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South Africa keep England at bay

Jonathan Agnew | 17:14 UK time, Monday, 14 July 2008

It might not have been the most compelling viewing we have ever seen on a cricket field, but the discipline and patience shown by South Africa's top order batsmen to save the Lord's Test was mighty impressive.

There will, sadly, be those who think that this was an example of tedious Test cricket, but that is a shallow observation.

We are lucky to enjoy a sport which can, in its various guises, accommodate all tastes, and the character shown by Neil McKenzie, who was at the crease for more than nine hours and had the slowest run rate ever by a Lord's centurion, was immense.

Neil McKenzie
A real danger for England is the psychological fillip that South Africa will have gained from this great escape.

It has happened before, in Durban 1999, where South Africa replied with 572-7 in their second innings from 209 overs - considerably more than here - after following on.

The outcome was that England were deflated and physically spent while a rejuvenated South Africa responded by inflicting a heavy defeat on England in the New Year Test starting in Cape Town three days later.

With the second Test in this series at Headingley beginning on Friday, England must focus on the fact that they had South Africa on the back foot throughout this match.

They will be boosted by the return to the fold of Andrew Flintoff, who will introduce fresh legs as well as his cheerful, talismanic personality.

Despite their well earned draw, there are still serious concerns in the South African camp. Their bowling attack thoroughly underperformed, and will only have net practice before Friday to sort out their problems.

Andre Nel will definitely come into consideration for Makhaya Ntini's place, while the spinner, Paul Harris, does not appear to be much of a threat.

Another bonus for England was the double failure of Jacques Kallis, who looked in good touch but managed to score only 20 runs in the game.

England will give no clue as to what Flintoff's role will be at Headingley until they have seen the pitch.

Even then, we might not know for sure as England have some walking wounded to attend to after their marathon; Ryan Sidebottom will need treatment on his stiff back, and Stuart Broad appeared to turn his over in a worn foot hole.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I'm sorry, Aggers, but while I can appreciate a good old back to the walls fight, it's not the sort of thing that's going to fill Test grounds.

    Put bluntly, Lords isn't fit for Test cricket. Cricket is about a fair contest between bat and ball, and with SA not bowling England out, and England only taking 3 wickets second time around, this pitch did not offer that.

    Lords is dull. It was dull in 2006, it was pretty flat in 2007 and it's dull this year. Six draws in three years, now.

    I'd much rather watch a match at OT, but the ECB have decided to drop them. So we'll get plenty more dull draws at Lords and the Oval, when we should be getting excitement.

    Don't get me wrong, a draw can be a great match. OT 2005 was brilliant.

    But I'm glad I didn't pay £75 to watch yesterday, and paying £20 today wasn't worth it.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    Another example why test Cricket is so boring, and it will eventually be disappeared. After all who has time to watch 5 day game except the senior citizens. I don’t recall any other sports that lasts for 5 long days and still ends up as a draw. Bring on Twenty 20 !!!

  • Comment number 4.

    you are right about the possible mental effect on the respective teams - south africa will not be concerned about their batting now. kallis is too classy to be bothered by his failures at lords - i bet he makes a ton next time round.

    i thought england should not have enforced the follow on, and gone out and made more runs, just to say "we can bat". they were never in 100 years going to bowl south africa out again and force the win, but could have put them in with a day and a half to go, chasing 550-600 to win. instead, the bowlers toiled away for 3 days and will know be knackered!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Spot on Aggers. South Africa will be on more of a high than England after holding on for a draw, however this shouldn't undermine 3 days of quality cricket by England.

    Both sides need to strengthen for next test though. Englands bowling did lack pace so it's good to see Freddie return.

  • Comment number 6.

    I love cricket, but the last few days were dull. It may be a purist's fantasy but if no one turns up to watch where is the money coming from? I am so glad I didn'y pay £75 to watch that game.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not the most exciting match, but nevertheless an intriguing one. This match had a narrative, some tales of heroism, and some twists and turns, and will have an effect on the next game and the rest of the series.

    England were "up" with a few big scores, Then they were even more "up" after enforcing the follow on "more than comfortably".

    Then South Africa dug in and, with three centurians of their own, they took the gloss off the England batsmen's heroics, and took the wind out of the England bowers' sails. England lost the psychological battle and go into the next match with scars.

    This was an heroic rearguard action to compare with Atherton and Russell a few years back.

    Who will remember the "story" of a Twenty20 match a fortnight later?

  • Comment number 8.

    that was meant to say "will now be knackered"!

  • Comment number 9.

    Fascinating game. I love the subtlety, the tactics of the 5 day game. Its just as compelling and exciting as the "crash, bang, wallop" of Twenty20. Both have their place in today's cricket.

    England shouldn't be too dis-heartened about the draw. They put SA on the back foot, forced them to dig in. Considering most people had written England off before the first ball had been bowled, the performances were extremely encouraging.

    Hopefully Flintoff can provide the extra cutting edge England need (assuming he plays)

  • Comment number 10.

    What a shame that England have been totally punished for 3 days outstanding cricket! They were in such a dominant position that South Africa had no earthly chance of winning.
    No one can dispute the nerve they showed to bat out 2 days to avoid defeat, but is it really fair that our bowlers probably come away feeling disheartened by the whole experience after hours of joyless bowling?
    All this goes to prove that England need a 5 man bowling attack against high quality batting line ups, to give us options and share the workload. We have "got by" up until now, and Anderson, Broad and Sidebottom have worked admirably as a unit. I for one feel it would be very harsh on any of them to be left out at Headingley. On the face of it Broad would be the unlucky one, as the one with the least impressive figures this year. How retrograde a step that would be.
    You hear "roles" being discussed frequently, but I can't take Flintoff seriously as an all-rounder and a number 6 test batsman at the moment. Treat Broad as the all-rounder and Flintoff as a front line bowler batting at 6/7, and 8 respectively, and I can see some logic. Ambrose needs a score to support the middle order as well. Perhaps no-one dare tell the great man that he needs to prove he is a test batsman after his recent history, and not assume that he can walk back into the role. I love Flintoff as much as the next person, but let's hope someone uses their common sense about his "role", and not pin all hopes on him single handedly doing the lot.

  • Comment number 11.

    why didnt kp get the champagne moment for reaching his ton in superb fashion and then the 2 minute ovation?

    typical anti-kp bias.

  • Comment number 12.

    Time for the MCC to produce more responsive, lively, quick pitches - or could the ECB be instructing them to make matches last as long as possible as Lord's revenue is all that has become important.

    How about digging up the Lord's square as they did at the Oval. The latter has produced faster wickets with some balance between bat and ball. Oh to replacate the Old Trafford pitch in NW8.

    No more bore draws please MCC

  • Comment number 13.

    'Lucky to enjoy' that display by the South Africans - you have to be kidding. The slowest ever strike rate at Lords! It was negative and dull - that doesn't mean it wasn't a feat but it was a boring spectacle.

    If England had produced the same display, the Aus, NZ and SA press would have been laying into the team for boring tactics that kill the game.

    I love Test cricket and hate Twenty20 knockabout. That doesn't come into it, this was a bore draw however you look at it and you get those in most sports.

  • Comment number 14.

    I fail to understand the feelings expressed after England's first innings that they 'should go on to win this game'.

    How realistic is it for England to bowl South Africa out twice in 3 days on an unresponsive wicket which afforded them almost 600 runs.

