Buoyant Eng loom for Proteas
Gary Kirsten (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – It is just as well that Gary Kirsten, South Africa’s coach,
detects a particularly keen sense of enthusiasm in his troops
immediately ahead of their long tour of England.
For while the
Proteas’ Test squad spend a few days in Switzerland designed to crank up
that motivation and bonding even more, the host nation’s broad
cricketing psyche is fast approaching what seems a near all-time high.
Wednesday England play Australia, for so long a nemesis but not
anymore, in the third of five one-day internationals, a day/night affair
Weather permitting – and this is yet another UK
summer marked so far by its persistent sogginess – Alastair Cook and
company will strive to clinch the series surprisingly early; they are
already 2-0 to the good after commendably clear-cut triumphs at Lord’s
and The Oval where the Aussies, frankly, were outclassed.
would be in the Proteas’ interests, arguably, for the team now coached
by Mickey Arthur to mount some sort of a spirited rearguard in that
Although the Test and ODI codes are significantly
different, of course, the majority of England’s currently smooth-firing
limited-overs side will also be turning out in the top-of-table Test
series starting on July 19 at The Oval which is, undoubtedly, the high
point of the English season.
You just get a sense that England’s
cricketers are generally in a very good space at present, and it is
instructive to hear even the great, ultra-confident Shane Warne
lamenting in commentary what he considers to be a touch of English
“arrogance” during the ODIs against the slightly embattled outfit he
used to represent with such aplomb.
When an Australian legend
suddenly bemoans English assertiveness, a boot can be said to have
transferred quite dramatically to another foot, can’t it?
England fans will be walking with a rare swagger, just as the Proteas
prepare to do battle in that country, if the Aussies are clean-swept
That outcome would mean an unprecedented laurel going the
English way even before hostilities get under way against Graeme Smith’s
team: simultaneous world No 1 status in all of Tests, ODIs and Twenty20
It would be a great feather to the home cap
entering the much-touted combat against the Proteas, which involves
three Tests, five ODIs and three T20 internationals.
currently lie fourth in the ODI ladder, below Australia, South Africa
and India in that order, but they are all tightly bunched and 5-0 would
see the English catapult to the top.
Their bowling attack, which
in both Tests and ODIs hardly lacks for options in the seam department
and contains the considerable off-spin skills of Graeme Swann as well,
is firing collectively smoothly while someone like Ian Bell, on the
batting front, has been an instant beneficiary of Kevin Pietersen’s
retirement from ODIs at the relatively young age of only 31.
He is looking a revelation in SA-born Pietersen’s old spot at the top of the limited-overs order.
two players who are bidding for the No 6 spot (perhaps England’s only
relative weakness) in the Test side against South Africa – Ravi Bopara
and Eoin Morgan -- have been in forceful early ODI form against the
As much as the Test series is rightly commanding most of
the advance hype, the one-day series immediately afterwards looks like
having a genuine cutting edge too.
South Africa do have a bit of a
score to settle on that front – they were ghastly in that phase of the
2008 tour, undoing much of the yeoman work in triumphing 2-1 in the Test
series by crashing listlessly 4-0 in the ODIs, including an especially
abject 10-wicket loss at Trent Bridge where they were rolled for 83.
is a slightly sobering thought that only a few months ago the Proteas
lost 2-1 in a home ODI series to the very Aussie side presently under
the cosh in England, although those were also very early days of
Kirsten’s coaching regime.
Every sign at present points to a
great need for South Africa, despite coming out of their own off-season
and all the pitfalls that can entail, to hit the ground running against
Andrew Strauss’s team in well less than three weeks from now.
Can they achieve that?*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing