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Outstanding Smith deserves his success

Jonathan Agnew | 20:15 UK time, Saturday, 2 August 2008

Saturday's play at Edgbaston featured one of the finest examples of a captain leading from the front that you will see in Test cricket.

To score an unbeaten 154 batting last on this wearing surface was a superb achievement - not least because Graeme Smith was close to withdrawing from the Test with a bad back!

Curiously, he survived what was only a polite enquiry on 85 for caught behind off Monty Panesar which replays showed had flicked his glove. It was not an easy decision for Umpire Aleem Dar because the glove and pad were so close together and the fact that Panesar did not give one of his pogo stick appeals probably swayed his mind.

The contest between Smith and Panesar was fascinating. Panesar really struggled before tea to get his length right to the big left-hander, but then dropped the ball beautifully into the rough outside the off stump after the break. The ball reared and turned, but although Smith looked rather ungainly at times, he was able to protect his wicket with his body. I wish Panesar had tried a few overs from round the wicket.


The main talking point was undoubtedly the dismissals of Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis who both failed to pick up full balls from Andrew Flintoff. The delivery to McKenzie struck him full on the boot as, frozen to the crease, the batsman turned his head away.

Kallis had problems with Flintoff on the second evening in poor light and I wonder if this, coupled with McKenzie's dismissal, preyed on his mind because almost immediately Flintoff hurled down a low full toss which struck Kallis - who again did little more than flinch - on the thigh. I don't think I have ever seen a batsman angrier when given out (correctly) than this.

There were accusing stares in our direction behind the sightscreen at the Pavilion End, but nothing has changed up here for years. Let's not forget that none of England's batsmen had problems when facing the equally tall Andre Nel or Morne Morkel - it was all very strange.

Once again, technology came to a batsman's assistance when an appeal for a low catch was referred to the third umpire. Ryan Sidebottom was the beneficiary this time when AB de Villiers appeared to take a clean catch at grass height in the slips. Most commentators agreed that the catch seemed to be legal, but not all - and that reflected the benefit of the doubt that was, as always, given to the batsman.

England's selectors will name their team for The Oval on Sunday, and given the way their team has been playing, they could consider that having a dead game is a luxury. If changes are to be made, this is the time to do so - with the main consideration being how they can accommodate a fifth bowler when, of the batsmen, the captain looks the most vulnerable.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Outstanding batting from smith. If only our captain could lead by the same example.
    If South Africa can continue to play cricket like this then they could seriously challenge Australia for the number one spot.

    The England selectors need to think what they want to do for the next match. Do they play the same team and hope that they can avoid the whitewash, or do they try out some different members of the set up.

  • Comment number 2.

    Have to agree Aggers, terrific performance from Smith... He's a real class act...

    It's been a terrific test match.... But has to be a tail of two captains, one completely lost and one completely brilliant...

    I just feel that we need a new beginning and it has to start with the captain of the side...

    There are really only 5 players that I would keep from the current setup...

    Cook, Peitersen, Flintoff, Panesar, Broad...

    let's get some fresh faces in for the final test against the saffa's and start building for the ashes....

  • Comment number 3.

    Well played Graeme Smith. He not great technically but he's got lots of guts and determination. And he entered the match with back trouble and lost the toss.
    What now Mr Moores ? Same team for the Oval ?

  • Comment number 4.

    I have done some research which I am extremely proud of - England have not taken 20 wickets in a match again top-class opposition - therefore excluding NZ and WIndies - since the 3rd test v Pakistan in 2006. That is the reason behind our failings of late, as much as the batting. We simply have to have 5 bowlers.

    As for the Oval, it's a real shame that it's a dead rubber there, that isn't usually the case. Drop Strauss, move Vaughan back to opening where he can come out, positive and set up the innings - and remember him and Cook were an excellent opening pair in Sri Lanka, promote Bell back to 3, and give Prior another go as keeper. Bowlers the same, adding in either Harmison or Jones. We need 20 wickets for goodness sake!

  • Comment number 5.

    Well played Graham Smith! Its a joy to see captains that lead from the front by example, and if England is to have a realistic chance at regaining the Ashes we need such a captain.
    England made a tactical blunder at the start of this series by not accepting the 3 appeals against umpires decisions.Although umpires tend to get it wrong in equal balance as sport lovers we deserve to see excellence rewarded and mistakes penalised, rather than chancing only the umpire´s eyes to the detriment of cricket. Graham Smith was technically out on 85 caught off his glove but umpire error most likely cost England the game at that moment.
    The one good thing that can come out of this match from England supporters point of view is the replacement of woefully over-the-hill captain Michael Vaughan, and the obvious candidate is paul Collingwood ,who clearly played a captain´s innings with his 135 in this match. Also time to rest Sidebottom for Harmison and replace Ambrose with Read, or perhaps just a one-off selection, Proir, because to win the game at the Oval we need big scores on the board

  • Comment number 6.

    We need big change - Sidebottom looks tired, Vaughan severely out of touch, Strauss struggling and Ambrose's batting still looks frail. Therefore, looking forward to the ashes, we should play:

    Bopara (despite Collingwood's heroics)
    2 of Broad, S.Jones, Anderson

    A new start may just kick us on to at least compete with the Aussies.

  • Comment number 7.

    well played to south africa even if the umpire did let smith off twice today (sour grapes? too right)

    as for the oval - i would have a new set of bowlers- why flog freddie in a dead rubber and the other 3 must be knackered too. only 3 maidens for panesar in 31 overs bowling into rough not good enough.

    vaughan does not inspire the troops anymore and his batting makes him a passenger - no wonder kp looks a bit jumpy waiting to go in.

    great knock from colly but we need more 100s (ditto bell and cook)

    ambrose lacks the batting mettle and needs to appeal louder when the ball hits the batsman's glove!

    i still think the sa bowlers are in the main pretty ordinary - look at their averages this series.

    so for the oval:

    key (capt)
    mahmood (for a bit of reverse swing)
    shrek (next cab off the rank)

    (broad to come back in the winter)

    new selectors required and NEW COACH _ SHANE WARNE (the only man KP may listen to)

  • Comment number 8.

    JA shouldn't pay any attention to yesterday's illiterate ramblings from buffoons who obviously have no understanding of the nuances and tactics of test match cricket. Informed criticism, yes.

    KP should be advised to stop worshipping at the "temple of one", as succinctly described by Derek Pringle. Otherwise England will repeat today's result, again and again.

  • Comment number 9.

    England set up appears to be a closed shop, particularly if you are centrally contracted. Make Strauss captain, as I can't see them looking outside present group, he did ok last time.

    We have missed the opportunity since 2005 ashes to bring forward new players, and when we do they seem to be given fewer chances than established ones, Shah's a good example of this.

    I expect the only changes will be cosmetic - I'd wager the return of Harmison will be about it, whereas whole batting line up need changing.

  • Comment number 10.

    MV must go north. The selectors must choose batsmen scoring runs for their clubs
    and high in the averages. Bopara and Shah
    look good, as does Prior. As GB says, if you can't score stacks of runs in county cricket,
    how can you possibly score runs at international level? Arnie's son and JA deserve a well-earned rest and Harmison deserves a recall. As for skipper, unretire a
    west country class act.

  • Comment number 11.

    Well played South Africa and well played England for making such a close and exciting match. I do not think we should make wholesale changes, we need to build back up by substituting a few out of form players.
    Batsman: Cook and Straus are too similar - keep Cook out with Straus. Move the skipper to open, Bell at 3 and then KP and PC at 4 and 5.
    Wicket keeper: Ambrose is an excellent keeper and that is more important than being a batsman in my book. He will learn to graft and build scores as a lower order batter in much the same way as Boucher, healey and other less gifted batsmen have done.
    The rest: ditch Panesar, he is so one dimensional - can't field bat or bowl anything other than a stoick delivery, bring back Broad, Jones, Harmy and Swan for Panesar.

  • Comment number 12.

    england either need 4 bowlers all of whom can consistently produce top quality spells or have 5 england don't seem to have the resources to produce 4 consistent world class bowlers they need five. Therefore they also need bowlers who can help out batting (flintoff and Broad) and also a wicketkeeper who can contribute meaningful runs to accomodate the fewer batsmen. (Perhaps Prior).
    Harmison should be given a chance at the oval as he has the ability to be top quality but needs to prove it again, whereas sidebottom and anderson will continue to shows signs of ability but never reliable enough to produce against top batters at the pressure times.
    At least one of Key, Shah or Bopara should be also included to freshen up the squad.
    also, how close is Simon Jopnes to returning to test match level?