    One could have believed ' England have a remote chance of winning from here'. Now had Michael Vaughan taken a risk and declared at 450 runs the match may have taken a totally different course in Englands favour. Good wins stem from brave risks.

    Can England be satisfied with the temporary glory of scoring 600 runs on a docile wicket when the opportunity of catching the South Africans off guard after their winter slumber begged for exploitation?

    My humble suggestion to Michael Vaughan is : when the likes of Geoffrey Boycott offer advice you listen very carefully. I know this to be true when the likes if Eddie Barlow or Clive Rice have shared precious thoughts with young South Africans.

    If we can build a world class golf course in the deserts of Dubai, we can surely prepare a competitive wicket at Lords.

    Groundsman 1 : Cricket 0

  • Comment number 15.

    Twenty one wickets fell during five days play spread over 15 sessions. Pitch curators will have an important role to play to make Test cricket result oriented.

    South African front line batsmen displayed all the traditional Test match virtues in the second innings. Great fight back by the trio of centurions. The series is still wide open. Let us wish the players all the very best in the Second Test.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 16.

    The South Africans were deadly boring but they had a game plan, stuck to it and got their reward.

    Their play was not in the spirit of the game one might say but they'd rather not lose the first test of what is likely to be a close fought series.

    As for the Lord's pitch...the last time I saw a result on that pitch in the second Lord's test of the summer was in the 2005 ashes, where both sides were bowled out very cheaply. There needs to be a happy medium. My £75 was not the best value for money but you take that chance.

    As for Old Trafford...Test cricket is big business, you need to make your facilities top notch if you want to get your test status back.

  • Comment number 17.

    thirdumpire is out of touch. An entire session with 20 runs can be fascinating and definitely more worth watching than the T20 slogging. Anyone can do that if they have a good eye for the ball and the right tactics. Get rid of 50 overs and get a world cup test going. England vs. Aus world cup final test would be worth watching!

  • Comment number 18.

    I switched off mid-morning when it was obvious that the game would end tamely. That's not to say that both sides don't take great credit, despite the dead nature of the pitch. England were put in and did what no one expected: put up a huge total despite a couple of really rough umpiring decisions. People were saying constantly that it was far too long since we had scored 400, whatever the pitch or the attack. South Africa huffed and puffed, but we did what other sides have so often done to us... produce a huge stand when the opposition thought that they were through to the tail, with a lower-order batsman punishing a tiring attack before a declaration.

    They then came out and showed South Africa how to bowl on that pitch. It was not unexpected that South Africa would not bat as badly a second time and that the four man attack would not be able to bowl out South Africa, but the South Africans batted with enormous determination in a fantastic rearguard action. It was Test cricket at its best with cut and thrust and changes of momentum.

    For me, after his good first innings performance, the most disappointing thing was seeing Monty Panesar's impotence. This season he has bowled a lot of overs for not very much reward, both for Northants and for England (4 wickets in 108 overs for Northants, 9 wickets v New Zealand, but 6 of those in just one innings). Monty produced one massive match-winning performance for England this summer, but they are not as regular as they used to be. More than 50 overs without a wicket won't do his confidence any good.

  • Comment number 19.

    For me the teams are fairly level. The pitch won, or lost however you see it. It was too flat for a Test Match. Bring back Old Trafford, much more exciting wicket and Tests.

    England performed at their best. South Africa's batting class got them clear of trouble, where their bowling class didn't really turn up this match.

    But Leeds, bowlers will have a better edge and Nel, Steyn, Morkel will be a handful. But so might Jimmy, Freddie, Siddy and Broady. Batting averages may take a tumble after this match. Vaughan and Kallis are due for scores. Batsmen will have to be more watchful and shot selective against a seaming/swinging ball, who knows what the pace/bounce will be like. Result expected

  • Comment number 20.

    I was at the match today, taking advantage of the lower prices. I was massively disappointed with the days play, as the English attack proved it is not good enough to force a result on a flat track, it also proved the importance of someone like flintoff who is capable of forcing a breakthrough if required, fitting him into the team is the only problem now!
    I am also baffled as to why Lords always is guaranteed 2 test matches a year, surely more successful grounds for england such as Trent Bridge and Old Trafford should be used instead? As well as probably providing more positive results for England, it would also spread Test Match cricket around the country, a much fairer situation for all involved apart from the MCC.

  • Comment number 21.

    Stargazer, I've said it before. Monty is bowling way too fast with his stock ball 56-58mph; not 52-55mph. It means he hasn't a fasted shock ball as the looped deliveries are all underwood rapid.

    He's got the Ashley Giles King of Spain to a tee; but he needs to more on experiment, more variations, control of these; flight, speed changes, spin, left arm dousra, tempting batsmen into mistakes and false shots.

  • Comment number 22.

    The fact that England's attack would struggle on a flat pitch has been a recurring theme and no great surprise. Sidebottom was hampered. Broad has L-plates and is not quick enough on a flat pitch where things are in the batsman's favour (I told you so... honest guv') - you need to be about 5mph faster than his quickest to surprise the batsman with bounce. Jimmy Anderson gave it everything and was the only one with respectable figures. And poor old Monty seemed to lack ideas, as has happened on other, similar occasions. Most likely a fifth bowler would not have changed the result, but it least it would have spread the workload and, who knows what one or two very quick deliveries on the right spot or a more practised exponent of reverse swing might have done? One more wicket around lunch and South Africa would have at least had to sweat a bit more.

  • Comment number 23.

    Like a number of the above peeps I was at the ground today. A couple of observations:

    1. Monty: bowled tidily, but not penetratively. Everyone around me was saying he should have bowled around the wicket to the right handers, but he persisted in going over the wicket, so they just kicked it away.

    2. Bad light. Yes, it clouded over a bit in the afternoon but to go off for bad light was taking the micky. I mean, I had my sunglasses on when they went off as otherwise I had to squint! I was at Lords for most days the NZ match earlier in the year and you needed a torch at times to see the ball. Why the inconsistency? I absolutely have no problem paying £50-£75 for a whole day's entertainment, but I do then expect a whole day's worth. If you went to Alton Towers and paid £75 to get in, you'd be somewhat upset it they shut 50% of the rides without warning.

  • Comment number 24.

    I am now frightened by the sudden realisation now of what South Africa are capable of when they put their minds to the match in hand. I assure you, if England can't beat SA at home, they can forget about the Ashes next summer. England will not even be competitive. On the other hand though, now Smith and co aso understand what England are capable of. The second Test will be an interesting one.

  • Comment number 25.

    A very average test match indeed, and I fail to see who has the advantage for the next test. SA probably as the England bowlers must be knackered.
    The real losers were the paying public. As commented on in an earlier post, fair contest between bat and ball is required. Lords needs to start providing appropriate pitches, otherwise all Lords test matches will be for the 'prawn sandwich', stuffy old guard and not the majority of fans who fund the game.

    A wonderful ground yes, a wonderful test cricket wicket, no.

  • Comment number 26.

    Cracking round up as always Aggers!

    Especially enjoyed listening to you and Tuffer's on TMS.
    I immeasurably prefer test cricket over any other form, and had been looking forward to this series for a while. However that anticipation and excitemnt was tempered somewhat by the totally docile and benign pitch Mick Hunt served up. A pitch should wear as the match goes on, this pitch offered nothing to the bowlers all game, which ended up making the 5th day a waste of time.
    I am very concerned by this trend of continually making batting paradices, just so matches will last 5 day and thus generate maximum revenue. I think there are two many people within various cricket boards from around the world who have jobs to ensure that they make as much $profit as possible, I wish there could be some change in attitude where this was not the case, it would certainly make sport all the richer for it. If the rest of the pitches in this series continue to stay like this I am going to get very bored with test cricket and very fast.

    I think pitches should definately detiorate as the match goes on, BUT a new rule should perhaps be introduced which does away with the toss. At the start of each game each game each team should have to reveal how many runs they would be willing to sacrifise so they could have the choise of batting or bowling first. Whichever team outbids the other then gets to bat or bowl first with the total they bid being added/subtracted form their/the oppositions score. This would create pressure and excitemnt as well as doing away with the somewhat unfair coin toss.

  • Comment number 27.

    Lords are most definitely putting profit ahead of a decent wicket. For three wickets to fall on the last two days of a test match is pretty disgraceful, really. Old Trafford may not have the (overpriced) 'facilities', but it has a cracking pitch that produces an equal contest between bat and ball.

    I'm sorry, Aggers, but today and yesterday were turgid. Yes, the Saffers showed character, but boy is it boring to watch. England not taking wickets, SA not scoring runs... where is the entertainment, or indeed the point of that?

    I never thought I'd say it, but Lord's should definitely be stripped of one of its two yearly tests until it can produce a result wicket, and stop being a five day opportunity for the ECB to milk the cricket-loving public for all they're worth. I for one have had enough of it. 75 pounds is outrageous for a day at a Test match(up from £52 against Australia just three years ago), and to see such a boring day's play merely rubs salt in the wound. I've been to all six of the drawn tests in the last three years and I ain't going back until someone wins a test match there. And that doesn't include our ritual pasting by the Aussies there next year!

  • Comment number 28.

    What a waste of a great match!! After 3 days the game looked like a classic, SA could have made a remarkable comeback (a la England v NZ at Old Trafford), but instead they decided with 2 days to go they were only playing for survival.

    It goes to show the huge gulf between the ozzies and the rest, they would never have given up on a victory so easily.

    England cant be blamed, they tried thier best on a flat wicket (which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later), and hope the bowlers arent too tired for the next game. Come on Freddie, lets give what they all want....ENTERTAINMENT!!!

  • Comment number 29.

    Dear jtstriker9

    1. after 3 days the game looked like a DRAW
    2. SA DID make a remarkable comeback
    3. with 2 days to go they WERE playing for survival

    Who is to blame?

  • Comment number 30.

    couldn't agree more about SA being bore draw's. Ive heard alot about their bowlers being special but they have got to perform alot better and fast. This is why they will never catch australia in the rankings because they are too conservative in their approach.

    I was tempted to go to Lords but £75 is outrageous especially when producing a flat,lifeless wicket. £50 should be enough.

  • Comment number 31.

    Re: Lord's. Yes the pitch completely flattened out, but it should have been possible to get more than 3 wickets in 6 sessions.

    Re: OT. The pitch may be good but have to agree with above comment regarding facilities. The lack of development there in the last 10-20 years is a disgrace. They don't deserve an Ashes Test. Every other Test ground in the country has redeveloped in recent years - OT is NOT A NICE PLACE TO WATCH CRICKET!

  • Comment number 32.

    The only disgraceful thing about this match was the pitch. I don't know what they have done to it but they better get it sorted for next year against the Aussies - who haven't lost at Lords for a hundred years or something ridiculous like that.

    I had a feeling that England shouldn't have enforced the follow on. England could've increased the lead to 475+, give SA a target to chase, and give our bowlers a rest then bowl at them till the end of the match.

  • Comment number 33.

    I love test cricket but Lords is a bit of a drag, if the ECB can ditch Old Trafford and its fantastic lively pitch because the rest of the ground is a bit shabby and maintain that the "home" of cricket Lords produces quality games of cricket then they are so far out of touch its un-true and test cricket will eventually die. Un-like you Aggers we pay everyday to watch cricket and on this constantly poor pitch in an ever aging ground the history just doesnt make up for the lack of value for money.
    In the ashes this ground it a gimme draw were as OT is a very different story, talk about making it even harder for ourselves!
    Well done England for setting the big target and well done SA for keeping at it.
    Test cricket for you .....

  • Comment number 34.

    A simple solution - reintroduce timeless tests!

  • Comment number 35.

    I was at Lord's today, but I think it's the last time I'm going until they produce the kind of pitch where there's a chance of a result.

    I was thinking back to all the recent years I'd been there, but all I could remember was a series of draws all merging into one...

    I adore Test cricket, but there is a limit.

  • Comment number 36.

    Lord's is dreadful. Draw bore galore.
    Old Trafford is simply where England need to be. They mainly win there!
    And Monty has a field day at OT.
    Surely if test cricket is to remain, you must look past the facilities?

  • Comment number 37.

    There have been some disparaging comments about SA's tactics which I'll largely ignore, although my view is that as someone who sat through Saturday's shocker of a day, I don't think SA had much choice but to dig in - and survival was paramount at that stage. Not sure England would have done anything different?

    I get significant comfort from an SA PoV in that a) SA have demonstrated they can apply themselves to the task and bat for two days under significant pressure(which I haven't witnessed England do in some time) and b) our top order have had a mighty fine look at what England's bowling has to offer. Smith McKenzie and Amla probably benefited immensely from the last 48 hours, whereas those that survive from the current Eng bowling line up are going to have to drag themselves into firing on all cylinders in only a few days' time.

  • Comment number 38.

    Well said, alyxred, test cricket should not have been taken away from Old Trafford, and I agree that the facilities shouldn't be as important as the pitch.

    However, now that OT have been left out in the cold, that should provide the incentive to Lancs to make sure the necessary improvements are carried out as soon as possible and reclaim that test match status!

  • Comment number 39.

    please tell me how can fridays test team not include matt prior.
    what has ambrose done to keep his place.
    foster,reid,jones good keepers but not with bat.prior is the second highest run scorer in county cricket,and his keeping has been very good.
    appreciate any views.

  • Comment number 40.

    I re-iterate my point in my comment on Aggers' previous blog that South Africa showed us the worst of test cricket. I am a proud purist and fully believe that any amount of excitement twenty20 can offer, it is no substitute for the exceptional endurance shown by test players.

    Even so, I think the lack of any desire to win the match from the South Africans ensured empty seats at Lords on the 5th day of a test match yet again. Say what you like about them, but the Australians would have got after England and tried to win that match. Perhaps that is why the 2005 Ashes series is remembered as being thoroughly exciting from start to finish (draws and all) and the recent Lords test matches are being remembered as dull affairs after the first three days.

    All this considered, I would still be loathe to drop Lords from the test circuit. A venue so revered by players from around the globe and so steeped in history cannot be dropped so easily. In order to inject a bit of excitement back into the Lords test matches, there needs to be a serious amount of work done on the pitch. It is beyond dispute that the Lords pitch lends itself to draws. As such the pitch needs a bit of life injected into it, by any means possible. There are a lot of test venues around the country producing good, exciting pitches and Lords must be careful not to become complacent. Murmers are getting louder about Lords being dropped, and as with the players, a good venue must live in fear of being replaced by a superior performer.

    Congratulations to the South Africans for a dogged defensive performance. But they have done nothing to save test cricket during these troubled times.

  • Comment number 41.

    Just to add me sixpenneth many thanks to the team for yet again brill coverage even on the dullest days you can bring a smile to the faces of many.

    The mark of a great bowler IMO is one that can take wickets when the conditions are not in his favour.I think our bowlers tried very hard but none of them are in the great catagory that was required for this pitch.

    I really do think that even though Flintoff is our best bowler he is still not fully recovered and match fit enough to be considered.

    I want flintoff around and playing for quite a few years yet and would hate to see him rushed back and injured again.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think it was a previous Archbishop of the Church of England who once said "the church is like a swimming pool, most of the splashing goes on at the shallow end!" There are parallels with the cricket world I think when we look at those wining about tests being boring to watch. It is just a question of taste. I feel there will always be those who enjoy Test cricket ...savoured slow and serenely like a good brandy as there are those who prefer the quick hit of a one day lager.

    This was quite a remarkable match really. I think more than the pitch you have to appreciate what South Africa did particularly considering they had failed badly in their first innings. Bland pitch or not, England held all the aces and were able to amount a lot of pressure but couldn't break the innings down. Impressive stuff from SA. Look forward to the next Test where the conditions will be different. I don't like cricket....I LOVE IT!!!

  • Comment number 43.

    Sorry Aggers, but I have to disagree with your "shallow observation" comment, cricket is also supposed to be entertainment, the last 2 days of that test match was about as entertaining as watching paint dry, England batted brilliantly and positively but Vaughn left the declaration about 80 runs too late which gave SA no option but to play out a draw. All in all this test match was a fantastic advert for 20/20.

  • Comment number 44.

    It was a lucky escape by South Africa, though England were woeful towards the end by not getting enough wickets.

  • Comment number 45.

    Does Panesar have a spin mentor/coach, John? Even 'the great' Warney had Terry Jenner to guide him. His stock ball is great, now he needs a few tricks.
    #1 is wrong -the Lords pitch was a dream - it's the players who weren't good enough/clever enough to do anything with it- and credit MUST go to the S Africans for their obdurateness in the 2nd innings (which is how they should have batted in the first but they were obviously shellshocked at letting Bell score 199!). I would have loved a game on it. Test matches should include the occasional test of ingenuity.
    By the way, I thought the Bodyline attack to Amla was shocking - I see what the Aussies must have been so upset about all those years ago. For a time yesterday, cricket was not being played and showed a game in unwitting crisis.

  • Comment number 46.

    Sorry England !!
    You have lost a good chance to go one up here. Actually England had dominated for 3 days. It was the weaker finish of the last 2 days that needs to be looked into.

    Of course Flintoff's return should change things. Personally I always felt England without Flintoff was unthinkable - something like our team without Dravid out here.

    And if you all don't mind my saying so - I felt England strategy on spin a bit green.
    Firstly Monty should bowl a little more still. Next , you need at least another two fielders close to the bat. Never mind the runs. Especially when you have a big score. In fact this move ALWAYS forces a few shots especially for the flighted deliveries. Remember , the batsman coming out to take the bowler on doesn't always mean he has aggression on his mind. In half the cases it is because he is desperate and wants to clear the ball away from the crowd around him!!

    Good luck for the second Test !!

  • Comment number 47.

    Those who found it boring did so because their boredom thresholds are too low. Try baseball, guys; cricket has done alot to accommodate you in the last couple of decades, but it's still basically the same sophisticated game that it's always been, and if you can't find enough in it, it's obviously not the sport for you.
    As regards England's bowling, a few more miles-an-hour would not have made much difference - it didn't help the Proteas in the first innings, did it? The pitch was a featherbed, end of story.
    The thing now is that England have to gird up their loins and start again. How many times in the past have they dominated a high-scoring first test without being able to force a result - only to capitulate against the opposition bowlers in the second test in more testing conditions? They must make sure it doesn't happen this time.

  • Comment number 48.

    Shame, listen to all the English supporters bleating about South Africa "showing us the worst of cricket", playing the game "negatively", ignoring the "spirit" of cricket by not going for the win. Please! I thought English test fans were a little more intelligent than that.

    Go for the win? When you're 350odd runs and an innings behind; 200 overs left; just been dismissed for 250? What planet are you on? No. That is the time to grind down the bowlers, really exhaust 'em, and come back for the second test, just like we did in Cape Town, cleaning England up by more than an innings. Sambit Bal described the rearguard action this time round as "among the greatest escapes in the history of the game" - a non-English perspective.

    As for negativity, and ignoring the spirit of the game - well, that smacks of sour grapes after a poor second innings bowling performance from Panesar, Broad and Anderson (respect to Sidebottom for a great yorker and a huge heart). We'll see how "negative" Dale Steyn is when he bounces back on Friday, and how "negative" Jacques Kallis is when he gets his next chance.

    Good luck, England. You're going to need it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Everybody says that Simon Jones is taking lots of wickets for few runs;isn't it time for him to be recalled?

    He seems to provide something different and to provide it at high pace.

  • Comment number 50.

    drop Lords as a Test venue. Drop Ambrose as WK. Drop Collingwood ("we knock em over and run em out and we dont score runs"). Bring back Prior and Flintoff at 6 and 7. A good draw is exciting. This was tedium and anyone who says it was 'true test cricket' is talking rubbish. I paid £75 to watch sunday and wont be rushing back - certainly not to Lords. I left at 4.30. Even if I had stayed I was paying £1 every five minutes of cricket. Now imagine it was like an electricity meter fed by coins. Can you imagine anyone would have kept putting a pound in every five minutes on sunday? Finally, how is MacKenzie as an after dinner speaker?

  • Comment number 51.

    amp000, I think that if you look, you'll see that the worst of the comments were from Australians, not English fans.

    Any England fan who seriously expected you to do anything other than try to save the game from 350 behind needs his head examined. Great rearguard actions are fine cricket and South Africa pulled off a great escape here, rather like we did in the 1st Test in 2003 (albeit then aided by the weather, but we were probably in a worse mess in that Test than you were in this one).

    Entertainment? If you are struggling to survive, providing entertainment is usually the best way to lose.

  • Comment number 52.

    A very disappointing end to the game.

    Partly the pitch, which was way too flat for a decent game. But also that England seemed to giv up the fight, and showed a lack of imagination. Starting with the stupid overuse of the short ball to Amla, who is obviously not the pussycat Vaughan and Co think. How long will it take to realise that bouncers are not a real threat when you know they are coming? Tight line length bowling with the odd short one and the odd yorker in there might well have done the trick.

    Then Vaughan bowled all the frontline bowlers into the ground, seemed to forget that KP actually got a chance off Smith last night, and Bell can do a few. Monty is a very good spinner, but doesn't have variation or the confidence to really toss it up now and again.

    And then missing two chances off Prince, right there in last chance saloon.

    I really want to see England do well, but they always seem to be lacking that last 5% of commitment.

  • Comment number 53.

    I hate to be one to ruin a good stat. But this 14 games ending in 11 draws in London that has been bandied about is a bit of a red herring. The Oval is always the last test of the summer, so if a team is ahead they are always going to be playing for the draw. One of the draws was the famous Inzy tantrum, which has only become a draw in the last few weeks and another was 2005 with KP's knock , would anyone dare criticise that as lacking entertainment? Also two recent lords draws I seem to remember India being for 9 when rain stopped play with two hours remaining (so pitch was fine) and the other was Sri Lanka where England dropped about a million catchs (I am sure worst offender Alistair cook would love to blame the pitch for that.)

    So in conclusion stats are great, and this test match pitch wasn't great, however lets also use our brains to analyse the past and not use recent events and a misrepresenting statistic to obscure the truth.

  • Comment number 54.

    No.45 - I agree that the pitch wasn't to blame for the draw. The fielding side needs to get the batting side out. They therefore need to vary the attack and try different approaches on 'unhelpful' wickets.
    However, I disagree about the application of Leg Theory. The Proteas were not trying to win the game, and in this case the Leg Theory wasn't being used to restrict a dominant batsman like the Don, it was a variation to try and remove a batsman who was showing excellent application, and none of the England attack had the pace and hostility of a Larwood.
    Try to show a little balance in your observation.

  • Comment number 55.

    Im glad Flintoff is back in the team as his extra pace and bounce will add an extra-dimension to the England attack. However, if the selectors as expected replace Collingwood with Flintoff in a five man attack I do still believe that Broad, Anderson and Sidebottom bowling successes are too heavily reliant on helpful conditions.

    I think England could still improve this attack by adding Simon Jones later in the series as he is just as good a conventional swing bowler as Anderson and Sidebottom but better than Broad, he is a better reverse swing bowler than all three of them and is quicker than all three.

    As promising as Broad has been with bat and ball, he is still only likely to take 2 or 3 for on his best day rather than 5 or 6 fors like Jones. When you need 20 wickets to win a test match, are his capabilities with the bat overshadowing his main reason for being in the side, to bowl teams out? England had the same dilemma with Giles but were fortunate that the fab four (Jones, Harmy, Hoggy and Freddie) were firing on all sylinders. I do believe that Broad is a better all-round cricketer than Giles but it will be interesting to see what road England go down.

  • Comment number 56.

    South Africa will never match the Aussies because they haven't got the depth of talent. What they do have is fantastic strength of character and it is this which I fear may make the difference this series. Regardless of the nature of the pitch South Africa have bounced back from 3 poor days and will be buoyant going into the 2nd test.
    In adversity England have a history, with the occasional notable exception, of not being up for the fight. Although we have no reason to be downcast just yet how will we react when the boot is on the other foot?

    The most worrying sign is the form of the opposition batsmen. Four centuries already!! Smith appears to have found form and no doubt determined to repeat his exploits of 5 years ago. Even Amlas' scoring runs. Nothing to speak of so far from their top man but we all know Kallis will come good. As for the bowling attack surely theres too much quality for it not to 'fire' in the very near future.

    Don't get me wrong England are quite capable of competing and it could be argued have an edge in talent especially on home soil. In a series which promises to be tough and uncompromising where players mental strength will be tested to the limit who would your money be on?

    Aggers is wrong about the first test and its not a case of being shallow but just stating the obvious. It did develop into an extremely tedious affair. Accepted that the circumstances were always going to dictate a cautious approach by the batsmen but come on, the pitch was a featherbed. Throw in tired bowlers with attacking fields and less than 2.5 runs/over looks pretty dire to me. Slow scoring test matches can be rivetting but these normally occur when the ball very much dominates the bat, certainly not the case in this instance. That doesn't stop us applauding the efforts of the batsman with the levels of concentration particularly admirable. Oh by the way one day cricket can be boring as well and that includes 20/20.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree Aggers - admirable resiliance from SA - but the Pitch really was poor yet again - Lords seems to be constantly providing us with bad ones at the moment! Maybe its time we got one of those 'magic' groundsmen in to sort it out because the people responsible for the Lords wicket certainly don't seem to be getting it right at present.

  • Comment number 58.

    I am fed up hearing all these comments complaining about how boring the Lords Test Match was. I have no doubt that if this had been England batting out for the draw in these circumstances these pages and the media would have been littered with comments about a fantastic achievement showing great mental, physical and cricketing ability.
    The fact is that Test Cricket offers interest and an ability to display a whole host of different cricketing skills in a whole host of different environments and situations. 20:20 cricket and one day cricket offers somewhat limited opportunities. Each aspect of the game has its place.

  • Comment number 59.

    Some highly intelligent comments made and a few recurring themes.
    The Lords pitch was not prepared as a fair test (literally and actually) in spite of SA being skittled out in their first innings.
    Test cricket needs to be exciting if it is not to lose its position as the premier form of the game.
    Golf is an interesting example of how they have had to change the way courses have been set-up, principally to make the game more exciting.
    Somebody winning at 26 under par suggests it's not a serious course.
    Whilst England have a good batting line-up I'm not convinced about our bowling against either class batsmen or on slow wickets such as Lords.
    Vaughan is a terrific captain but his batting is not in the league of Ponting or Smith.
    Monty is a great bowler but I'm glad there are people prepared to proffer some constructive advice.
    He's not the finished article just yet.
    I also agree with Gooch's observation on wicket keeping.
    Fletcher stuck with Jones for far too long and then in a blink of an eye we seem to have tried a great number with the incumbent not really living up to the promise he showed initially (a bit like Prior).
    Whilst you need runs on the board you need to be able to take 20 wickets and this is my main concern.
    If Flintoff is genuinely fit to play using him as a shock bowler makes absolute sense.
    Tough decisions need to be made and Collingwood needs to be rested to allow Fintoff to play giving us a 5 man bowling attack.
    However I agree with the person who suggested that Flintoff's batting qualities - at test level - have greatly disappointed in the recent past which is why I would definitley leave Broad in the side who seems to be a genuine all-rounder for the future.

  • Comment number 60.

    i agree with those above who think lords is producing a wicket designed specifically to reflect all that is bad about test cricket. i remember thumbing wisdens when i was younger and seeing five match series being drawn nil-nil in india and wondering what kind of sadist would wish to sit through an entire summer just to see the scoreline of nil-nil. anyone who just visits lords will be able to tell me...

  • Comment number 61.

    somewhat dated comment, but this was test cricket..tiring and demanding. I don't believe psychologically this means much for the future games; the toss decision was diabolical, and I can't believe Vaughan would have done the same thing,

    How can he say he is content with the outcome, we should have won, and taken the wickets..shows the toothlessness of our attack..or the pitch was not interesting enough, has anyone chatted to the groundsman??

  • Comment number 62.

    I think that the England selectors need to make 2 major changes to this current team.

    Freddie coming in and Colly going out is pretty much a given at the moment. Much as I like Collingwood, he's desperately out of touch and needs a break. Lack of form wasn't tolerated with Strauss and shouldn't be this time either. Andrew Flintoff is quite simply the most feared cricketer we have to offer. Sure, Pietersen's a better batsman, but Flintoff's a much more accomplished all-rounder with more presence than you can shake a stick at. His barbed comments at slip will do more to unsettle the SA batsmen than Collingwood's agility at gully.

    Secondly, I believe Simon Jones needs to come back into the attack. In fantastic form this season, he deserves a chance to prove himself again on the world stage after such a lengthy spell of injury. Trouble is I don't know who should be dropped for him. None of our current seam attack is, in my opinion, particularly potent but, conversely, none is really playing badly enough to be dropped. Perhaps Sidebottom's injury may decide this for us.

