, England - assuming they wish to have five bowlers at their disposal - have only five batsmen capable of scoring regular hundreds, plus Flintoff who may score a very occasional hundred. The question of what happens at 170 for 4 or 5 is hugely relevant. In short, England need a wicketkeeper who can come in at that sort of juncture and get England through to 400 when they most need it. Ian Healy only averaged in the high twenties, but his career was littered with those sorts of innings. Geraint Jones, with Flintoff, did exactly that at Trent Bridge in 2005 - in many ways he played the most important innings of the whole Ashes series. Prior is capable of this. Read, like Ambrose, is very unlikely to be able to pull this off against the best opposition. I watched Read get those runs against Pakistan with the same mixed emotion as I watched Ambrose get runs at the start of his test career - glad that they have scored runs, but tempered with the knowledge that it won't last once test bowlers have worked out where to bowl to them. With Ambrose, it's the case of bowling slightly fuller and straighter and depriving him of the cut, with Read it's making him get in line to short of a length, quick bowling - he doesn't.

    Of course, should Stuart Broad develop into a high class all-rounder capable of hundreds and five-fors, the role of the wicketkeeper would be very different. Only needed at number 8, we could afford to pick the best gloveman with little regard to his batting ability. Broad has a great future, but he's yet to show that he can either take 5-fors or score tons.

    Dropped catches, of course, are impossible to quantify, rather like bad umpiring decisions. Sometimes they change the match, other times the bloke's out next over anyway. It's easier to make a batsman into a good keeper than a keeper into a good batsman - witness the improvement in GoJo's keeping over his career.

    Your point re: the keeper/first slip situation is fair enough. Test cricket is, however, a game of fractions and a keeper who is able to come across more can in effect add half a fielder. For example, Strauss's fabulous catch to get rid of Gilchrist in 2005 off Flintoff could not have happened had first slip been in a conventional spot. That's not to say you're wrong, however.

    It's an interesting argument, and part of me is sad that the days of your great glovemen like Bob Taylor and Jack Russell appears over. However, without a couple of top all-rounders in the team, England have to be pragmatic. They desperately need that man who can take them to 170-5 through to 400 - yes, even if he does spill the odd one.

  • Comment number 80.

    Thought these stats might give some perspective of the England top 6 vis a vis 6 representative batsmen from other countries. These are:-

    Graeme Smith
    Mahela Jayawardene
    Shivnarine Chanderpaul
    Younis Khan
    Michael Clarke
    Sourav Ganguly

    I've looked at 3 categories, ignoring in each case not outs under 50, and treating other not outs as for the standard average - i.e. include the runs, but not a dismissal:-

    1. Percentage of innings of at least 50
    2. Average additional runs scored when 50 reached.
    3. Average additional runs scored when 100 reached.

    The tables are:-

    1. Percentage of innings of at least 50

    37.5 BELL
    36.8 Chanderpaul
    35.6 Jayawardene
    34.5 COOK
    34.0 Younis
    31.4 Smith
    30.6 Clarke
    30.3 PIETERSEN
    28.7 Ganguly
    26.6 STRAUSS
    25.7 VAUGHAN

    2. Average additional runs scored when 50 reached.

    66.5 PIETERSEN
    61.2 Jayawardene
    61.1 Smith
    60.7 Younis
    58.9 Clarke
    55.9 VAUGHAN
    52.1 Chanderpaul
    50.3 STRAUSS
    47.8 Ganguly
    45.7 BELL
    34.7 COOK

    3. Average additional runs scored when 100 reached.

    64.4 Smith
    64.1 Jayawardene
    55.2 Younis
    55.0 BELL
    53.1 Chanderpaul
    44.8 Clarke
    39.8 PIETERSEN
    38.6 VAUGHAN
    36.3 Ganguly
    29.0 STRAUSS
    13.5 COOK

    Obviously, the English batsmen play a far greater proportion of their innings in England. Whether batting is more difficult here vis a vis elsewhere, I'm not sure - marginally perhaps, but I'd doubt if it was enough to invalidate the comparisons.

    Only Bell of the England batsmen doesn't seem to have a weakness somewhere. But if you include the fact that a third of the time Bell hasn't reached double figures ...

  • Comment number 81.

    Both Bell and Pietersen get criticised so often for the simple reason that they make batting look so easy. It was the same with Gower. Come to think of it, it was the same with Viv Richards and Lara. When you appear so comfortable you've no right getting out. As your stats show, Bell and KP are our best players - what else should we expect.

    Bell gets out for less than 10 a third of the time. I'd be surprised if that's not fairly normal?

  • Comment number 82.

    I fully agree with EcellenceFirst, the most important thing about a keeper-batsman is his keeping.

    In his time, Jones caught a few blinders, scored some runs, and dropped a memorable number of catches and stumpings.

    His most memorable catch however must be the one off Kasprowitz's glove, off Harmie's last ball of the Edgbaston test, 2005. Jones caught it that time, but he might not have, and the world would be a very different place (for one there'd be 11 fewer OBEs and 2 fewer MBEs about).

