For all the frustration of the past two days, the first Test turned out better than many pundits had anticipated for England. South Africa began as the most hyped-up side to land on these shores since the 2005 Aussies, but patently failed to live up to their own billing.
Their bowling attack lacked any penetration, with the admirable Morne Morkel the sole exception. If the first Test was anything to go by, they have only half an attack: Paul Harris did not look Test class; and Makhaya Ntini could only muster a pitiful imitation of his brilliant showing at the same ground five years ago, one that was almost painful to watch. And with the bat, only Ashwell Prince displayed the required application and skill in the first innings, although England will be worried indeed that four of their top five have already made centuries in this series. And the exception? Jacques Kallis, Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World for 2007.
The resilience shown by South Africa's batting is compounded by England enduring three solid days in the field, especially given the modern norm of back-to-back Tests. Indeed, Graeme Smith may have had half a mind to bat on rather than accept the draw, extending England's misery further.
It is excellent news that Andrew Flintoff will be recalled for the Second Test: his return should reinvigorate the side, preventing South African momentum developing after their admirable efforts to salvage a draw. One would expect him to come in for the struggling Paul Collingwood at six, although the selectors originally planned to play him at seven, with Tim Ambrose at eight, before injury scuppered his hopes of a recall in the first Test of the summer. Flintoff has not played a Test match for 18 months, and, whatever his run and wicket tallies, he should serve to inspire England, while the South Africans, clearly would prefer not to see him in the side. It is telling that Lancashire have won three and drawn two of the five championship games he has played this season, whilst only managing two draws and a loss when he has been absent.
For all the positives of his Flintoff's return, however, there is no compelling evidence to suggest he merits batting at number six. He has struck some sort of form of late, although the cavalier nature of his recent knocks is not what is generally required from a top-order Test batsman. And it is three years since his last Test hundred.
With this in mind, have England erred on the side of selectorial caution - yet again - in refraining from recalling Matt Prior? Ambrose has an extremely limited batting technique; and against bowlers who do not feed his cut shot with regularity, it is hard to envisage him making important runs. Add his increasingly fallible glove-work and the selectors have had ample time to recognise he is not the man to end the keeping debate. Prior's keeping has many faults - just ask Ryan Sidebottom. But Ambrose's grim run of form - passing 11 just twice in 11 completed international innings - compounded by the uncertainty of Flintoff's batting, lends England's lower middle-order a real sense of vulnerability. All signs suggest Prior has a sufficiently developed game to average 10 more at number six than the 26 Collingwood has managed in his last eight Tests, while his keeping is also said to have improved markedly this season.
So England can be reasonably content with their endeavours in the opening Test, and should not be unduly disheartened by failing to force a victory, given that the previous five Tests at Lord's have also been draws. The Test will be remembered for Kevin Pietersen's superb 152 in a series that promises to be amongst the standouts of his career. Yet Ian Bell's 199 could be of more significance for the development of England as a side. He has always had a fine technique and a classy and extremely attractive game; here he showed he could play match-shaping innings against top-class opposition. With Flintoff and Ambrose directly below him, Bell will know England require more of the same.
Should England's selectors have made more than one change?