At the start of the series, one of the advantages that England purported to have over South Africa was the strength of positions 7/8/9/10 with bat in hand. In Prior, Bresnan, Broad and Swann, it was felt that England’s weight of runs lower down the order could prove decisive in settling the series. Not so. Aside from Prior performing his usual role at 7, to date there has not been a significant contribution from England’s bowlers with oak in hand. On the other hand, South Africa’s lower order was actually strengthened by the unfortunate withdrawal of Mark Boucher, De Villiers taking the gloves – meaning the more accomplished batsman in Duminy coming in at 7, where he’s had some success, matching Prior for half centuries.
Why? As soon as the numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11 ‘hop’ nervously from the Pavilion, there are two types of delivery to be bowling. The first hits the stumps, the second hits the throat. I’d argue that the success they’ve had isn’t a case of South Africa being stronger than England in terms of batting prowess, rather a case that they’ve bowled much better to the tail. Stuart Broad has had very little in his third to free his arms and drive at, they’ve bowled straight at Graeme Swann, and they’ve contained the more conservative Bresnan.
At 160-6, England should have wrapped it up yesterday for not much more than 200. As it is, they’ve allowed Philander to get to 50 and now South Africa are looking at going past 300. Far too much has been at a driveable length. Whilst Anderson has never been renowned for a decent bouncer, Stuart Broad in particular has been very ‘floaty’ and soft, whilst Finn is much more erratic. On the other hand, Philander hits the stumps, Morkel threatens the body, whilst Steyn does both. Smith doesn’t give pressure relieving easy singles.
Advantage South Africa. Again.