Strauss a threat to Proteas

2009-12-17 20:28

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Centurion – Get Straussy … it may sound a bit like a movie title, but removing England’s captain in the first session, ideally, will be a key Proteas objective on day three of the first Test at SuperSport Park here on Friday.

The left-handed opening batsman, who boasts a notable history of relish for South African conditions, hasn’t taken long to impose himself on the opening encounter of 2009/10, stroking his way comfortably and elegantly to an unbeaten 44 in his team’s initially promising reply to the hosts’ first innings total of 418.

There are still Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and company to come, but you nevertheless get the feeling that in how long Strauss continues at the crease could lie an important pointer to which side is applying the screws after the respective first knocks.

Certainly the Proteas will not want England, who have only lost arguably their weakest current top-five link thus far in Alastair Cook, to overhaul their own beefy score with a significant number of wickets in hand, because it would give the tourists a sniff at repeating their first-Test triumph of 2004/05.

And Strauss looks like the perfect candidate, from the tourists’ point of view, to knuckle down for a really sizeable innings.
He has the track record here to back up his credentials – on the last visit five years ago, he was England’s standout batsman by a country mile in their 2-1 series success.

The Johannesburg-born player amassed productive knocks countrywide last time, including 126 and 94 not out in the first Test at Port Elizabeth, 136 in Durban and 147 in Johannesburg.

And it was like history revisited in the final session on Thursday as he capitalised to the full on some often wayward South African bowling, which included Friedel de Wet earning a maiden Test scalp pretty quickly but learning some painful lessons as well about bowling to the proverbial big boys at this level of the game.

Strauss is massively assured playing square of the wicket, whether clipping the ball off his legs on the on-side or driving through “off”, and he generally looked in ominously fluent nick as England livened up the day’s hitherto sluggish tempo by scoring at a touch under four to the over before stumps.

South Africa’s century-maker Jacques Kallis, at the post-play press conference, admitted that the Proteas had not distinguished themselves with the ball, and that this had played into Strauss’s hands.

“Yeah, he’s a really quality player and obviously had a fantastic tour last time,” Kallis told Sport24. “We had some plans we wanted to execute at him and we didn’t do that this evening, which was disappointing.

“They’ve got a lot of high-calibre players and we know we’ve got to be right on our game if we want to come out on top.

“I think the reason that England are going at four an over is because we bowled really poorly rather than them necessarily being aggressive. Scoring has actually been quite tough on this wicket – if we get our lines and lengths right we can make it tough for them as well.”

Asked whether he hoped the pitch might quicken up, Kallis said: “It might, a little. Hopefully it does and that plays into our hands.

“Maybe it will start spinning from tomorrow (Friday) lunch-time as well … the history here suggests it does do that.”

England fast bowler Graham Onions, who stuck to his task diligently in South Africa’s lengthy innings and sometimes provided problems with his bouncer – ask Morne Morkel, given a painful blow on the side of the helmet – said the potential existed for a mammoth reply.

“There’s no reason we can’t bat really well (on day three) … we can get past their total and press on. If we do well, we can also push on for a win.

“Once the new ball goes after around 20 overs, the bounce lessens. You can sort of bully the attack a bit as a batting side.”

They sounded like reasonably ominous words and it was clear the limited South African bowling line-up was going to have to sharpen its act to hang onto the initiative the Proteas may, debatably, still cling to.

Some South African fans are probably muttering darkly that Graeme Smith’s team batted too slowly in amassing the 418, but they were always going to have to claw rather than clobber their way to a healthy position after losing both overnight batsmen, Kallis and JP Duminy, in the first session on Thursday.

As it is, the Proteas’ sometimes vulnerable tail, initially marshalled with typical grit by Mark Boucher and aided by Paul Harris’s stoicism as well, performed with some aplomb.

If Strauss carries on from where he left off, we may just find as this game progresses that South Africans will be increasingly grateful for every first-innings run collected over the course of 641 minutes by the Proteas …


  • Balas - 2009-12-17 21:10

    Poms are going to klap us.

  • Greg - 2009-12-17 21:59

    Rubbish. the poms are rubbish and we should win this

  • the little cherub - 2009-12-17 22:37

    The Poms won't klap us, but their International Invitational XI just might!!!!

  • vuilgat - 2009-12-18 05:04

    Let me first adjust my helmet to protect me from the beamers i am about to receive. Lets face facts, we have a piss poor to mediocre cricket squad right now, having choked at every tournament under Ra's sun. Here is why/ Mr. Arthur was below mediocre player - Thus same for coaching, does not have a chance of a clue. His combination with old bully "Biff" is heightened by a bully attitude, toward the game. Biff has no clue, he has a little talent at trying to dominate bowlers, thats where it ends. Bowlers have worked his lack of intelligence out, with him being suckered right into it. Biffs field placings leave commentators baffeled and confused, cause being a bully, he refuses to listen to good advice and cricketing norms, hopes to one day get an award for innovative field placing. Hey Biff, try putting our fielders in the grandstand, we can then catch ALL the sixes. Biff has a new public image he displays lately, spitting, when cameras pan, Bif spoeg..............Morkel has had a no ball problem for nearly 3 years, yet mediocre Arthur ignores it. The leadership is weak, the results poor, discipline and application even poorer. No wonder Kallis does not want to be seen with you. Jacques, apply for citizenship in any country, they will grant it to you anyday.(Old Gary knocked you guys off your mediocre throne with India) As for the rest of the squad, all flash in the pan appointments. Duminy, Amla, Morkel are a few that spring to mind. We cannot "bully" our way to success.Note difference in run accumulation, S.A. suffered from "no run syndrome" as bowlers and field placings and captaincy matched each other. England score freely we do not have a clue. The norm in South Africa in all spheres of life is to reward mediocrity to great acclaim. This trend just continues. One positive aspect of it all, is we will see which South African is the best captain......Take a bow Mr. Strauss

  • Big Cheese - 2009-12-18 06:49

    I 'm with Balas on this one - the poor pathetic poms are going to klap us - how rubbish does that make us ? Smith had better get him and his team's act together and show some backbone . The time for excuses are over . The poms have been snotklapping us ever since they arrived here !

  • Mike JJ - 2009-12-18 07:29

    Well we better start bowling a 1 000 % better than yesterday otherwise we will get klapped!

  • charles - 2009-12-18 10:02

    @vuilgat,u are going over the top,cool it down mr.we still ave 3 days to go.Guys what you seem to miss is,yesterday's last session was easy to bat,but one thing it won't be easy in the morning,an early wicket or two,the tables are turned,thus why its test cricket,its a long way from over yet.Just chill guys and enjoy the game,and hopefully the boys come victorious come sunday. Strauss will be lucky to reach his 50.

  • Sean - 2009-12-18 11:43

    @vuilgat well put, but i disagree that the with you, our players are not mediocre, I agree that there is a leadership problem and that the combination of arthur, smith and proctor just has no idea. Selections are also predictably wrong the 3 blind mice/ 3 stooges are the greatest asset to the opposition. Team performed down under with Botha as captain. Wessels as coach Faanie as bowling coach, Abrahams and convener of selectors. Majola is a problem too he does what his bosses tell him to do and he protects these clowns. My predictions is the expats to kick 3 stooge ass.

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