  • Comment number 13.

    No 5 and 7

    You mention that Smith was technically out on 85. Is it therefore also true that Collingwood was technically out on 103 and Amla, technically not out earlier today?
    Or how far back do we need to go?

    Well done to the South Africans on a record final innings total at Edgbaston and an historic series win.

  • Comment number 14.

    I am a bit surprised to read this article. I thought it was going to be about the "Outstanding Smith". Apart from the first two lines, there was nothing of the sort in the whole article.

  • Comment number 15.

    England's slide continues downward.

    This would not have been lost a couple of years ago.

    Who's to blame?

    The selectors - not me, guv!
    The coach - not me, guv!
    The captain - not me, guv!
    The players - not me, guv!

    Must be something they put in the tea, then, eh?

    ROOOBISH !!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with MickGatting that England should have agreed to the "three referrals" system - it seems to be working well in the India/Sri Lanka series.

    However it would not have helped with the Smith "caught behind" incident today - England didn't even appeal for the dismissal, so they would hardly have used a referral to the third umpire for it!

    And remember that it cuts both ways - the referral system would have meant for instance that Collingwood would have been given out when he was plumb lbw to Morkel on 103 this morning, leaving England 304-8 with a lead of just 221.

  • Comment number 17.

    It was such a pity that a great test match fizzled in the end. There just didn't seem any sparkle after the fifth wicket, and an air of resignation. Sidebottom clearly wasn't fit and neither is Freddie (17 overs in a day surely shouldn't kill you).

    I think it is time for Vaughan to go. He isn't going to last til the Ashes. His batting is too fragile now and his outbursts against Agnew and his miserable interview tonight show that he is over the hill.

    At 171 for 5 surely England could have regrouped and put in everything for the one wicket that would have led to the tail. In stead he bowls Pietersen.

    I am a bit perplexed by this attitude that seems to be prevalent that one brushes off bad decisions. Clearly the Smith decisions cost us a lot. If he had gone, it would have been much harder for SA.

    Lets mix up the selection (why not replace the lot of the them for the next test) and say, you have to compete for your place you lot, rather than let them cruise like they do now.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd like to see the captaincy returned to Andrew Strauss - it should never have been taken away from him prior to the 2006/07 Ashes tour. I'd also like to see Ian Bell move up to three to replace Michael Vaughan, with David Sales - one of English cricket's most under-rated players - taking over in the middle order. Sales averages over 40 in first-class cricket and it would have been significantly higher if he hadn't cap[tained Northants for several seasons. I'd also like to see either prior or Foster replace Ambrose.

  • Comment number 19.

    Get over the umpiring decisions - things always even out over time... Lets not forget Javed Akhtars part in the last England vs SA series over here. What goes around comes around. And besides, it was England who turned down the referral system (even if the referral system was in place, would they have referred Smith's gloved catch?? Nobody around Smith seemed convinced!)

    Bottom line is England lost to a better team. Collingwood should still be in the last chance saloon - could you wait another year for his next century?

    Flintoff has done okay I guess on his return - but England have lost the last 8 tests he has played in...

    England need to get real - stop blaming pitches/umpires/selectors and have a reall hard look at the setup - if they do not make changes now it will be an embarassing ashes come 2009.

    Give some youngsters a chance, and get rid of vaughan - he runs his team like a dictator. If the youngsters/debutants aren't made to feel welcome, England will never challenge Australia again.

  • Comment number 20.

    How about bringing in Harmison and Jones 90mph at the Oval; leave out Monty and Sidebottom. Bring Prior in for Ambrose, put Bell up to 3


  • Comment number 21.

    Credit to South Africa who played exceptionaly well to chase down that total, especially to Smith who was outstanding. He really does lead from the front, something that Michael Vaughn has not done for a long time. Although I do think he is a exceptional captain I the England selectors need to appoint a new captain for Vaughn to get back the batting form he had before taking up the captaincy. This would certainly improve his game and definatly improve the England batting line up.

  • Comment number 22.

    If Vaughan had a fraction of the commitment, determination and skill of Smith; he would do the honourable thing and resign tomorrow before the team is announced. It is high time to rebuild for the Ashes and the same batting top 6 which was whitewashed Down Under is still playing!

    Time to make big changes, beginning with a new skipper and coach as well. After Moores proclaimed Vaughan would be the skipper for the Ashes following a century against the Kiwis at Lord's ina drawn game, it would be foolhardy to expect Moores to take a firm stand and do what is necessary to improve the Team's long-term prospects.

  • Comment number 23.

    It is evident that England need to change their side after these two test. Bring in Steve Harmison and Simon Jones for Sidey, who really has not performed this time round, and unfortunately Jimmy, as much as i like him just does not have the ability to be a world class bowler. Vaughn, a great captain has lost his form with the bat. I know it is early days but i think Adam Lyth for Yorks has the technique to play for England. Strauss has to go and so does the wicketkeeper, he has had an awful series, and if he cannot make any score against, then he would not be able to do any better against the Aussies. Personally, I do not think any keeper at the moment has the ability with both bat and gloves to take the England spot.

    Well played South Africa and certainly Graeme Smith, what a fantastic performance.

  • Comment number 24.

    Is is heresy to suggest we could do without Panesar?

    I know this invites everyone to shout that I 'know nothing about cricket' but the guy can't bat, can't field and KP looks just as likely to get a wicket when he turns his arm over.

    Only two spinners lead the attack and look like winning a game on anything other than the most unbelievable spinner friendly tracks - Murali and Warne - we'd don't have either.

    We only throw Panesar the ball in hope rather than expectation (hoping his non-stop appealing will dupe the umpire) while we try to scrounge a replacement that swings or to bide time until the new ball comes.

    Oh, and Ambrose has to go. If Broad doesn't play the team needs stronger batting. And if Broad does play the team needs stronger batting.

    Oval Test XI:

    JONES, S

  • Comment number 25.

    i have begun to have a sneaking feeling that vaughan has lost the dressing room.

    during the SA innings he looked subdued, and his fielding was as poor as ever. if reports are to be believed, the england captain is constantly stuggling with knee problems. add that to the fact that he rarely scores any runs at the moment, and you struggle to see from where he can muster any authority over his team.

    i thought the guy looked mentally and physically shot today. vaughan was a great captain a few years ago, but i fear his days are numbered in an england shirt.

  • Comment number 26.

    If Graeme Smith is a Muppet, when can we expect to see Stadtler and Waldorff opening for England?

  • Comment number 27.

    Just to alter direction slightly, am I missing something but could there be any point in our English cricketers actually playing some 4 day cricket? It almost seems as though the centrally contracted players only get their cricket experience in test matches, at the moment. No wonder some of them seem unsure of which end of the bat to hold, or how to build an innings. I know there might be a risk of one of them twisting an ankle or something, but they seem to manage that warming up anyway. Let them play some regular cricket, for goodness sake, then they might be able to put in better performances.

  • Comment number 28.

    For the oval we should give the players who are in the frame but not in the team a game.
    Vaughn: this game is crucial for him. We can see how he plays with the pressure off.
    Drop Strauss and Ambrose, sidebottom
    Bring in Foster and Jones and broad
    the only players who have done enough to secure their place are Bell, cook, Anderson,Flintoff, Pietersen, Panesar, maybe collingwood lets see if he can score consistent hundreds.

  • Comment number 29.

    Some rather long-winded thoughts about what England should now do:

    1. It's time for a change of administrators. Everyone from Moores upward has almost no international experience. They all seem to be in awe of Vaughan, who, after all, did win the Ashes, and he now seems to be running the whole show.

    2. I read at some point earlier in the series how a while back SA set goals of what their team should consist of, and then selected the players to meet those goals. I like this approach. It's more organized than just picking what you think are the best players and then seeing what sort of a team you've got. England should be looking for five specialist batsmen who between them offer the right blend of graft and aggression and all of whom are likely to maintain a test average of around 45 or so; a middle order that offers one serious wicket-taking bowling option, a fifth bowler to put in the overs, hopefully take the odd wicket, and rest the four strike bowlers, and a wicket-keeper; between them the three middle order players should be expected to average around 100 runs per innings; and three specialist bowlers to be selected from a pool of five or six (all of whom are considered part of the team) based on conditions.

