Thursday, 28 January 2010

Mixed feelings taken from dramatic series

After allowing the dust to settle after a nerve-wrenching and dramatic series between England and South Africa the post-series report will probably depend on whether you're a half empty or half full kind of guy.

If you're half-full then a creditable 1-1 draw against the world's second best test playing nation is a worthy result. The resilience and character shown in the first and third test, where England clung on for dear life, is an encouraging sign of a healthy team spirit while the sole victory in the second game came in convincing fashion. Things could have got even better had they not collapsed so grimly on the fourth day of the final test at Johannesburg. Stormy weather enveloped the city in the afternoon which clung on the following day, meaning any further play would not have been possible. It perhaps would have been a hollow victory but a win nonetheless and would have gone in the record books alongside a 2-1 Ashes win last year.

If you're half empty then this was a series that England were lucky to escape from. Out played in three of the four tests and behind in virtually all of the bowling and batting stats, a combination of gutsy batting, poor bowling and a few slices of luck meant England somehow came into the last test with a 1-0- lead. The batting line-up however still appears brittle and refuses to click at the same time – while one or two will get a score, others will fail.

The two South-African born players, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott, have struggled in particular. However they do have excuses, with Pietersen returning from serious injury and Trott still a rookie at this level. A trip to Bangladesh should help them build confidence and the cricket odds suggest an easy win for England.

With the ball Graeme Swann was the leading wicket-taker and has quickly established himself as a key player, shown by his high value in the upcoming IPL auction.

But the swing-masters, who caused so much damage last summer struggled to get as much movement on the harder South African pitches. How England could do with a Dale Steyn or Morne Morkel to slam down some vicious deliveries.

But it would be unfair to criticise the team too much considering the amount of guts and determination they showed to dig out results in three of these four tests. Problems remain, but they are much easier to solve when you are not losing Test series. If the cricket betting is right, England should be able to build on this performance.

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