Rampant South Africans crush England

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South Africa defeat England by an innings and 92 runs in the second test at Lord’s.

Michael Vaughan’s first test match in charge of England ended in disaster as his team collapsed in the face of another display of disciplined bowling and aggressive batting from South Africa. The match statistics make for ugly reading – England, dismissed for just 173 in their first innings – were then put to the sword by Graeme Smith as he compiled 259, the highest score by an overseas batsman at Lord’s, and the South Africans eventually declared on 682-6, their highest ever test match innings.
Chasing 509 to avoid an innings defeat England slumped to 208-6, and only a spirited spell of ferocious hitting from Andy Flintoff took his team to a respectable score of 413.

However, the statistics only tell half the story.

On a fairly docile first day pitch, England’s batsmen decided that kamikaze stroke play was the way forward and several were undone by bouncers from Makhaya Ntini.

Only a last wicket partnership between Darren Gough and James Anderson prevented real humiliation.

So, a disappointing batting performance but surely the bowlers had learned their lesson from the first test?

Apparently not as they once again fed the South African openers a stream of long-hops and half-volleys.

If the England bowling attack aren’t capable of bowling a disciplined off-stump line and length then they shouldn’t be playing test cricket.

In Shaun Pollock, the South Africans have exactly what England lack: a bowler who can run in and bowl six balls in the same place.

Gough has lost his zip, Anderson his confidence and Harmison simply lacks the bowling action to be consistent.

Having criticised the bowlers, the fielding display in general, and especially the catching was also not up to standard.

Nasser Hussain’s drop when Smith was on eight proved to be the most costly of all. Alec Stewart’s wicket keeping was patchy at best, and the slip cordon was chopped and changed as often as David Beckham’s hair.

In the light of two disastrous performances in the opening tests, is there any hope for English cricket?

Quite frankly, yes.

In Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick, England have a quality opening pair and Mark Butcher’s recent test match record shows a reliable No. 3.

However, Hussain, Anthony McGrath and Stewart are a distinctly wobbly middle order.

Despite his previous emotional problems, Graham Thorpe needs to come in and soon.

Various young batsmen such as Ian Bell, Nicky Peng and Will Jefferson all have claims for a chance.

Chris Read is the obvious choice to replace Stewart, but sentiment may yet over-rule common sense if the selectors decide not to ruin Stewart’s swansong.

As for the bowlers, all need to be sent back to their counties this week and given a run out to try and find some form.

James Ormond must be close to a test recall, and Kabir Ali and James Kirtley are also in contention.

The selectors must also decide whether it is worth continuing to have such an ineffective spinner – Ashley Giles – in the side.

Praise is due to Andy Flintoff for a terrific performance with the bat and for being the only English bowler to consistently worry the South Africans.

Even Smith admitted that Flintoff’s figures did not do him justice.

Praise must also go to the South Africans for another aggressive display, although I believe that England are making them look a better side than they truly are.

The South Africans will be strengthened by the return of Jacques Kallis for the third test and only a huge turn around in form would see an England victory.

Is a draw and a more solid display the best they can hope for?