The Bounce
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Investec Test Series review - England and South Africa


This four test encounter between these two proud test playing nations will go down as a one sided affair. There is a lot more though to the series and these teams than the 3-1 scoreline suggests.

Here are a few perspectives that reveal some key insights on what happened through the series. 

- Result pitches: Win the toss and win the game or rewarding good performances throughout?

All four results went the way of the team that won the toss and decided to bat first, giving momentum to the narrative on social media that you win the toss and win the game.

A closer look at the individual matches though, and you will see that the pitches for all four tests were superb, and were classic results pitches that offered enough for both bat and ball.

When this happens, you get as fair a platform as possible, that rewards good play throughout. Ultimately the lack of application from the Proteas batsmen was the biggest factor in this series results wise. Their first innings totals, on good batting surfaces, were just not good enough. Batting 4th on a pitch is tough, but when you are already so far behind the game at this stage the task is near impossible.

Even then, Dean Elgar showed at The Oval what was possible if you got yourself in. Then at Old Trafford, Hashim Amla and Faf Du Plessis had England really guessing with what to try next with the ball during a long partnership.


- Opportunities: Those taken and those not.

You need to be ruthless in test cricket, something that English captain Joe Root eluded to on a few occasions during the series. His team backed this talk up too, both with bat and ball. 

South Africa on the other hand did the exact opposite at times. In the field they dropped 11 catches. Many of those drops going onto hurt them runs wise. They also failed to kick on with the bat, and often gave the impression they were just looking to survive sessions rather than take the game to the English.

They were better with the ball, but all too often loose bowling released the pressure, allowing the opposition batsmen to move their scores along.


- Star performers: The backbone of the team or the new leaders?

All big moments in sport are defined by big players stepping up. Joe Root confirmed this by leading his team in every way imaginable. There were concerns as to how he was going to go as skipper, especially being the team’s star batsman. With 190 in his first knock, he set the tone, and none of the Proteas batsmen could match him.

Outside of the slip up at Trent Bridge, you got the impression that Root and the other big name players in the England lineup all combined to not just play well when it mattered, but always had a plan to take the game forward.

The Proteas in contrast looked like they were just hoping their star players could step up with some individual brilliance and achieve the same result. It was a hit and miss approach that involved more of the latter taking place. Amla and Elgar did what they could with the bat at times, and the same could be said with all the bowlers in stages. The loss of Vernon Philander though unravelled the attack, something that suggests the team was too reliant on his efforts.


- Playing in England: Mastering the conditions, or mastering the situation?

Much was made on how the Proteas would adapt to the local conditions. The seaming pitches, swinging overhead conditions, and the much hyped Duke ball. Though playing in England poses these unique challenges, there seemed to be a fundamental lack of adapting to the match situations from the Proteas more so than the environment they were playing in.

I mentioned earlier how England were ruthless when it mattered, they were also very composed when they needed to be. Outside of the 2nd test win, the Proteas played most of this series under a cloud of uncertainty. A lack of urgency in accumulating a score with the bat, the lack discipline when they needed to just keep to a good line and length with the ball. 

They looked inexperienced as cricketers, more so than inexperienced as cricketers in England.


- History, very much a thing of the past.

With this series win, Joe Root has achieved what no England captain has in the last 19 years. That is of course to record a series win over South Africa at home.

Unlike Hussein, Vaughn and Strauss, he will also still be the English captain after the South Africans go home. So in more ways than one Root and his team have really put an end to a rather poor run of events that have defined this rivalry in recent times.

While it is mostly all positive for the home team, the disappointments for the visitors now needs to be processed and worked on. Historic strengths seem to be leaving this team, and they certainly aren't the force they used to be. This series showed it on numerous occasions.


- A crushing series loss for South Africa: Something to take positives from, or a catalyst for a change in direction?

Next up for the Proteas is much needed break after what has been a very long and very tough tour of England. This tour of course also included yet another ICC tournament failure, so for the players not to look at their kits for a while is a must.

From there Bangladesh arrive in SA in October, which gives them the chance to also sure up their batting lineup. They need to work out what their best top 5 is going forward, who will open up with Dean Elgar, is AB de Villiers coming back, and where does Quinton De Kock fit in. 

In familiar conditions, they should be able to work out the kinks, and with Sri Lanka following on from there the team could build themselves up to a position of strength again. Faf Du Plessis is of course key to all of this, but is it time for all of this to happen with a new coach and backroom staff?

India and Australia line up next year, the time to bring in someone new is now.


- A great series win for England: A positive start for Joe Root’s team or already a big step towards Ashes success?

Selection wise, England still have some questions to answer batting wise. They get the chance to do so now in a 3 test series against the West Indies. A side they are almost certain to enjoy a clean sweep against, they may not get a good enough test to really nail things down though.

But they will be able to build more confidence however, and this is something they will certainly need as they head to Australia in November for The Ashes.

All things considered, they have as good a chance as ever to beat the Aussies in Australia, and Australia knows this.


Tags: engvssa, cricket, investec cricket, investec test tracker, test match cricket, joe root, cricket


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