South Africa have little time to recover for Cape Town
CRICKET NEWS:IT TOOK a little over 70 minutes yesterday for England to demolish the remnants of the South African second innings and win the second Test. When Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann ended the siege and stormed the citadel so outrageously the previous afternoon, the certainty of South Africa’s defeat was offset only by the chance that the weather might intervene.
But once more the wind shifted, the skies cleared, Swann got his usual wicket in his opening over and resistance thereafter was token. The margin of victory, an innings and 98 runs, represents a massive blow to the South Africans, who must consider a number of serious issues before the third Test begins in Cape Town on Sunday.
This was a famous England victory abroad to rank, in recent times, with those at Mumbai in 2006, Johannesburg in 2005 and Colombo in 2001.
Fittingly, it was Swann who clinched the match with the wicket of Dale Steyn, another for this prolific collector of lbw decisions. It gave him his fifth wicket of the innings, ninth of the match, the best haul of his brief 14-Test career, and 54th of the calendar year, a figure exceeded only by Mitchell Johnson’s 63.
Broad collected a further wicket and deserved five: he had to settle for four for 43 as the other wicket fell to James Anderson who, along with Graham Onions, was pretty much a bystander after the new-ball burst.
Swann goes from strength to strength, his influence now as great as that of any member of the team. There was no quibbling when he was deemed man of the match for the second successive game. What Andrew Strauss has on his hands is a man for all seasons, a spinner who has learned the nuances of his trade through hard work at the coalface of county cricket and who can now take wickets on any surface.
Thus he becomes ubiquitous, someone who performs the traditional Aunt Sally role of the England spinner in lending respite to the seamers while maintaining pressure on the batsmen and himself cleaning up. Suddenly the idea of a four-man attack, decried in some quarters, does not look so shabby.
Almost by stealth Strauss and the coach, Andy Flower, have assembled an attack that is producing results. It is true England have played more Test matches than all but Australia, but Swann’s record over the past year – and those of Broad and Anderson, who with 47 and 40 are the world’s third- and fifth-highest wicket-takers in 2009 – tells its story.
That no bowler managed to take 10 wickets in a match – the first time that has happened for four decades – says a lot about the standard of bowling (as well as pitches and balls), but, of the four men who managed nine, one is Swann and another Anderson. Add the emergence of Onions and there is room for optimism, even if a bowler of express pace would be handy.
On Tuesday evening, South Africa’s sports psychologist, Jeremy Snape, was musing on how he could be a busy man over the next few days. This defeat will have cut deep into the psyche of a team whose ethos stems from their bullishness and attritional qualities. That will have to change. The bluster will have to go. They have been humiliated.
What Snape will no doubt be reinforcing is how adversity can give birth to some astonishing deeds. England, he might note, were humiliated to no lesser degree by Australia at Headingley last summer. They came back to win the final Test. But it depends on the leadership skills of those in charge and the character of the players.
The South African side need some fundamental changes to personnel and strategy. They have strugglers in Ashwell Prince, a middle-order batsman who looks as comfortable opening as he would sumo wrestling, and JP Duminy, whose promise is not apparent at present.
England appear to have got the hang of Paul Harris, too, the spinner who somehow got himself to seventh in the world rankings before falling to 12th, and there were fitness doubts in this match over the seamer Morne Morkel, who bowled just four overs on Tuesday in two spells and was said to have a “fatigued” left foot. Whatever that might be.
Finally there is Makhaya Ntini, a shadow of the bowler he once was, a totem still but looking horribly like a token as well. South Africa can no longer afford sentiment. They have to pick a side that has the capacity to break out, with a strategy that involves going after Swann. Attrition will suit England more than them now.
South Africa v England
Overnight: England 574-9 dec (I R Bell 140, A N Cook 118, P D Collingwood 91, M J Prior 60, A J Strauss 54) South Africa 343 (J H Kallis 75, G C Smith 75, A B de Villiers 50; G P Swann 4-110) and 76-6.
South Africa second innings
M Boucher c Prior b Broad 29
M Morkel lbw b Swann 15
P Harris c Broad b Anderson 36
D Steyn lbw b Swann 3
M Ntini not out 1
Total (50 overs) 133
Fall of wickets: 1-27, 2-37, 3-40, 4-44, 5-44, 6-50, 7-86, 8-108, 9-129.
Bowling: Anderson 8-2-24-1, Onions 4-1-12-0, Swann 21-3-54-5, Broad 17-3-43-4.
England beat South Africa by an innings and 98 runs.