    3. Expanding on the last point, Panesar should not be an automatic selection for every game. When conditions seem likely to favor a wicket-taking spinner, then by all means he's the best choice. I would then select Flintoff, a wicket-keeper and Broad (as the fifth bowler) as 6-8. In other conditions where you just need a spinner to bowl overs and keep the runs down, I'd leave out Panesar and replace Broad with someone like Swann as the fifth bowler. That would give four attacking pace bowlers (including Flintoff) with Swann in a kind of Ashley Giles role.

    4. I'm deliberately not getting into who the five specialist batsmen and three specialist bowlers should be. Decide what you need (potential to average 45 and the right combination of graft/aggrssion) and then pick those who fit the bill. In the case of the three specialist bowlers especially, I think a rotation policy based on conditions and without the stigma of being "dropped" when not chosen would work well.

    5. The top six incumbent batsmen have an irritating habit of doing nothing for a while and then playing one good innings right at the moment when they're about to be dropped. Strauss, Bell, and now Collingwood have done this so far this year. That's why it's been so hard to make changes. We need to start from the other end: regardless of records, who do we think are the five best available English batsmen? As for Vaughan, is he or is he not one of the five best available batsmen?

    6. As far as the wicket-keeper is concerned, we need the middle order to average a total of 100 or so. If we have Flintoff and Broad who should be able to average 65-70 between them, that means we need to pick the best keeper who is capable of averaging between 30 and 35. I'm not sure who this is, but it does mean that we don't have to pick Prior in the hope that he wil average 40+, but we can't pick Read either as he is most unlikely to ever average more than 25 or so.

  • Comment number 30.

    djorangeliverpool_fc, why the hell would you want to see Vaughn playing with the pressure off. Surely you want to see Vaughn score a century with the pressure on. It means nothing to England if he scores a double or triple ton after we have lost the series.

  • Comment number 31.

    Ahhhh Aggers, after yesterdays nadir in sports writing it’s great to see you back on an even keel.

    This blog is like someone running a hot bath for you when you’re tried: nothing wildly negative or bitter, just looking to the future and saying, “Well played Smith.”

    perfect. you see Aggers, you don’t have to become one of them.

  • Comment number 32.

    Perhaps those who have contributed to this blog over the past 2 days and who labelled Pietersen's 94 as "brilliant" and basically argued that he had done enough will now appreciate why it was such a selfish innings.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just got back from the match and I have to say that Aggers called it pretty well IMHO. Colly and Ryan batted really well in the morning and I think Smith was overwhelmingly the difference between the two sides. Had we got him out (for 85 say) I'm convinced England would have won (which would obviously have changed the tone of the above comments somewhat). There was a real intensity when Freddie bolwed but not Jimmy or Ryan - we need someone quick and dangerous at the other end from Freddie to keep the pressure relentlessly applied at key stages. Unpopular for me to say I know, but Vaughan seemed to me to be captaining well and Ambrose kept superbly (although he was a rabbit in the headlights when he batted).

    I think we need a (slightly more) disciplined KP batting at 3, Bell at 4, Colly at 5, Prior at 6, Freddie at 7, Broad at 8, Jimmy at 9, Harmy at 10 and either Monty or Simon Jones at 11 depending on the pitch. I don't seem to have found a place for Vaughan then, unless he opens? Just a couple of ideas floated up to be hit out of the ground!

  • Comment number 34.

    Once again the knives are out for Collingwood. The man who literally saved England's blushes has another 10,000 knives in his back. That's quite the gratitude from you lot.

    Mahmood is an automatic FAIL.

    This should be the squad for the Oval:

    Will Smith (Durham)
    Mascarenhas (like I said before, we can't really do much worse)

  • Comment number 35.

    really dissapointed and upset about today. we could and should have won. not sure about the captain anymore- i like michael alot but he hasnt really scored runs properly for years. he seems to score a hundred every 10 or so innings when the pressure is on but really thats not good enough. look at ponting, smith etc. i still think he's a damn good captain but i think the team is weak. the england setup seems to have this horrible cosiness where once youre in the team for a bit its 'mean' to drop you. im sorry our bowling just aint that great. anderson for me is average and not quick enough, hes a lesser shaun tait. sidebottom is ok but essentially not a frightening prospect unless hes swinging it and he does look tired. panesar- go and play for northhants for a bit, get some confidence and come back right now its less than good enough, its poor. he seems scared of the ball when fielding and his bowling is boring and uninspired.
    i would recall harmison for a couple more matches. i would also look at hoggy and jones

  • Comment number 36.

    A tale of two captains, yes. England could do with a captain who could not only hang on but also score runs in a tight situation. I heard one of the analysts on TMS (Alec Stewart, if I recall correctly) seriously wondering out loud whether Vaughan's eyesight is starting to fail.

    Vaughan is the only captain to win the Ashes for donkey's years - but now he is the only captain to lose a series at home to South Africa in 40 years. His account must be in debit soon.

    A good captain doesn't just need tactical nous. He needs to lead, to get the best out of the team he has, and to get the results. The evidence is that he has some talented and experienced players, but most of them are consistently underperforming. That means, whatever his past achievements, Vaughan is now failing as a captain.

    A tale of two attitudes too. The difference between Pietersen's 6 to attempt to reach his century, and Collingwood's 6 to do the same is NOT that Pietersen failed and Collingwood succeeded. The difference is that everyone watching or listening - and playing for the opposition - knew it was almost inevitable Pietersen would go for glory. His arrogance played into the opposition's hands.

    No one really expected Collingwood to go for the big 6, but when he did, it was not predictable hubris, but a moment of triumphant defiance in an otherwise exemplary innings played for the team.

  • Comment number 37.

    The fact is that England are woefully shot of International class players at the moment. Only KP and Freddie would get into the SA Side at the moment. In 2005 we hade in Tresco, Vaughan and KP 3 Internationally regarded players plus Freddie, Jones and Harmy as bowlers plus Freddie at that stage as a top allrounder.
    Bell has the ability to become top class but needs a kick up the backside(say dropping him for a short period) so he starts producing under real pressure. Today we wee relying on a recovering Freddie to bowl the Saffers out.It was neve going to happen.

    Strauss used to be vey good - but not anymore - why not try say Denley of Kent for the Oval to see how he does. Cook is most promising but is still learning.MV sadly is but a pale shadow of his former glory.Colly is wonderfully resilient but frankly he was bowled the most fearful rubbish yesterday.I would bank my house that against Steyn at the oval all his old weaknesses will reappear. Sidebottom should be scaked for conning the selectos that he was fit - in any event he just proves Fletcher was right that you don't bowl out top sides at 81mph.

    Unless we are really honest about where we are - and in truth the writing was on the wall v NZ, and put out to pasture those guys who are past their sell by date and replace them with youngster s of real pomise and class then we shall just go further downhill. And blaming umpiring decisions is just a poor excuse.

    The pundits said before the Series that there wasn't a fag paper between the 2 Sides. Many of us thought that was ubbish then - today proves there is a chasm. Very well done SA - you deserved it.


  • Comment number 38.

    i think smith's innings was a different class today and credit to him and the south africans for playing great cricket.

    what worries me slightly with england is, as has been noticed by others... there inability to take 20 match wickets.

    i think sidebottom is becoming a bit complacent, and is obviously not match fit....anderson lacks the consistency, despite putting his heart in it, flintoff has been clearly over-bowled during the last 2 test matches and looks weary.

    what also bothers me slightly was panesar's lack of variation on a pitch that was clearly helping him...i have never felt that panesar has the required discipline and variation to become a genuine match winner on a regular basis.

    for the oval i would give jones and kabir ali a go...they are the two in form bowlers around the country at the moment, and have been swinging the all late and at pace.

    i would also give foster a go...despite ambrose doing nothing wrong with the gloves, foster has the ability to stand up to the quicker bowlers, and if his 20/20 finals day exhibition is anything to go by, he is head and shoulders above everyone else in the keeping department.

    for the batters....despite collingwood finally scoring some runs he, and strauss do not have the technique to cut it at test level...i would like to see bopara and either shah or someone young given a go...maybe denly?