    All in all, I believe that would give us a very strong batting line-up, once Michael Vaughan and Tim Ambrose remember to bring their A-games when at the crease, and an awesome bowling attack.

    In fact, I read someone elsewhere on this forum advocating going back to the 2005 Ashes line-up of Hoggard, Harmison, Flintoff and Jones.

    What an exciting prospect that would be...!

  • Comment number 63.

    Some bizarre comments have emerged saying twenty20 is better, proven by this game, this is ludicrous, Test cricket has so much more potential. Changes simply need to be made to the ground used.

    Lords is a joke, the pitch is awful, and don't use the weather as an argument, it can't have been impossible to prepare a good wicket in the last five years.

    Also, the bulk of those at lords are not real cricket fans, this is evident from the amount of empty seats up to an entire hour after lunch, which is quite frankly ridiculous. You won't be seeing that at headingley this week, or edgbaston in a couple of weeks time. Lords is more of a social occassion for business executives to shmoose customers.

    Headingley, Edgbaston, Old Trafford all have a truly fantastic atmosphere, combined with the pitches, it makes for good Test matches than can easily rival twenty20 in terms of entertainment.

    Lords should be wiped from the fixtures altogether, unfit to host test matches, but oh no this will never happen as long as stupidity, arrogance, and utter snobbery exists within mcc and the cricket governing body in England.

  • Comment number 64.

    As in so many aspects of life today, this blog reflects the trend for mediocrity to become elevated by media hype into "greatness"!
    "Vaughan is a great captain" No he isn't. His personal fielding sets a terrible example and too many of your correpondants seem to confuse activity with excellence. Constantly moving fielders about into strange positions can be great captaincy - IF IT WORKS! Good, yes, but by no means "great".
    "Monty is a great bowler" No he isn't. He's a pretty good left arm spinner (the best we've got) but lacks the variations of flight and pace or a "mystery ball" that would make him potentially a "great". He doesn't begin to compare with Vettori (who can also bat and field!).
    Regarding the Flintoff debate I don't know that he should be replacing anybody! I watched him in action taking a couple of wickets against a poor Hampshire side on Sunday and was concerned that he seemed very stiff after his 5 or 6 overs. He is vital to our chances next summer and I feel he is being rushed back too quickly. He has as yet shown no real form and I don't think Test Matches against the no. 2 side in the world provide the best route to rehabilitation. Again, the reality is that since 2005 he has done little to support the "great" tag and in my view would be better served recapturing fitness, form and rhythm for Lancs during the remainder of the season before joining the winter tours.

  • Comment number 65.

    Should Monty get a ticking for continuously appealing even when the ball has pitched a mile outside of leg stump.

  • Comment number 66.

    I think it's fair to say only die-hard purists will have taken much from yet another Lords bore-draw, but as a rearguard action it was certainly impressive and I agree the Saffers will feel better walking away from Lords than England. Yes, great facilities and all that, but the wicket is where the game is played and is in need of sorting, to be fit for competitive test matches, not batting showcases for starry-eyed visiting tourists. A cynic might suggest the accountants won't stand for any tests that don't go five days at the commercial home of cricket. Oh, sorry I suddenly confused Lords with Mumbai...

  • Comment number 67.

    Simon Jones is topping the first class bowling averages with 29 wickets at an average of 13 (qualification 10+ wickets).

    This isn't good enough for the selectors. So what does he need to do to get a recall then? Take 100 wickets at an average of 5 perhaps?

    Freddy seems to have to do no more than step on a cricket pitch to earn a recall, yet other players do everything that could be asked of them and still get ignored.

    On the Lords issue, let's kill 2 birds with one stone. Firstly, drop Lords and keep all the bloggers happy. Secondly, assuming that only visiting teams want to play at Lords now, drop Lords when India next visit in retaliation for the itinerary for the Indian tour.

    Why does London always have two tests anyway? Why does London have two of the three venues for next year's 20/20 tournament?

  • Comment number 68.

    I'm stumped. I can't work out if the pitch put pay to any decent cricket or England were just not good enough to make a breakthrough. Everyone is quite right about needing a balanced pitch that offers something for both camps but I can't quite get away from the niggling feeling that Brett Lee or Shane Watson would have got something to happen. It's on this sort of track that top class bowlers earn their money and, while England strived manfully they never really looked like getting amongst the Saffers. They really need Flintoff back in the side.
    One thing that I find annoying is the trend for ex England players to get the lions share of the commentary. This would not be a problem if they wern't so blatant with their support. This constant reference to 'we' and the biased comments are not very proffessional. A lesson from Richie Benaude or Bill Mclaren wouldn't go amiss.
    After all, it's a world wide production and cheerleading is not what the BBC should be about.
    And can someone have a word with Monty. His appealing is getting embarrassing. He's asking for stuff that a 12 year old wouldn't try for. I'm all for putting pressure on but there is a limit !
    Anyway, lets hope thursday dawns dry and bright and we get a good test match .

  • Comment number 69.

    I'm a life-long test match (and TMS) fan. Twenty/twenty is great. The two are not mutually exclusive. This match was exciting till after lunch day 5. The pitch is a great leveller.

    My worry is that this English team regardless of selection issues simply could not have done what the South Africans did in order to save the draw. Made to follow on they would have come out and played their "natural game" and lost. There is talent enough but is professionalism something different perhaps?

  • Comment number 70.

    Hi Aggers
    It is easy to be wise in retrospect, but I feel the follow on is not always wise. Likewise I have never believed nightwatchmen should be used a good batsman is always better to stay there than a tailender.

    Had England batted again and put 200 or more on or so, this would have put it totally out of reach, with the only option a draw. SA had a faint hope that if Englands bowling was ragged (as it can be) they might have a tiny chance. Had England batted again they could have rubbed SA's nose in it, and not allowed them to build their confidence, which they have.
    Also Vaughn should have changed the bowling more often and introduced non bowlers simply to break up the concentration, a few Yahoos! breeds overconfidence.

    The fielding let England down in their hour of need.

  • Comment number 71.

    David Leigh,

    After 3 days the game did not look like a draw, england were huge favourites and SA did a great job in the resolute defence.

    But can you imagine Australia batting for a draw for 2 days on that wicket from the same position?? I think not....

    And with test cricket up in arms about T20, this was not a great advert. Teams have to play to win for their to be any entertainment and to keep the young fans interested.

  • Comment number 72.


    South African I presume.....

    Man, this team is THE most boring team in Test cricket at the moment. Donald, Cullinan, Gibbs and co would be ashamed....!!

  • Comment number 73.

    I don't recall anyone going on about how boring Atherton and Russell were in 1995.

    As for the English bowling, there was definitely something lacking in it.

    Once Broad can take on Anderson's role on for longer periods then we can bring in Jones and Flintoff as a pair of assassins - hunting in five over bursts, with Broad/Anderson and Hoggy/Sidey providing cover.

    And a bottom five of Flintoff, Broad, Jones, Sidebottom and Panesar should provide some runs.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'd like to defend the lords pitch: why didn't any of the common 'taters, experts and pundits pipe up on days 1,2 and 3 that it was 'too good' when England were doing well out of it? The headlines were: 'Magnificent' Bell, 'Magnificent' Pietersen. Only when S Af got their act together did it become too good! Aggers gets credit for not buying into it. A minor minus though for saying that Broad turned his back over in a foot hole!! (see his last paragraph)

  • Comment number 75.

    a sad (and patronising) attempt to justify an abysmal last 2 days. People like aggers depend on test cricket , he knows it was awful so he tries to 'explain' to us poor dimwits that really it was gritty test cricket at its best. Drop Collingwood, Ambrose, Lords - and aggers if there is any more of this drivel

  • Comment number 76.

