A test of missed chances

Well well, after writing England off midway through day 3, I am pleased to say that I got it all wrong again.

With around 20 overs left I was thinking how I would be writing about a comfortable draw for England, about how Collingwood and Bell batted for over two sessions to see England to an easy draw with 5 wickets remaining, how wrong that was as well.

As an England fan I had let my guard down, I dared to believe we had done the job. I had forgot why England are one of the most enthralling sides in the world to watch.

We were about to see the two sides of English cricket at its best and worst, the sublime to the ridiculous.

Both sides had their chances in this match and neither took them. England will be the happier with the result but surely South Africa have to be the happier with their performance.

Disappointed with the result I’m sure Graeme Smith is, but he must take a lot of heart and give his side plenty of credit with the way they battled back from 127/5 on the first day. They lost the toss, had the worst batting conditions on day 1, and when England batted on day 2 in favourable conditions they restricted them to 273 all out.

Considering when they were staring down the barrel of test and series defeat at lunch on day 1, to turn the match around and be on the brink of a win is a remarkable achievement.

Conversely, they lost overs at the end of day 2 due to their slow over rate and missed the chance to have two goes with the new ball as they ran out of time in the evening session just after taking it.

They also batted slowly on day 4 after the wicket of Graeme Smith and lost valuable extra overs to bowl at England, and it was strange how little JP Duminy bowled during day 5 when he looked to be their most dangerous spinner, ultimately any one of these oversights could have been the difference between winning and drawing the test.

From an English point of view they have again battled their way to a draw for the third time in their last eight test matches, the kind of games they would have easily lost in the past.

But from a negative perspective they had the best of the conditions when asking Graeme Smith to bat on day 1 and didn’t cash in.

They also didn’t cash in on favourable batting conditions on day 2 and threw away wickets stupidly when the chance was there to bat past SA’s 1st innings total, we all seen what happened in the 2nd test when SA went out to bat in their 2nd innings 200 runs behind.

How they managed to find themselves hanging on for a draw after all the things they had in their favour must be a worry to Strauss and Flower.

They both must be delighted with the form of Ian Bell though. Is this the series that finally gives him the self belief to go on and be the top world class batsman his talent demands he should be?

Paul Collingwood was his usual solid self and Alastair Cook continued his good form with two half centuries, although he did also throw his wicket away twice in his usual fashion.

All in all Englands performance was the usual mix of excellent at times with a touch of stupidity thrown in. Only when they can cut out these mad hours will they consistently compete with the top sides home and away.

Speaking of studipity, what was the nightwatchman doing sweeping the spinner before lunch when he is supposed to be trying to help save the test match? Isn’t his job just to occupy the crease? Not get out in such a stupid manner.