  • Comment number 39.

    well done smithy and his team. have a strong well balanced side. solid batting and a tight bowling unit. may not have the best spinner but he is playing his part.

    as for england where do they go from here.

    some strange selections over the last year, dropping Strauss and recalling, doing he same with colly. the pattison saga, tremlett the proverbial 12th man!! is he good enough or isn't he?. we have based our selves on a consistent team selection but behind the scenes it appears clueless. headless chicken syndrome.

    so having had a moan what are the positives . Top order has been very poor so that needs a shake up. Cook is the future so lets be harsh and drop strauss. Who partners well within the recognised group why not belly ( he has been an opener and this could be what he needs!!!) alternatively then Denly could be next best young un!! then at 3 well i would also drop vaughan - he has become poor more than he is good and we need solid batting in top 3. If denly plays move bell to 3 or Shah.

    Pieterson is dynamic but at 4 he can open a can a worms asthis test proved once again so move down to 5. this leaves a gap at 4 for either shah or bopara.

    Wkt keeper Ambrose is getting the usual wkt keeper stick. he is the best keeper we have seen for some while and his batting can only get better. lowish score yesterday but full of grit and support with Colly.

    Bowling- i gree with previous commenst we need a strike force

    Flintoff / Harmison and broad ( would allow sidebotom and anderson to rest.

    Going forward for the tour lets test out Simon Jones ready for the ashes

    Spinner has to be panesar. again he will only get better

    so my 12


    Then lets look at this 12 and say who should captain them!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Great attitude by Smith and others - the difference - S Africa rarely gave their wicket away - in my view this is the biggest problem with the England team - and Vaughan is the major culprit, also difficult to criticise KP on 94, but 130-140 from him, and further taking partnership on with Colly and we could have set them 350 to chase - and at least we would have still been in series.......saying that Smith was out twice!!!!! and not too difficult to give - in real time they looked out, let alone slo-mo!!!!

  • Comment number 41.

    I said yesterday that pietersens 94 wasn't enough and have been proved right.

    If KP had not played the shot he did england would have had a much bigger lead to defend but once again a stupid shot got him out.

    Now compare that to smith, maybe a bit of luck but no stupid shots looking for sixes and the glory in that way but in a way that a test cricketer should do, by leading their team to victory.

    Also id like to see 5 bowlers we need to take 20 wickets and we seem uncabable of doin so.

  • Comment number 42.

    To quote Aggers and et al in the TMS commentary box this was not a great test match but a very good one with the best example of a captain leading from the front it has been my pleasure to see. The big downside for me has been the showboating and self centred attitude of KP who by his actions of yesterday has effectively lost the match and the series. The England side despite a lot of effort struggled all today to get that little bit of magic to make the difference between winning and loosing, how different it would have been had KP knuckled in and helped the team get the extra 50 to 100 runs they needed. Also not sure I have seen a team over the last few days but rather a number of individuals who have been asked to turn up and do a job and who do not appear to have any game plans to work to? Which leads me to the current selection process where the selectors deliver a set of players to the coach who has to work with what he has got, sounds to be a recipe for everyone to say "not me gov" Would be interested in Mr Morris's comments on the review which now needs to take place on the current structure, which I doubt will happen until we return to the bottom of Test table. Currently feels like we are back to where we where before Duncan Fletcher took over and that's saying something

  • Comment number 43.

    umm.... a real diverse bunch of comments. This ,I feel, is the crux of Englands problem. If you take a cross section of this blog you get everything from sack the lot to pick the same team. So the selectors are in the same boat.
    Central contracts have created a closed shop and thus made any major changes impossible. When your all mates it's very difficult to drop anyone as it may be your turn next. It's a bit like watching the weakest link only with cricket.
    England don't have any strong leadership at any level so the cycle of mediocraty with the odd win will just continue. Each time they have a victory it's always the new dawn. Trouble is, it takes another series of defeats to get any momentum for change. Then, just as the pendulum swings for change, they win a game. Thus the cycle repeats.

    As central contracts discourage outsiders from being picked you have a classic closed shop. The system is fundamentally flawed and England will not win a major series again until they can overcome this problem.

    Collingwood is a classic example. A very poor run followed by a brilliant knock. But should one innings be enough ? Now he will get another 4 or 5 games based on this one innings even if he gets out cheaply.
    Vaughan has been using this technique for ages with no sign of being replaced.

    There has to come a time when England must be brave and build a team around the likes of Broad and Cook. Young, talented players who can take the team into the next decade with a real prospect of winning major series.

    And please, get rid of central contracts and lets get back to picking the best players on merrit and current form. Thats what we did in the days of Cowdrey and Truman and it worked pretty well as I remember. Well, it couldn't be any worse !!!

  • Comment number 44.

    Despite being from Yorkshire and being a fan of Vaughan ever since he started playing 1st class cricket , for the last 6 months I have been banging onto anyone who will listen that as much as I love his batting his time as an International batsman is over.

    Boycott got it right the other day, no test batsman should get bowled out as much as he has done over the last two years. He clearly has developed a problem picking the line of the ball up.

    Now is the time to replace him. The obvious one in my mind as both a batsman and captain is Robert Key, one of the unluckiest players around as under a different regime he could have played 50+ tests by now. He is a better bet for the Ashes as a batter and more than an equal of Vaughans as a captain in terms of inventiveness and tactical know how.

  • Comment number 45.

    AB DV grounded the catch. He knew it, Smith knew and Sidey knew it. That's why he stayed in.

    As for Smith, he would've known he gloved the catch - he should have walked.

    Having said all of that, a lead of 350 was a minimum and England failed to do that with only Colly and KP contributing runs. KP's dismissal was a little silly but at least he reached the 90s first, unlike so many others.

    England never looked likely to win, but at least now the series has gone they can try another keeper (Foster and Mustard must be the top 2) as Ambrose simply hasn't done it. Maybe give somebody else a go as skipper and drop MV. Much as I like Vaughan, I think his time as a top-class batsman is over - he can't produce any more. Bring in one of the younger players - Shah, Bopara, maybe add Broad in to bat at 6.

  • Comment number 46.

    I'm sure the philosophy behind Central Contracts has come from somewhere and that many much cleverer people than me have put it together. I can also understand that consistency of selection (if they are the right players) must be a good thing and no-one performs to the maximum all the time. However I have to agree with Gumboot that the current situation means that a player is almost cemented into the team for at least a season - which cannot be right. Would it be too crass to drop the central contracts system and pay the guys who actually play for their country more money when they do? That would spice things up a bit and make competition for places more fierce. Let's face it, it might be a ruthless way to do things, but this is a ruthless game. The Aussies and SA would do anything it takes. We should do the same in my opinion. Thoughts?

  • Comment number 47.

    The decision the England selectors have to make is whether they feel this squad of players are capable of winning back the Ashes next year. Do they think Vaughan is merely in a poor run of form and still the best captain for the job or is it time to give someone else the role. I like Vaughan. He's been a very good clood captain for England and at times a classy batsman. However we do seem to be stagnating as a team and some fresh ideas and new blood are needed.

    Calls for Key to do it are insane though. The man is unproven at test level and you want him to establish himself with the burden of captaincy?

    The only realistic candidates are Strauss, Pieterson and Collingwood. Personally I would give the role to KP. I know people dislike him because he's brash, arrogant and perceived to be selfish. However when Collingwood first came out to bat in the second innings, Pieterson kept reassuring him between balls and helped him settle in. Not the actions of a selfish man who only cares about himself.

    I think if he was made ODI and Test captain the responsibility would do him good.

    My team for the next test would be:


  • Comment number 48.

    What a test match! It really ebbed and flowed, and is a proof of why test match cricket is still exciting, if there are two evenly matched teams.

    This was totally Smith's day, this is what a captain is made of. He made sure he stood his ground till the end, and got able support from AB and Boucher. He absolutely had to finish this off, and he did it in great style. The grit and determination was admirable - he clearly knew how much this meant to him and made sure he'll get it.

    I wont be too hard on KP. He'd have got, what, like 50 runs more if he hadnt holed out? Saffers would've chased it down, so dont be too hard on KP. In fact, be thankful to him that he is the one who set this test match up. Not the other batters like Strauss, Cook, Vaughan and Bell. They looked all at odds. Its only when KP started attacking did the game turn on its face, and I am sure Colly drew a lot of inspiration from KP's innings.