    Test cricket is great. This Test was wholly tedious from mid-way through day 4. When 4 balls every single over are well wide of off stump and left well alone by the batsmen, and the other two balls are blocked for hours on end, it really does need a paycheck from the BBC to pretend what superior sport we're witnessing. There was not the sniff of a wicket for sessions at a time, and barely the inclination for batsmen to score runs or bowlers to make the batsmen play.

    It was a Bore Draw. And, thanks for the condescending attitude Aggers, but that doesn't mean I'm just too pig ignorant to appreciate a compelling Test. You've just got the blinkers on in a bizarre attempt to make every Test fantastic so you can hopefully throw the formats brilliance up in sharp relief to your hated 20/20.

    p.s. As a few other people have said, Test match cricket is fantastic but Twenty20 is ALSO fantastic. The two forms are not mutually exclusive, even though Aggers (and some of the other trundling, envious ex-players in the TMS box) has not commented for more than 3 minutes the whole summer without boring on about how much he hates everything except Test cricket. And Aggers, I think the world knows how much you hate Twenty20. I hope you're not intending to get paid for commenting on or covering it anytime in the future?

  • Comment number 77.

    Ive watched simon jones bowl at worcester this season and he does look sharp. I think he's ready to claim a place. I feel england need him to add some zip to their attack. a bowling attack of jones, broad, monty, anderson and flintoff would test the south africans.

  • Comment number 78.

    I posted a comment yesterday but, for some reason, it didn't appear. The gist of the point I was making, which must have upset somebody, somewhere, has, ironically, been echoed in contributions from many others. My complaint was that there is a tendency amongst some cricket lovers (I referred to them as zealots) to apply self-serving and intellectually conceited justifications for what, to all intents and purposes, is sometimes a pretty tedious sport. Their argument, put simply, is that if you're bored with a passage of play, or an entire game, then it's because you're either too simple or unsophisticated to appreciate what, in their rather partial eyes, is a wonderful game. I have no problems (well, OK, a little sympathy perhaps) for those who enjoyed Days 4 and 5 of the recent Lords Test Match, but it's quite wrong of them to then go on and deride those who said that they found it all rather tedious. I sometimes think that there is a segment of cricket followers who rail against an unjust world where "inferior games" remain, rather stubbornly, far more popular than their chosen preferred pastime. And no, I'm sorry, it isn't because the rest of us who may prefer football, or, perish the thought Twenty20, are hapless morons who've failed to see the light, That's arrogant and conceited nonsense and does no favours for the few who propogate it. Get real. Cricket, like all ball games, has the capacity to be banal at times. Stripped of drama, athleticism and import, most games are. I tend to think that cricket can be, at times, especially banal, all too often bereft of what makes a sport truly worth watching. The odd wonderful Test Series doesn't alter this basic truism.

  • Comment number 79.

    Good cricket or not (especially by SA in their second innings), you expect to get a result after 5 virtually uninterrupted days of cricket.

    I think Aggers, in making your comments, you are harping back to the past and, in particular, to those you might call purists - cricket has to move forward with the times and to watch the most boring of spectacles on days 4 and 5 will turn many of the spectators away who the ECB are desperately trying to keep after the Ashes bonanza of 2005........

  • Comment number 80.

    I'm bewildered by so many criticisms of MV's decision to enforce the follow-on. It seems that the only possible reason suggested so far is that it would have been less deflating for England to get a draw that way than the way they did.

    Not to enforce the follow-on would have been nothing less than a surrender; if we could not get ten SA wickets in over two days, why would we be able to get ten wickets in a day, or a day and a half? So it would have been an automatic admission that we were just trying to get the least humiliating form of draw possible.

    Would any real captain ever make such a choice, when he has a chance for victory? Sounds very lame to me. Guess I must be missing something.

  • Comment number 81.

    Yes boring, the most exciting thing was the Flintoff debate. So England want to bring in another quick, why not another spinner, like Rashid (he also bats) to give real variation?

  • Comment number 82.

    Am i the only one who thinks that Ambrose is merely suviving because of englands success? its the old saying of only change a winnig side if its for the better, ambrose had a county average of 25 before he was picked and bar 2 noteable innings (both against new zeland can i add!) he looks pretty average and only shot is the cut, and hes hardly a keeper in the class of read or foster so surely its time to pick a young guy, a davies,mustard, foster and invest in them for the future or select prior or geraint jones and accept the occasional clanger with the gloves.

  • Comment number 83.

    Thank you Jonathan for your usual high quality journalism, descriptions of play, and company over the past five days, despite some rather tiring cricket in the latter stages. Your team do such a good job, but please TMS, let's stick to what works with Aggers welcoming us to the ground. Mark Pougatch is a very good football presenter, but TMS just doesn't need that style.

  • Comment number 84.

    '...geraint jones...occasional clanger...' grief here's kent.v.yorkshire

    'Rudolph reached his fifty off only 71 balls, though he was dropped on 66 by Geraint Jones off Martin van Jaarsveld.

    McGrath completed his century after tea and after Rudolph was dropped again on 96 by Jones, he brought up his three figures too.

    McGrath fell to Martin Saggers before Arafat nipped out Gary Ballance and Gerard Brophy and Jones still had time to drop Rudolph on 110 before the close of play'

    only 3 drops in this one passage of play.

    England must have a wicketkeeper, not a poser.

  • Comment number 85.

    To those attacking Vaughan's captaincy: he has won more test matches through his captaincy than any of those giving him "advice".

    When you have a four man attack including three young bowlers with little match winning experience (all except Sidebottom), you need a massive score and then hope Panesar produces some magic. It's not Vaughan's fault that Lord's produced one of the worst strips in the country.

    Not all fans want to see crash-bang-wallop batting. Quite a few want to see top-quality bowling, and a wicket that gives plenty to the pace bowlers with enough for batsman to prosper with concentration, and the ball turning late on.

    The MCC should shoulder most of the blame for this horrendously over-priced farce.

  • Comment number 86.

    Perhaps it is time for people to stop moaning (for heavens sake, what would it have been like if, as expected, we had lost?) and accept that England are a decent enough side, even if not the finished article. The dejá vú from 2004 is amazing: constant destructive criticism without any desire or ability to see anything positive.

    Competition for places? Harmful!
    No competition for places? Harmful?
    Whatever wicket-keeper is currently in? A disaster (sometimes it takes some gymnastics to manage it, like saying that 2x50 and 1x100 in 7 Tests is only "2 significant scores" - which would still be one more than the past incumbant that they want ever made in 14 Tests)!
    The batting? Pathetic!
    The batting? Flat track bullies with no skill!

    Need I go on???

  • Comment number 87.

    I enjoyed the the match immensely. It is such a relief to see proper cricket after all the one-day and 20/20 stuff over the previous month or so.

    Monty bowled enough over for thirteen 20/20 games.

  • Comment number 88.

    Just a final thought. In all three previous tours by South Africa we had received an almighty hammering at Lords, each time by a massive margin, putting us on the back foot in the series. Maybe someone did know what they were doing after all this time...

  • Comment number 89.

    Time to take stcck!

