Although England were thoroughly outplayed at The Oval, it was their bowling performance that was a shocker. Prior to the start of the series, a lot was expected of this English bowling attack, which was even rated by some critics as the best ever in the country’s bowling history. And everyone praising the bowling line up had their fair share of reasons to do so. It was this same bowling attack that dismantled India around the same time last season, and before that they had undone Aussies as well en route to a dominating Ashes triumph.
What then went wrong for this strong army of bowlers against South Africa in the opening Test of the series that will officially decide which is the best team in the world? Well, it was just a case of England running into an extremely strong batting line-up, perhaps the strongest in world cricket today. Be it Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla or Jacques Kallis, each of them is a class act and, for the umpteenth time, proved their worth to the side. The way the trio batted made England’s best bowlers look like novices, which in itself is something for the hosts to seriously ponder upon.
Both James Anderson and Stuart Broad had a memorable series against India, but the latter did not have the batsmen to tackle the conditions efficiently. Earlier, against Australia as well, the bowling was magnificent, but then again the Aussies did not have a strong batting line up, bar the likes of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Even there, Ponting was totally out of sorts, which made the task all the more easier for Anderson and co. While it cannot be denied that England have an enviable bowling line-up, it also holds true that they aren’t versatile enough to come up with the goods in different situations.
If one looks back to England’s disastrous Test tour of UAE (played against Pakistan), it would reveal that these same very bowlers struggled. Anderson and Broad are dangerous when the ball moves around, but aren’t half as effective in sub-continent conditions. Similar is the story with Tim Bresnan, who tasted first defeat as a Test player for England following The Oval setback. Bresnan has been an effective medium pacer for his side only when the ball does the talking off the surface, which isn’t good enough if England want to remain the best team in the world.
At The Oval, it was clearly evident that a strong batting line up can dismantle the impressive England bowling. The hosts will have to perform exceedingly well in the second Test to prove otherwise. Around the same time last year, India were number one, and were being massacred in England. Will South Africa dish out similar treatment to the hosts, the current number one?