    There have been a lot of great analysis in the comments above - lack of international class players in the set-up, an unprofessionally run administration and selection, inability to take 20 wickets in a test match, failure of the captain, and so on. All of them have their merit. But unfortunately there is only a limited set of talent available to work with. England has become irrelevant in the world of cricket. The playing XI today is the best in my opinion. This, plus another 8-10 players like Broad, Harmy, Hoggy, etc. should be the set that plays for England. They should draw a lot of faith from the way they played this test match at Edgbaston, and take this confidence forward. Nobody will gain much by chopping and changing the side.

    And for others, who are promoting the inclusion of Shah, Bopara, Mahmood, Denly, Swann - guys you really need to be joking. The Aussies will whip any of these guys big time. England needs to go with an experienced set, only then will they put up any semblance of a fight. There is no way Ponting will lose two Ashes in a row in England.

    I'd say keep the same team for Oval (unless Freddie or someone really wants a rest), and go all out for it. England should try to win that test, and go for it.

  • Comment number 49.

    Well done to the Saffers, brilliant from Smith, not as talented as KP, but generally more productice. My team for Oval test..

    Strauss (c)
    S Davies/Mustard (w)
    Simon Jones

  • Comment number 50.

    Well, I want to first just echo the majority of comments here praising the South Africans and Smith, and subsequently to highlight again the difference between the two captains.

    A captain is more than just an onfield tactician. He is an inspiration, someone to lead from the front. The England football team (not that they are a bastion of success) in David Beckham appointed a man who was not perhaps the loudest, or the most tactically gifted (not as important in footie, admittedly), but he was arguably the best player in the team.

    I think a captain must be one of the best if not THE best player in the team, because inspiration is a large part of his job. I'm not saying hand the job to Pietersen because of this, but it certainly can't continue to be Vaughan anymore. He has been carried for too long in this team, and since his form has suffered so have the fortunes of the team. I really think Smith highlighted what we are lacking in continuing with Vaughan. A wonderful batsmen in his day, but his day sadly passed several years ago now.

    Contrast with Hussain, or Atherton (both tactically perhaps inferior) and the number of Captain's innings they played. I haven't seen a Vaughan innings in adversity for...a long long time. If ever.

    One further thing to consider. I was hugely aggravated with Panesar. He doesn't seem particularly sharp when interviewed, and his bowling really hasn't progressed as people had hoped. He lacks guile and whilst a popular figure, his contributions this summer have been sporadic at best. The pitch was offering assistance, but he got it wrong today, and too often his figures have been poorer than those of Harris. Yes - he gets more spin, but his control and the intelligence of his bowling - and his appealing - are sorely lacking. I wonder really if following this difficult summer we should look elsewhere at spinners. Beyond this, his batting is woeful, not to speak of his fielding, which whilst highly entertaining, costs the team time and time again. It would not be tolerated in Australia, and I think we should consider Panesar too. I can't see him offering the complete package that successful International cricketers need to; and his bowling often witless, sorry to say.

    This having been said, we haven't had much else recently. But I can't help but wonder if we'd have been better with a different variation, a la Harmison, than Monty's rubbish this match.

    These two big criticisms made, once again, congratulations to the South Africans. A class apart.

  • Comment number 51.

    Why is Panesar never questioned, he contributes the least out of anyone on our team. he drops catches, misfields and can not bat for a toffee. why not try swann? atleast he can bat to an extent.

    sidebottom should make way for jones and freddy for harmy or hoggard just for the next test. if we give these guys a chance at test level again it opens up serious options for the winter and the future ashes, its the best time to do so.

    same for a new batting line up. send strauss and vaughn back to counties asap. bring in bopara and sharh.

    as for ambrose, how can he be questioned, after all he is firstly a wicket keeper and as said on the radio he has done that job very well. he is averaging about 15 with the bat i believe which can be improved with work. prior may make the odd big score but some of the mistakes he will make behind the stumps could cost more runs then he contributes.

    my side for the last test:
    broad...has been on form since being 'dropped'
    s. Jones

  • Comment number 52.

    In simple terms we lost to a better TEAM. The current England set up does not function as a cohesive team. The selectors lack focus. Our successful team plan should be simple and obvious - 5 batters, 5 bowlers and a WK.

    As a result the team lacks balance and direction. The batters are mentally weaker, albeit at the very top level.SA are ranked as the 2nd best team in the world. Cook and Bell - you are good but are you good enough? Tonight I hope that you ask yourself the question: 'Do I have the ability to play like Mr. Smith from SA - i.e. when it counts

    Our bowling unit is nothing of the sort. Harmison, Hoggard, Jones, Flintoff and Giles were a team within a team. Not something that you can say of the current bowling attack. We have not created pressure nor penetration during the entire series - a bigger worry.

    The way forward? - do not panic, no wholesale changes. I was brought up during the times of 33 players during a home series against Australia - embarrassingly pathetic.

    We have the talent, perhaps more so than at anytime in the recent history of the game. It is time to be strong, back your ability (selectors included - although I have to say Pattinson was a shocker of gargantuan proportions) and show belief in your ability - Collingwood being a case in point.

    Calm, continuity, vision and belief are the words of the day. Above all else maintain perspective and ignore the vast amounts of rubbish that will spew forth from the press over the next few days.

  • Comment number 53.

    "The main talking point was undoubtedly the dismissals of Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis"

    Are you mad Athers?? The main talking points are the abysmal decisions against Graeme Smith.

    How you can ignore this, yet make mention to another incorrect decision albeit poorly appealed is incredulous.

    In case you reckon this limited shall I refer you to the favourable decision given to Ashwell Prince.

    On an easy pitch the umpiring was bottom drawer.

  • Comment number 54.

    Sour grape syndrome all over... alot of English specs really think they are a great test side.

    Everyone get's a life... usually it's England who get more than one... if the Umps got things right England would have had 1998, nor the Sri Lanka away series, nor even the Ashes 2005. What would you be left with? A couple of black and white postcards from Botham?

    Smith played a great innings, he's probably the gutsiest captain in world cricket today. Doesn't have to be the strongest strategist, not a Fleming, Vaughan, Warne, Jayawardene... but a different breed. His batting comeback against Zaheer Khan in the India tour of South Africa, his 100 to level a series in NZ, even his no-nonsense approaches chasing against the WI in the 2nd test and even a tricky Bangladesh... No credit should be taken away from this knock, not when Nasser got away with six.

  • Comment number 55.

    As an English fan bitterly dissapointed we couldn't drive home the win today, think of the Ashes series in 05, we had wicket takers at every end, constant pressure on the Aussies, today if it wasn't Freddie or the occasional ball from Monty jumping out of the rough, Siddy and Jimmy A or KP for that matter we're not making it happen, in the end SA coasted to victory, it shouldn't be allowed to happen

    So what do the (Under pressure) selectors do now? Go with the same lot for the Oval or ring a few changes, I think it will pretty much be the same 12, maybe 1 more added (Jones perhaps?)

    We have to start thinking about next summer and the Ashes. PRIOR has to play, we can talk about Foster or Read all day long but they will never get you the runs to win test matches, the Aussies will respect Priors batting, no other keeper in the country comes close to his batting, he's gone away, got a load of runs and his keeping is improving, get him in now and make him a permanent fixture. I keep reading about Ambrose's great glovework but I don't see it! He lets a lot of byes through and yes he's a tidy keeper but he is no Read or Foster with the gloves and his batting is not in Priors league, play the percentages and get Prior in now

    As for the rest, we've got to stick with Vaughan as there is no other candidate for me, Colly for me is still in the last chance saloon, one innings doesn't save him, my strongest 11 would be this

    Strauss (Key waiting in the wings!)

    Lets see if Harmy and Jones can still cut it, I know one thing for sure Smith and his mob would fear the above line up considerably more than the one we've sent out in the series so far!

    Lets see what Mr Moores is made of as like Vaughan the pressure is on for him too now


  • Comment number 56.

    There is no disgrace in losing to South Africa. After all, they are the number two cricketing nation and, in this series they have shown why.

    What is a disgrace is the manner of the defeat and, if there is just one common factor, it is the way so many England batsmen threw their wickets away, sometimes when they well were set. I don't recall many cases of this in the SA camp. Poor shot selection, deficient technique, absence of form, call it what you will, but the fact is that this is what marked the difference between two reasonably well-matched teams. It would have been a huge feather in England's cap if we had beaten the Saffers or even just be going to the Oval for a decider.

    The contributors to JA's blog, as usual, have made many pertinent points. But the call for wholesale chages for the last test will fall on deaf (selectors') ears. One only had to listen to Peter Moores' blah blah when he was interviewed after the match to realise that.

    For example, Michael Vaughan's position may --it certainly should-- come in for serious reconsideration at the end of the series, but he will be leading the team out at the Oval, sure as hell.

    Sidebottom will probably give way to Harmison or Jones for the last match. Whether through unfitness or whatever, he has lost his effectiveness recently.

    Monty Panesar should also be rested for the same reason, though I am not sure who should replace him if it is decided that we should go into the last test with a spinner. It is certainly a good opportunity to try out someone else and there seem to be other interesting options.

    It is also a good moment to try out another wicketkeeper/batsman, Read maybe. Ambrose has not done a bad job behind the sticks but he is in the team as a number 7 batsman, give or take one or two places, and he has not been up to it.

    Do not expect, though, any other changes. Collingwood was up for the chop but his heroics yesterday (and today) guarantee him a place at the Oval. He may not be a man for the future, in spite of his friends in high places, but he deserves another chance. Without him, the Edgbaston match would have been over before lunch today.

    Aggers, it seems that you have lately been under almost as much pressure as Vaughan. This is a bit unfair: after all, you are only the messenger and, much as we may disagree with some of your views, your blogs are always interesting. The proof of that is that they always bring forth hundreds of responses.

  • Comment number 57.

    45. At 10:15pm on 02 Aug 2008, MagpieRH wrote:

    AB DV grounded the catch. He knew it, Smith knew and Sidey knew it. That's why he stayed in.

    As for Smith, he would've known he gloved the catch - he should have walked.


    Are you saying Athers should have walked when he gloved one off donald to boucher?

    Get over it already. Umpiring decisions even themselves out.

    Colly was plum lbw in morkel's second over of today. Had he been given SA would have chased 220, game over before tea. And as for cook's lbw decision off nel's first ball - england 0/1 with captain fantastic vaughan in next, who knows SA may have never had to bat again.

    As for ABDV, call him a cheat or whatever you want - he is on a winning test team which won fair and square. I would be interested to see your reaction had morkel been the bowler the batsmen had trouble seeing the ball from and he got KP and Belly with some full tosses. He would have been labelled a cheat and no doubt booed trhoughout the rest of the series.

    England lost. to a better team. get over it.

  • Comment number 58.

    Time for England to get some younger blood in and groom them for the future. Skipper has been very good but should really step down now.

  • Comment number 59.

    As for ABDV, call him a cheat or whatever you want - he is on a winning test team which won fair and square. I would be interested to see your reaction had morkel been the bowler the batsmen had trouble seeing the ball from and he got KP and Belly with some full tosses. He would have been labelled a cheat and no doubt booed trhoughout the rest of the series.

    That's the biggest load of rubbish I've ever read, get that chip off YOUR shoulder for gods sake!

    Safrica are the 2nd best team in the world, I'd go with that and deserve their victory but the above is just drivel and unnecessary


  • Comment number 60.

    Yeah, very well played SA and Smith.

    My test team for the next test and foreseeable future would be...

    1 Horton
    2 Cook
    3 Strauss (captain)
    4 KP
    5 Bell
    6 Prior
    7 Broad
    8 Flintoff
    9 Anderson
    10 Sidebottom/Jones
    11 Harmison

    capable of making 350+ and easily taking 20 wickets. I think Panesar should have a few months in CC to hone is deliveries and add something new to his game!

  • Comment number 61.

    I quite forgot to say that Graeme Smith's innings today was out of the top drawer. A captain's innings, inspirational, and something that only Ponting, among today's batsmen/captains, might be capable of matching.

    Congratutions to Smith and his team!

  • Comment number 62.

    Well said, jdoug88. Comments such as "90% of decisions went against England" are unnecessary, inaccurate and come across as sour grapes.

    It's natural to remember the decisions which go against your own team, and forget those in your favour, hence the same people who praised Collingwood's knock without mentioning his 'chances' going on and on about Smith being 'out' on 85 - when Monty hardly appealed.

    In an attempt at impartiality, I would say that decisions on average favoured SA in the first 2 tests and England in this one. Doubtless many of the posters above would disagree and probably can't remember a single decision in England's favour.

    Well played SA, and Smith in particular.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think everyone is obsessed with changing the team, but the main issue seems to be the culture within the team. Vaughan's comments about the selectors and the Pattinson selection demonstrated this. England batsmen lack application and the bowlers do not bowl as the unit. A lot of the changes suggested are reasonable, but do not alter these problems. I think it is strange everyone wants to drop Sidebottom after a test where he was clearly affected by injury. He has been England's best bowler these last 18 months. When people want to pick Harmison, they forget that he has not applied himself for at least three years. I don't believe a few months in county cricket changes that.

  • Comment number 64.

    I cannot follow another test match until Vaughan goes. I will sit it all out until he goes. As for Collingwood Last chance saloon hundreds are not what England need.
    He also dropped catches.
    I am not convinced at all England need Collingwood or Vaughan.
    Broad would have been a far better choice as he has more shots with the bat and can bowl.
    I hope at 1200 tommorrow bot Vaughan and Collingwood are excluded from the next test.
    Try Cook as captain he seem to have a level head.

  • Comment number 65.

    Yes, the culture within the team.

    I heard Vaughan interviewed shortly after the end of the play and he said he would **never** criticise Pietersen, because that's the way Pietersen plays. Image a Formula 1 driver who was guaranteed to win every third race, but crash on the first bend in the other two, consistently.

    No one should be beyond criticism. A great player is one who can adjust to the needs of the game and the team.

    In the bowling and fielding positions today, Vaughan seemed like a batchelor trying to cook a meal from the remains of what he could find in the fridge. Try a bit of this, try a bit of that... because there was no satisfactory option available.

    Seems we no longer have a team that works as a unit.

  • Comment number 66.

    Eglad have lost a series to the world number 2 team. Next year they have to play the world number 1 team. I hope they realise that to have a chance of winning that series they need to play their best team at the time with no regard to players who have passed their best. The dressing room needs to realise that newcomers picked on merit deserve a fair chance and that everyone is there on merit.

    If we are going to beat Australia the team eed to play at their absolute best all the time. It just won't be good enough to win a few sessions - they need to be on top of their game all the time if they are going to deliver

  • Comment number 67.

    Snelly 1986 writes that Vaughan's fielding was as poor as ever. Castigate the skipper for his batting form but I saw him take a stupendous catch and stop a certain boundary with the most acrobatic piece of fielding. I guess it's all a matter of kicking a guy when he's down...

  • Comment number 68.

    #32 paidster
    #41 slinkage

    Totally agree with these posts.

    With a view to the tour of India in the winter, I would be tempted to play this team at the Oval:


  • Comment number 69.

    Well played again Smith, a batting captain doing as he should do, seeing his team over the finishing line and putting a series away at the earliest opportunity, hopefully if Vaughan is still in the side he can learn form the example.

    It looks as though we could have used Broad's batting skills as an allrounder, as the 3 seemers just didnt seem to have enough steam to get all the wickets, not sure Sidebottom was as fit as the physios made out at the start of this one, but he struggled through and batted well this morning.

    Lets try and redeem ourselves at the Oval. Come on England

  • Comment number 70.

    A truely superb perfomance Smithy, you are a shining example of what a World Class Captain of a Cricketing Nation should be.By your example you have moulded a superb team together. Unlike this extremely poor England team lead by a man who is well past his sell by date.
    England as as Cricketing nation are light years behind what your country has produced.England are so unprofessional it makes one shudder.They keep spouting off about how many fast bowlers they have to choose from...where were they in this series?The question was asked on day 2 - 'Do England actually have a data base on each of the S.African batsmen's technique - I guess not!!! They promised years ago to 'scour the Asian Community' for an exceptional spin bowler - what did we get in the England Team - Mr Panesar.....Mr Harris in the Saffers team was roundly criticised by Mr Boycott et al but who actually picked up the most wickets in this series??? Time for BIG changes before the Ashes series please.......

  • Comment number 71.

    All well and good suggesting our dream XI's for the Oval next week but we all know damn well its just gonna look like the team that has just played with maybe Harmison or Broad coming in for Sidebottom.

    Even though its the perfect opportunity to try something different in this 'dead test' as the same old same old approach is hardly working, the selectors will no doubt "back the lads in possession to get us out of it" Or use other banal cliches to that effect.

