Same Old England?

16 03 2008

What is wrong with England? Of course the Aussies out there might retort “What’s not wrong with England?” but seriously. Having had the better of the three days so far (the word “dominated” doesn’t quite seem fitting, though) they appeared like a team that didn’t really want to win the match.

Cricket sides that want to win take chances. It’s as simple as that. There is no point bowling well if you don’t take chances. Some say bowlers win you matches, and in the context of bowlers vs batsmen that’s certainly true, but if you ask me it’s fielders that win you matches. The old adage, catches win you matches, it’s cliched, but true.

Having said all that England should still go on to win the match. New Zealand certainly can still win, Vettori is no mug with the bat and McCullum is in the form of his life, but it would be a mammoth task. Yet one can’t help but feel that had England taken their chances on the fourth day it would be over by now. The pressure’s on England now.

For all the negatives there are some positives to take, largely in the bowling department. Clearly the selectors have been vindicated in selecting both Broad and Anderson, the latter taking a devastating five wicket haul in the first innings (the top five batsmen, in fact) whilst the former came into his own during the second (despite issues over his follow-through). Monty’s bowling looks much better than it was in Sri Lanka.

Some issues remain. The wicketkeeping position hasn’t quite been settled. Tim Ambrose had started well but made a couple of poor mistakes behind the stumps. It’s still far too early to judge but the spectre of Matt Prior, who, like Ambrose, started well only to show his frailty with the gloves, looms large. The batting looks frail, especially when you consider that this is against one of the weakest bowling attacks in Test cricket.

Unless England address these problems quickly, South Africa could humiliate them.



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