Thursday, January 07, 2010

Strauss's men pass sternest test

From 4pm yesterday 'til 8.30am this morning, not many people would have given Andrew Strauss's men much hope of withstanding an entire day against a strong South African side, with their tails up, and with only seven wickets to last them. With less than an outside chance of England chasing down 466 - some 130 runs more than England's highest ever winning fourth innings chase - it was simply a case of how long England would last until the inevitable collapse.

And lesser sides - particularly some of England's, over the last 15 years or so - would have crumbled. At times, it had appeared that the collapse was just around the corner. When Trott and Anderson both went within 40 minutes of each in the morning session; when Paul Collingwood, after all his hard work had given England hope, was out quickly followed by Prior; and when Ian Bell, after 213 balls of intense pressure, left Graeme Swann and Graham Onions three overs to face against South Africa's pace attack, each time England looked doomed.

But Strauss's men have proven for the second time in South Africa what they are made of. Every man who batted for England on the final day of the test was heroic, from Anderson who faced 52 priceless balls to steady the ship at the start of the final day, to number 11 Graham Onions who might never be more proud to see his name next to a '0 Not Out'. Kudos go to Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook too, for their 100 opening partnership on day four, without which the draw-clinching effort would not have stood a chance.

To Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, though, go the biggest plaudits. Both spent over four hours at the crease each, guarding their wickets with their lives, not for personal glory - Collingwood made just 38 off 188 deliveries - but for the good of the team. Ian Bell, who despite having played over 50 test matches and scoring a stunning 142 in the previous match still gets the fiercest criticism, proved all his detractors wrong with a responsible and resilient 78 from 213 agonising deliveries, which alongside Collingwood's robust innings, proved to be a match-saving partnership.

Not that long ago, England's test cricketers would have been odds on to wilt in the intense heat of the South African sun, facing the intense pressure of saving a test match against a world class cricketing nation on their home patch. But this current England side is beginning to look nicely balanced, with world class players in every department and developing talents starting to flourish, and under the guidance of Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower, the winning mentality is beginning to grow brighter. England cannot lose the Test series in South Africa now, and a win in the final test next week for a 2-0 series victory would confirm England's as a re-emerging power in world Test cricket once again.

1 comment:

  1. Gabe Fleming11:47 AM

    Good post, it was thrilling stuff and I'm not even a proper cricket fan. Bring on the final test!