Lizzy Ammon at the Kia Oval
Stumps Day 3 England 385 South Africa 403 -2
This was a day for the purists if ever there was one. Attritional cricket at its most attritional. 317 runs, 1 wicket, 2.98 an over. Long hard day in the field for England. As David Saker admitted in the post match press conference, it was a tough day for the English bowling unit – one of the toughest since he’d taken on the job.
Stuart Broad is out of sorts. He has been the go to bowler to force a wicket, to try and change something but he has been innocuous for the last day and a half. He will no doubt come back but he didn’t look any more dangerous than Bopara today. Swann did get a bit of turn – more from the Vauxhall end than the Pavilion end out of the footholes – but not much. The pitch is just slow, flat and from my point of view, dull.
Hasim Amla is lovely to watch. Serene, calm, classical. The contrast between watching him and watching Smith could not be more acute. But both are as effective and they played their own games. Both with patience and determination but in completely different styles. I know which one I’d rather watch but I’d want Smith in my side any day of the week. Kallis played flawlessly for his half century. England were devoid of ideas for almost all of the day. Whilst they didn’t bowl badly as such, it wasn’t what we’ve become used to. Without lateral movement, which they were just unable to get they looked impotent.
I was sitting in the outside press box today in amongst the punters. A rough and ready straw poll with the ones sitting near me about what England could have done differently came up with 3 answers – 1) nothing 2) they should have picked Finn 3) they should have picked Panesar. England have stuck to the 4 bowlers, 6 batsmen formula with great success. They weren’t about to the change it but there is merit in the argument that against this standard of opposition another bowler is needed to take the 20 wickets required to win the match. Andrew Strauss could perhaps have been more attacking with his field settings. Maybe leaving the 3rd slip in or putting in a short leg but overall England stuck to the formula that has brought them so much success – putting pressure on and forcing the batsmen into mistakes. But on a benign pitch and against batsmen of this quality, that formula simply didn’t work today.
He might not be pretty to watch. Ok he definitely isn’t pretty to watch but that was 7th century against England and to achieve a hundred in your 100th Test under that sort of pressure, with your wife just 3 days from giving birth is a pretty special achievement.
This is what we’ve been longing for. A real contest. Properly competitive opposition. England are not on top at the end of day 3 but we can’t have it both ways. Sometimes you just have to say – the opposition played better than us today. And they did.