    The fact is, a keeper like Read will always be expected to take more of those chances, which is why we play a specialist keeper at all. How many runs or matches were lost as a result of Jones', Prior's or Ambrose's drops we'll never know, but I'd prefer Read to carry my eggs please...

  • Comment number 83.


    Comment 81

    "Bell gets out for less than 10 a third of the time. I'd be surprised if that's not fairly normal"

    From my sample:-

    16.9 COOK
    20.8 PIETERSEN
    22.5 Smith
    22.6 Jayawardene
    23.3 VAUGHAN
    24.5 STRAUSS
    24.6 Chanderpaul
    26.3 Ganguly
    27.8 Clarke
    32.7 Younis
    38.4 BELL

    (Dismissals under 10 as a percentage of all innings except not outs under 10)

  • Comment number 84.


    Thanks for Comment 79

    Dropped catches

    Lawrence Booth published (in Cricinfo, I think) an analysis of the cost of byes/catches/stumpings, but I don't agree with the methodology. You can't really look after the event and "cost" the miss according to how many more runs the batsman scores. What you're trying to do is to come up with the most reasonable estimate of how much any future spillages are going to cost. I think the best way is to consider that every drop is the equivalent of giving the opposition an extra batsman, to be valued as the average of the averages of the whole team. About 30 runs per miss would seem about right.

    I haven't done any analysis beyond about his 20th Test, but until then Jones was dropping about 1 per match, on average. He'd need to bat a lot better than a specialist keeper to make up for that, I'd have thought.

    I wonder also about the psychological effect on the team, particularly the (spin) bowlers, of knowing that you've not got the best keeper behind the stumps. I'd have thought that the upside of having a marginally better batsman would have been less, because it is not so direct an effect.

    170-5 to 400

    I think you're exaggerating the comfort you will actually get from this. Nine times out of ten, if not more often than this, 170-5 will end up as an inadequate innings total. OK, every now and again a batting keeper will ride to the rescue, but most of the time he won't. And anyway, wouldn't the comfort be greater still by having an extra batsmen and only playing 4 bowlers with the best keeper?

    Take away Jones' 85 in the Ashes, and tell me how many other innings there were in his 34 Tests where we'd be able to say at the end of them "Thank heavens we had Jones".

  • Comment number 85.

    Excellent bowling from Fred Flinstone. If england had more cricketers in the mold of fred, england would most certainly win. Now ya can see why fred cannot captain england. The poor guy gives his all in the england jersey. He will most certainly suffer burn out with his work rate. Regardless of SA being 6 wickets down, it was still madness to enter a test with 4 bowlers. I feel for fred, poor guy! He should consider coming to play for for SA. We'd treat him well and we'd certainly look after the lad.
    All SA want is a 100 run lead. With england predictably being 100/4 in the second innings, I still predict a SA win. Convincingly!

  • Comment number 86.

    Argh can everyone please calm down a bit! If Vaughan gets 100+ tommorow no-one is going to start banging on about him being one of the best batsmen in the world(thought the way everyone is losing their head over freddy i wouldn't be surprised). We'd say great stuff but needs to continue it on from here on in. While Flintoff bowled really well today, it was one 1 day. Give it time a bit of time and lets see if he can consistantly do it.

    And while Flintoff is a world class bowler, he is nowhere near the best quick in the world. For me that is between two men, Brett Lee and Dale Steyn.

    I've been living in Aus for a year now and have been able to see quite a bit of Lee. Since Warne and McGraths retirements, Lee has really stepped up to the plate, drasticly improving his control to combine with his devistating speed, to become the focus of the Australian attack. His stats over the last 2 years are 64 wickets in 10 tests at 20.87 with 2 5fers.

    Steyn showed in the second test what he is capable of and i think the poor showing in the 1st test was down to the awful pitch and also the fact he may have had some nerves, because the only other time he played us he got pasted. His stats for the last 2 years are 96 wickets in 16 tests at 18. He is also the ICC #1 ranked quick.

    I'm fully behind the team and really hoping Freddy(or some else) can carry it on and pull this test around for us, but lets not lose our heads just because Flintoffs playing well, not careful it will get as bad as Rooneymania.

  • Comment number 87.

    Sidebottom is overweight. I am gobsmacked no one appears to have noticed this. Hence his dire bowling.

  • Comment number 88.

    Anderson, Sidebottom and Broad have waned a bit with tiredness. Flintoff is not bowling much quicker than them (average mid 80s yesterday) but is bowling more agressively and accurately. He also gets more bounce.

    We need to ask questions about the attack for the oval - it may offer less to the bowlers and require not only the selection of Broad instead of Colly but a boosting of firepower in the form of S Jones and Harmy - especially if England are still in the series at that point.

    For the winter all these 6 frontline seamers should go; collectively they cover all the bases.