  • Comment number 72.

    #47: The decision the England selectors have to make is whether they feel this squad of players are capable of winning back the Ashes next year

    No, no, no, that's not the way to think at all. I wish people would stop mentioning the Ashes. The selectors need to focus on which squad of players can go to India and compete. The Ashes is a full year away, people need to stop panicking about that. There are plenty more series and test matches in the cricket calendar. When summer 2009 comes around then we will have a better idea of how England will fare in the Ashes.

  • Comment number 73.

    I hear everyone screaming for Denly to be picked but does his 1 hundred in 17 innings at 24.88 in the County Championship not fill you all with a tad bit of concern that he may not be up to Test standard yet? i know he has been hyped to the moon on sky and in the media but to suggest picking him now is way too soon.

  • Comment number 74.

    Maybe just worth reminding everyone that it's not only cricket we're crap at. I mean, for a nation of 50 million plus how many gold medals are we gonna win at the forthcoming Olympics? And dare I mention the football team...

  • Comment number 75.

    And also worth remembering that the captain of the football team is a hooligan...

  • Comment number 76.

    the batters need to do better that's clear. but if we had michael holding available and firing, would we pick him? or colin croft? or Joel Garner? we have, simply put gents, harmy firing. Simon Jones firing. Freddie firing. Monty mumbling. who do we pick? it's not rocket science. the ashes is not irrelevant. it is the most important thing. how do we beat the aussies is more important than anything. do we want young guys coming through? Of course. do we want to win the Ashes? nothing else matters. who do we choose? bopara? nah. shah? nah. Harmy? yes. jones? yes. go down from there. GSD

  • Comment number 77.

    I know the game has changed, attitudes have changed and I'm probably a silly idealist, but while important and crucial, I don't rate Smith's hundred. He was definitely out twice and should have walked when he was caught off the glove. Please don't insult my intelligence and say he didn't know. A better batsman would have walked.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think I said in a previous Aggers' blog article that Flintoff shouldn't bowl as part of a 4 man attack. I now feel somewhat vindicated, but I'm now of the opinion that we shouldn't bowl a four man attack, full stop. We don't have a McGrath, Warne, Morkel or Steyn figure. We don't have a Muralitharan. We have good bolwers, capable of taking wickets, but no one that can really run through a batting order. Flintoff has never been a particularly penetrative strike bowler (he has taken just 7 five wicket hauls in all forms of circket he has played [ first class, list A, ODI, Test and all Twenty20 matches] and never 10 wickets in a match), Sidebottom looks tired and seems to be struggling with niggles (particularly with the back) and Panesar is pretty harmless on wickets that don't turn. And we all know about the mercurial Anderson.

    Given all that, I really feel sorry for Vaughan the captain. How could we expect to take 10 South African wickets on a pitch that offered very little? And so although I thought Flintoff shouldn't play as part of a 4 man attack for medical reasons, I now think England shouldn't play a 4 man attack for cricketing reasons - we just don't look like taking 20 wickets per match. We just don't have the talent.

    So, with the Oval a dead rubber, we have the perfect opportunity to try something different, bold and radical. Bring in some fresh faces and try and inject some reality into the hermetically sealed bubble that is the England dressing room.

    Broad, SP Jones or Tim Murtagh for Vaughan (make Strauss captain); Harmison for Sidebottom; Prior for Ambrose.

    They would be my potential changes. Strauss has a good cricket brain and is pretty unflappable. Broad has all the shots Vaughan has - including a lovely cover drive - but crucially is making more runs than Vaughan.

    On the Key issue... I'm not a huge fan of Key. Wasn't really that big a fan after his forray into Test cricket and on the basis of his stats so far this season, I'm still not that impressed. The same really goes for Ed Joyce, who again hasn't impressed so far this season.

    Tim Murtagh is the leading wicket taker in division one of the county championship. A fast-medium bowler for Middlesex, he celebrates his 27th birthday on the 2nd of August. He's also no mug with the bat, averaging 24.50. I've not seen him bowl or bat live, but the Oval could be a good opportunity to see him in action (he was at Surrey for a few years before moving north to Middelsex, so he should be familiar with the Oval).

    I'm not a big fan of Hamison, but I don't entirely trust Kabir Ali just yet. Jones is definitely somewhere near the top of my list to make an entrance at the Oval, but match fitness question marks still hang over his head somewhat. Which means that even I cannot ignore the case for reselection Harmison has built up over the last few months. And in some ways, I'd rather enjoy the sight of a fired up Harmison and Flintoff bowling close to 90 mph, giving those South African a right seeing to.

    As for Prior... it is a tough call. Geraint Jones, Steven Davies (of Worcestershire), James Foster and Chris Read all have more dismissals this season than Prior (with Davies leading the way quite comfortably with 51 catches from 11 matches), but they all average less than 41 in the county championship. Davies is averaging the most with a little over 40 and a high score of 99*. Prior, conversely, is averaging nearly 55, with 3 hundreds and five fifties. Ambrose has acquitted himself admirably in the last few innings, with gritty innings, but if we're to play 5 bowlers, we could well do with additional batting support. On that basis, Prior is the man for the job, but one has to ask what style of batter he is. If he can be neutralised by having the ball pitched up outside off, then we may as well stick with Ambrose who is definitely the better keeper.

    So there we are... It is a tough one. I would definitely advocate the use of 5 bowlers for the next test, simply because we don't have the quality to use just 4. That means a batsmen has to miss out and Vaughan or Bell are the most likely candidates.

  • Comment number 79.

    I agree with #72.

    Throughout this series, against the 2nd best team in the world, everyone has been going on about the 2005 Ashes and preparing for the 2009 Ashes. Is this not a bit presumptuous during a tough series, against a higher-ranked opponent? How would it come across if SA kept referring to this series as a warm-up for their tour of Aus later this year?

    And now it's continuing, with many suggestions as to how the Oval test should be used to prepare for the Ashes. But you have a series before then against the 3rd-ranked team, India! In India. Worry about that first!

    The Ashes is an important series with a great history, but it's not the only thing going in world cricket. Aus aim to win EVERY series. That is what SA are aiming to emulate, and so should England.

  • Comment number 80.

    Likitornot I suppose then you don't rate the hundreds KP has scored where he has been out and not walked. Did Collingwood walk in the first over today when clearly out? When last did an English batsman 'walk'?

    If most batsman don't walk, then you're at a disadvantage if you're the only one doing it (apart from the fact that you will also have times where you're given out when not out). Gilchrist tried walking for a while, took a lot of flack for it, and did it noticeably less often towards the end of his career.

    Don't get me wrong, I wish all batsmen walked, but it seems unfair to pick on Smith alone just because he happens to be in the opposing team.

  • Comment number 81.

    Kallis' behaviour was childish - quite pathetic.

  • Comment number 82.

    I have to agree. Fantastic innings by Smith, but serious questions have to now be asked about Michael Vaughan.

    However, I think this match, and the series so far, shows that the ICC really need to look at using more technology. If a batsman plays no shot to a spinning ball they should be out, and the number of catches, some taken and some not, that have been got wrong by the umpires shows something must be done. It is always a shame when a match hinges on a critical decision got wrong and Graham Smith should have been out on 74.

    Though, take nothing away from South Africa, they have been the better team all series and England need to do some serious thinking before the Ashes next year.

  • Comment number 83.

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

  • Comment number 84.

    Everyone goes on about Smith being out on 85... what about the dismissals of Kallis and McKenzie, were they "out" and was that "fair play". They would have knocked off the runs anyway if they were not unfairlly given out (but they walked) so stop saying Smith should have walked. He was briliant and this was an amzing innings from the captain... one that the whole England team can study going intt the next test!

    Before the series started commentators suggested England taking this series 2-0 or 3-0... they can't even taken 20 wickets in a match, how do you want them to win a series?!?

    The problem with English cricket (and all english sport) is that there is too much talk and not much action and that was proven again today. Not even the dodgy sightscreen palava could help you.

    Well done to the Proteas, I'm sure we'll do the same in the ODI's!!

  • Comment number 85.

    I rarely post my ideal team selection but I thought I may as well add in my 2 pence worth.


