England must be brave ahead of second Test
All the talk in the England camp heading into today's second Test against South Africa is that now is not the time to panic and deal in rash changes.
It’s been a mantra that’s followed every defeat and was the line dished out after the side’s 3-0 loss to Pakistan earlier this year.
Indeed it’s been a mantra that has served them extremely well since the ‘Andy Regime’ (coach Flower and skipper Strauss) began.
However, such was the size of defeat at the Oval two weeks ago - Strauss and Co were humiliated by and innings and 12 runs, a result that even flattered the hosts - that while they may not panic they should perhaps think the unthinkable.
Since they became word No.1 England’s form has been, in the words of Graeme Swann “dismal”.
They’ve lost five of their last nine Tests and it’s clear something’s not right.
Ever up for being kind and helpful, 7DAYS offers some tips on how England can cut down the Proteas this weekend.
PICK STEVEN FINN - This could well mean dropping one of Tim Bresnan or Stuart Broad. With the former a Yorkshire lad who knows the Headingley strip well, Broad is the more likely to go, which seems strange as he’s been viewed as a key man. However, no great, or even good for that matter, outfit ever had players who were undroppable and a break for Broad could do him the world of good and give him the kick up the backside he might need.
Either way, Steven Finn has to play. Strauss cannot wait for South Africa to make mistakes (because let’s face it, based on their performance at the Oval, they won’t make many) he has to be more aggressive and for him to be able to do that needs the attacking pace ace Finn.
GET SWANN A NEW ELBOW - The blunt attack that appeared at the Oval wasn’t just down to the perfect pitch or sloppy seamers. The lack of fizz from Swann was also worrying; his figures of nought for 151 were the worst of his career. What’s even more troubling is the spin king’s admission he’s suffering from pain in his right elbow and might need surgery. He says it’s OK at the moment. But for England to take on South Africa, and look like they can take 20 wickets, they need a mentally and physically fit Swann to fly high.
LEARN FROM HASHIM AMLA - Growing up we were told by a certain Lord Geoffrey Boycott that there were “snakes in the pitch” at Headingley, such was the movement it offered the bowlers. Times have changed though, and the hallowed wicket is more a road than jungle now, with runs, not wickets, there for the taking on a generally flat track.
So Strauss and Co can do worse than learn from their tormentor-in-chief from two weeks ago. Amla was concentration, mixed with a dollop of grace, personified. There were no rash shots, no ‘enforcing himself’ on the bowlers, just a simple and effective range of strokes to reach 311 not out.
Batting after that masterclass, on what was still a lifeless pitch, the hosts were skittled out for 240. Alastair Cook got a good delivery from Vernon Philander, but you could argue that most of the other wickets were all soft. Indeed, the batting in the first innings was equally inept during the second morning of the match, which turned out to be the key session of the match. If England are to make 450-plus in Leeds they need to learn the lessons of Amla’s knock.