    Broad would have made a difference yesterday - his statistics imply that he would have taken 1 wicket if he had bowled the overs given to Panesar and Colly. More than this, however, he might have helped to break SA down earlier and provided a little more rest for the 3 main seamers. Had he played they might even have been all out by now (and statistically it is probably that England would have scored about 40 more runs)

  • Comment number 89.

    Last evening was test Cricket at it's very best and the bowling from Flintoff was something else.

    No batsmen in the world would have wanted to be facing him in that mood.

    I think he is going to drag this team kicking and screaming into a decent position.

    The batsmen need to fire though.

    Well done Fred only the 2nd Englishmen (by my calculations) to reach 200 wickets and over 2000 runs.

  • Comment number 90.

    Surely Freddie will be knackered today? That was a superhuman effort yesterday. I hope he isn't needed quite as much this morning or it will be goose-and-golden-egg if we're not careful with him.

  • Comment number 91.

    England will live to regret leaving out Broad.
    His bowling hasn't been exactly inspiring but he has always delivered with the bat and who knows, if he had been included in the team, he and Freddie might have been able to push the score on past 300 which would have at least been respectable.

    The South Africans do not give up their wickets easily and they will be looking to have a first innings lead of 100-150 today which once again will put us on the back foot and fighting for survival.

  • Comment number 92.

    The recent comments made about whether Broad is tired or not may have been answered by himself on Wednesday, he stated at Trent Bridge that he had never said that he felt he needed to rest, as i was there watching him he certainly looked fired up to me.

    Maybe, there was a little bit of backroom politics going on, Vaughan said on TV he had the team HE wanted. After all no one in his position would like to be shown up by the new boy who is clearly the more in form batsman. I for one would like to see him reselected for The Oval with Steve Harmison who also looked good at TB yesterday repacing Collingwood and Sidebottom who yes does look as if he's put on a few pound these past 2 weeks

  • Comment number 93.

    the "goose and golden egg" comment is very valid, however yesterday Anderson had one of his slightly off days and Sidebottom looked a bit rusty from lack of overs lately. They need to step up today, bowl at the stumps and get some swing. If they do that and Vaughan can trust them to bowl their fair share of overs then Freddie can be used in his 'enforcer' role, bowling short nasty spells. Over to you lads.

    And people moaning about Panesar, wait for the 4th innings on a turning pitch...

  • Comment number 94.

    Freddie has set the standards that should have been set by his captain. Vaughan may well be the selector's choice but his role on the pitch has been abysmal for some time now. He knows that so why doesn't he do the right thing and withdraw his captaincy and go back to the nets? We need a first class batsman, not a tail-ender. His performance is not good enough for the pride of our international cricket.

  • Comment number 95.

    Vaughan set the tone when Nasser went. He should have some pride and step Down.
    I dont care if he gets 200 next he is too wayward and inconsistent.
    If this was Austrailia he would have been gone 3 years ago. They look forward not back to the good old times with rose tinted specs as some people here seem to be doing.

  • Comment number 96.

    When I was on your site this morning, I knew that I had to sign up to post this comment.

    I must say.....You English really have alot of faith in one man!!! Why dont you just call the national side, "Fred" Flintoff?? Thats the only guy playing at the moment..... And you know what, he is doing okay. But come on lads, you are a team of 11. ELEVEN and you are praying that one man saves the day!! Have you perhaps forgotten that you are playing the second best test team in the world?????? And that you will probably for the first time, since our re-admission, lose a series against us! Needless to say.....You guys lost to NZ in a one day series.......So let all the Gods be with you in that prayer. After all we are the best One Day outfit at the moment! Please guys, you do give us a challenge when we play you......But that is when more than one guys bowls (Flintoff) or one guy bats (South African born Pieterson) So lets get real. The South African unit will beat you, in both the Test match series, and probably nearly "white wash you" in the One Day Internationals.

    Good luck though.

    Go Proteas!

  • Comment number 97.

    Has MV lost confidence in his captaincy as well as in his batting? The pace bowlers constantly bowled on a line outside of stump to Harris who was allowed an easy ride. Either get them bowling straight or get Monty on or even KP. He seemed to let the situation drag on instead of trying something different. There should be little difference between these two sides but the gap between them since the follow-on was enforced in the 1st test has been widening alarmingly quickly. Something must have gone very wrong inside that dressing room for confidence and application to dip so alarmingly.

  • Comment number 98.

    Use of camera play backs and other modern technology to assess catches, lbws and runouts makes umpires look silly when they decisions they make are obviously wrong. it is infuriating to fielders, batsmen and spectators alike to see wrong decisions jeopardising the cause of a match and even players' standing in the game.

    Relying on umpires was fine in the past

    the time has come to use modern technology to improve the game

  • Comment number 99.

    I wonder if there is a natural limit on the duration of Test captaincy? Perhaps after a while the same old mantras and motivational talks just don't work with the team any more?

    I don't know about other countries, but didn't Vaughan reach 50 Tests as captain at Headingley, four short of Atherton's record?

  • Comment number 100.

    A big thank you to Aleem dar. England needed something to spark a bit of aggression and turning down a plumb lbw appeared to do the trick.


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