    Its true that Collingwood was outstanding on Friday, but this team needs to get the "old boys club" mentality knocked out of it. Get the young guys in and make KP the skipper. I know some will say he's not Captain material just yet, but England need a leader with a bit of swagger and confidence in order for it to filter down to the rest of the team. The choice of Collingwood or Bell must be made as we simply cannot afford to have two players in who are patchy with their form. Yes Bell did well for his 199 but since has gone off the boil a touch. Same could happen to Collingwood.

    Will be very interesting to see how our selectors react.

  • Comment number 86.

    Well Done South Africa

    'Asked if he endorsed Vaughan to continue as captain in next week's Oval Test, England coach Peter Moores said: "Definitely. I think the cricketing gods can sometimes make it hard work." '

    What are you talking about man!
    Are we to wait about for divine intervention?
    Was just one comment of a wet and self-interested interview.
    Please... this is sport... the equation is there, it just seems no-one in the England management can read it or even acknowledge it is there.

    This is daft. respect to South Africa and Collingwood's Captain's innings. The rest of the England team need to stop looking towards the 'Gods' and have a look at themselves.

  • Comment number 87.

    my ideal 11 if all are on form.


  • Comment number 88.

    I'd personally would like to know what the hell andy flower is doing as a batting coach our batsmen keep getting out in the same manner to an average bowling attack apart from steyn

    I think time for Moores, Flower and Gibson should go as well as the chairman of selectors. I thought that Graveney was bad but Miller is an absoulte joke why call Harmison into the squad then drop him 2 days before the test.
    And as i've said before why are we picking players who aren't fully fit {Sidebottom}
    Nasser Hussian should be chairman of selectors because of his knowledge of English cricket

  • Comment number 89.

    Team for the 4 th test

    Strauss [c]
    Prior [wk}
    Mahmood {quickest bowler we've got}
    Harmison {It's now or never}

  • Comment number 90.

    The team needs some serious changes. Strauss needs to go. Batting at a strike rate of 30 is just putting pressure on Cook. The captain is a waste of space, and he must go too. So should Collingwood. If you give any batsman enough games he will eventually get a big score. The problem is that his test average simply isn't up to scratch. We need to find guys who can average nearer to 50, and he isn't that man. Next is Bell. Still not convinced, but he seems to be developing and improving.

    The wicketkeeper spot needs a change. The most impressive I've seen in county cricket this season is Foster and I think he deserves a chance.

    Onto the Bowlers. Monty gets a lot said about him, but can anyone actually tell me how he has developed his game. All we hear in commentary is how he bowls at the wrong speed. He seems to lack creativity. His batting has gone backwards and his fielding is doing the same.

    Sidebottom has been fantastic, but doesn't seem to be 100%. I think he deserves a rest to heal up. Anderson is ok, but still to inconsistent. Broad will get there eventually, and just put in a good performance for his county (I thought he was "tired" and needed a rest?).

    Finally, who should come in? Plenty of good suggestions on here already. The fact is that England almost need to start from scratch. Batsmen in particular need to feel the pressure of potentially being dropped if they don't perform. Look at Hoggard - after two seasons averaging under 30 with the ball he gets dropped. We have batsmen averaging under 30 consistently with the ball and they keep their places.

    I'm glad England have lost again as it needed to happen. Too much sticking with a "winning" side and too many players who are comfortable in their spots. Any bets that the only changes for the final test will be to the bowlers?

  • Comment number 91.

    Who'd be a selector?

    The trouble is that all our top six have proved their class at some stage and they are all fairly inconsistent. Collingwood and Bell have both pulled big centuries out of the bag when everone was screaming for their heads. They've all got class, which is much more important than form.

    I think we've been beaten by a better side but to be honest I don't think there's a lot in it. Smith admitted as much in his after match interview.

    I would like to see no knee-jerk sackings, I'd like for us to work with what we've got and see if we can coach the players into improvements. If we genuinely had better players knocking on the door then get them in, but I don't think Shah or Bopara are really that good.

  • Comment number 92.

    Mr_Mack, has it just about right. The nay sayers about Vaughan, will notice their error once he has gone. Also, the absence of Sidebottom from most of the suggested line-ups does make one wonder what cricket people have been watching for the last year.

    I must finish with an acknowledgement of a remarkable innings by Smith. Excellent.

  • Comment number 93.

    I find it amazing that Sajid Mahmood is still getting a mention for the side, I mean did people actually watch him bowl when he played international cricket before? I can only live in fear that England go into a test match with Anderson and Mahmood as its strike bowlers, we'd struggle against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe if we went down that route, never mind Australia or South Africa!

  • Comment number 94.

    Lets get a side to win the next test match first. With England we need to go on a test match by test match basis!!! Lets not have a go if we lose a match as long as we are trying the right team - a combination of the old (i.e. experience) and new (young players). The youngsters will never learn if they never get a chance.

    Lets freshen this side up - we have been out played by a very good side and people should remember that. We won the ashes in 2005 - it is the middle of 2008 now!!! Lets start the right side, get confidence and as per prior to the ashes we were winning so went into the series with the right mentality. We need have the technique but also the right mental approach.

    If we are talking about the ashes in 2009 we still have a winter series to play!! Lets win that away from home and then we can go back into the ashes with some pride and confidence. Lets remember this series next year and try and play tougher cricket - score more runs and get more wickets.

    Would love to select a side but i feel for the selectors as it is not an easy job!!

    Well it all seems so simple but heck that is why they are international cricket players and i used to play club cricket!!!

    p.s. bloody biased (as an essex fan) but James Foster must have annoyed the ECB for the continued snub!! true his batting has improved but can only improve further against the best.

  • Comment number 95.

    Where are you cityboy105 to put a bit of order into so much rubbish, even if well-intentioned, on today's blog responses?

  • Comment number 96.

    A good game, with S.A. worthy winners. Disappointed with the crowd behaviour though, very one eyed.

  • Comment number 97.

    Joking aside, I think we should go into the Oval with a bit of heavy artillery. Jones and Harmison back alongside Flintoff, we can then afford a slower swinger for some variation or Broad for a bit of batting backup.

    I just wish the selectors would give Trescothick few more nudges about giving up retirement. He's only 32 for gods sake, about the time most Aussies get going, and we could really do with some firepower at the top of the order. Cook is just another Atherton, and after a great start his falling average is starting to reflect that. I remember Athers started out pretty well, but a final average of 37 or whatever was barely better than Hick, despite a few good knocks under pressure. All I ever remember is him getting out for six or seven, and Cook is starting to do the same thing unfortunately. Tresco's 'failures' were usually 30s or 40s.

    Youth is one thing, but experience counts for a hell of a lot.

  • Comment number 98.

    In 1981 Mike Brearley, The Botham Ashes 1981 battted down the order and saved the Oval match with Alan Knott with scores of 51 and 70 respectively, which meant a series win.

    He demoted himself from opening to No5, Boycott/Larkins and gave his batting a chance to establish itself.

    Michael Vaughan has to demote himself to No5/6 and allow Bell to bat 3. With less new ball and allowed to play a stroke game he has the best chance to make a score in the last two innings of the series.

  • Comment number 99.

    Great leadership and performance from Smith and his team from drawing the first test after the huge English first innings total to thrashing them in four days in the two subsequent tests.
    The english team should have a look at the performance of the untouchable Monty Panesar whose stats from the test are not too impressive.
    The poms may earn a gong in the Queens next honour list for"commendable effort and deserved defeat"

  • Comment number 100.

    First of all, well done to Smith and South Africa on a pretty comfortable series win. Also well done Collingwood. I, like nearly everybody else, did not believe he should have been picked for this test, however he showed real character in the second innings, and gave England a realistic chance of squaring the series. It could very easily have been his last appearance for the test team had he failed. The selectors have now made a rod for their own backs. One innings does not prove entirely that Collingwood is back in form but how can you drop him after a knock like that?

    Monty needs to be more realistic with his appeals. He jumps and screams at anything that strikes the batsman's pads, and I mean anything! How can anyone blame the umpire for not giving Smith out when Monty gave a barely audible whimper when appealing for the gloved catch. As for the lbw shout, surely if you are looking at this as a realistic means of dismissal, then you should not be pitching the ball 4 feet outside off stump.

    If England are to become world beaters, they need to pick world class players, and at the moment I do not see many of these in this side. Ask yourselves how many of this team would the likes of Australia, SA and India wish to have in their squads? Asides from Pieterson and Flintoff, I can't think of any others. Have we got any potential world class players out there? I'm sure we have. Let's give them a go in the final test.


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