    I think I agreed with just about everything you said, Aggers. After all, we are talking about the greatest game in the world, test cricket. Not always exciting or even particularly entertaining at times. If you don't like it, you don't go to see it. I haven't yet gone to see a boxing match. I would add that test match days like the last two of this match are actually pretty rare, very boring for many but inspiring for others.

    I really enjoy the BBC test match blogs, so much wisdom and wit and passion. I also follow sporting blogs (no cricket!) on Marca, a Spanish sporting publication. By comparison they are absolute rubbish (I am avoiding using terms that might get the moderators out of their beds).

    Great to see Flintoff back in the team. He may be able to make the difference and I wish him the very best. After all the injury problems he has had, he and we will be crossing our fingers that he has overconme them for good. A new relapse would surely mark the end of his test career, one that, for a time, seemed to be destined to match that of Ian Botham. Characters like Botham and Flintoff rise above all the other players, even the very best, and are capable of "inspiring the nation" because they seem to win matches almost singlehandedly.

    This next test is a very important one for England. The enormous psychological advantage gained by England in the first three days at Lords, founded on a high and pretty fast-scoring innings and then an excellent bowling performance, was wrested away from them by a dour rearguard action, not at all attractive to watch, but which the South Africans will be regarding as a victory, avoiding defeat against all the odds.

  • Comment number 90.

    Obviously no-one wants to see this kind of attritional cricket test after test, but it is part of what makes test match cricket, in my opinion, the greatest team sport of them all. The pitch at Lord's certainly needs some livening up, but it really cannot be dropped from the calendar.
    As for the England line up, I think Broad should go. It will be unfortunate for him, but so far he has not looked penetrating enough to be part of a 4.5 man attack. I'm sure he has a glorious future ahead of him. However, top test sides will always have to leave out talented players, and Flintoff's batting does not look strong enough to bat six.
    England should take heart from being also rans at the start (although I'm sure they never believed that), but being the only side capable of (or aiming to) win this test at any stage after lunch on day 1.

  • Comment number 91.

    As a Dutch cricket fan, I have two points to make about this Test and also some of the comments on this blog.

    The test was not a bore, the entire test from a neutral perspective was hugely entertaining, England seemed to have batted/bowled their way to a winning position, yet the South Africans managed a rear guard action that seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the English bowlers.

    Elite cricket teams should be able to adapt their style of play to whatever the pitch conditions happen to be, it is no good blaming a 'dead' pitch for the draw, England had plenty of overs/balls for it's bowlers to get wickets, quite simply they were found wanting, so blame the players not the pitch.

    I note that some posters are complaining that London has two tests per year, your point is what exactly?, how many counties have two grounds with the facilities that Lords and the Oval have?.

    The attacks by some of the posters on London hosting two test matches seems to be unwarranted, indeed, I think that Lords as the home of cricket should always be on a test series schedule.

  • Comment number 92.

    I found the test at Lords to be intriguing till Day 5 - but lets be honest the only reason England (or any team) had a shout was due to Day 3 - slightly different weather conditions and a few . In boxing parlance, England would have won by 3 rounds to 2.

    So what does this mean ?

    England should not be down about having the better of a good test match against a strong South African team. Maybe there wasn't the penetration there in the final day's bowling attack......would we have won the match with the Ashes attack ? More likely but certainly not definite. But, yes as Rustigjongens says, professional cricketers should be able to vary their style to cope with the pitch put in front of them or the selectors should pick the best team for the venue and if that means dropping people who have done well then so be it - bring on Sidebottom, Anderson and Brod at Headingley (with Freddie of course).

    The Lords groundstaff should be made to create a pitch offering more to the bowler than it currently does - I am sure the respective players would love the opportunity to have a chance of getting their win bonus !! Maybe the selection of test match venues should be based on a combination of facilities for the teams/spectators/etc and a good ratio of wins:draws in the longer-term forms of the game with test matches over the last five series being considered.

    Ultimately, as cricket followers we want to see our team win and people will stop going to grounds where this is a commercial argument as well.

  • Comment number 93.

    Jtstriker9, thanks for your reply above.

    Yes, I am South African.

    It's pretty rich describing as "boring" a team that has won 5 of its 6 last Series and 10 of its 15 last Tests (losing 4, and drawing 1). The Lord's draw was only our second in a couple of years. In the same period, England have managed to draw seven Tests.

    But you are entitled to your opinion and, judging from the statistics, I presume it's a pretty uninformed one.

  • Comment number 94.

    My previous post was slightly inaccurate. The relative number of draws in the last 16 odd tests of both teams is 3 and 7 respectively. But I don't think that changes the point much, jtstriker9.

  • Comment number 95.

    Have I missed something here? England lost 6 wickets on this most benign of pitches (I discount the 2 taken away from them) and this was whilst they were "going for it", Broad for example could well have batted on had he not been looking to increase his scoring rate. SA on the other hand were bowled out once and had some of the closer decisions gone Engalnds way could have been in serious trouble, and this was while they were not trying to win the game. Of course it is an acheivement to have survived, but lets not big them up too much.

  • Comment number 96.

    If Flintoff comes in, it should be for Sidebottom if not fully fit, otherwise Anderson. Broad's middle order batting is what England have needed for a long time, and his bowling is improving all the time.
    England should not drop a batsman to accommodate Flintoff, as I can't imagine bowlers getting so little help in any other match; nor can I imagine SA bowling so poorly again.

  • Comment number 97.

    I can’t believe all of the people who are having a go at the South African’s tactics. People who say the South African’s were negative and promoted play that was bad for test match cricket, really haven’t though about the context of the game:

    Having watched a fair bit of cricket I would estimate that:

    To give themselves a chance to bowl England out and try to win the match SA would have needed at least two sessions to bowl at England.

    With two sessions to bowl to England, SA would have needed to be at least 300 runs ahead.

    SA were 333 runs behind with two days to go, add on the further 300 needed. So SA would needed to have scored 630 runs.

    This 630 would have needed to be scored in 4 sessions (roughly 120 overs). So a scoring rate of 5.25 per over (158 runs a session) sustained for 4 sessions!

    As the above is unrealistic the only real option SA had was to close up shop, ensure they didn’t lose wickets, get the draw and go onto the next game.

  • Comment number 98.

    I cant see how following two substandard days of cricket with 3 par days on a soft track can qualify South Africa as having the psychological edge! Whereas England sent the clear message ´That better be your bare minimum boys or we´ll ´av ya, see you on Friday!´ And with Freddie back methinks its Greame on the way to see the analyst not Micheal!

  • Comment number 99.

    Test cricket is never about instant gratification. Like life it has its ups and downs, peaks and troughs, boring bits and exciting bits.

    The best innings I ever saw was Mark Greatbach at the WACA when he saw off Australia for a draw. He scored more than a hundred but at a rate of about 14 an hour...but that was what was needed and he did it. I supported Australia not New Zealand...and that is the other great thing about cricket - you applaud and recognise the skill of the opposition.

    The Lords' pitch may have been slow but the SA side did what they had to do and did it well. I wanted an England victory but it was not to be...but the last day was not a was absorbing TEST yes, TEST cricket.

  • Comment number 100.

    Bring on Freddie AND Matt Prior!! Allowing for a rejuvenated S Africa and a probable batting collapse, England need Prior as a batsman to shore up the top order and Freddie as a talisman!!


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