With the 3rd Test into the last session and England 239-5 the draw seems the most likely outcome, but South Africa will still fight for those last 5 wickets. Whatever the outcome of this Test there are a few things to take from this match.
Firstly, with Ntini being left out a new era of South African bowling attack needed to start. Ntini has been the man for the last decade, firstly with Pollock, and then with Steyn, but all things in sport come to an end, and although it may not be the end for Ntini, he still believes he can come back, there needs to be options going forward. Step forward Morne Morkel. Morkels potential has been there for all to see, but there’s only so long people can talk about potential before you have to start delivering. His Test career thus far has been fairly inconsistent, with moments of brilliance punctuated with wayward spells. In the last Test in Durban, with Ntini clearly off the boil, Morkel stepped up to lead the attack and bowled some brilliant spells. That form continued this week when he was given the new ball after Ntini was left out. The added responsibility and faith and belief have given Morkel more zip and more importantly – consistency. He’s had a no ball problem that has added to his inconsistency but in the Durban Test and again in this one he has not sent down a single no ball. That says a lot. This may be the beginning of a new attacking strike duo of Steyn and Morkel. One that leaves the Protea attack with a promising, healthy, future.
Paul Collingwood must be the most underrated batsman in England. For a time he was considered a ODI specialised and had to battle to get into the Test team. It is strange that someone considered a limited over batsman is so dour and defensive in Test cricket. But an batting line up needs balance and can’t be made up of just dashing stroke players. Collingwood knows his job and does it so well. How many times have England needed to hang on for a draw and relied on Collingwood to battle it out for them? There’s few in this England line up who can be relied upon to bat out a day and do the job without having a dash at a loose delivery and getting out, as Cooke did yesterday. Collingwood has shortened his back lift and set out his stall to defend all day and looks like he may be doing it yet again for England. With the likes of Bell and Prior you always feel like they’ll give you a chance at some stage. Collingwood has been faultless. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves but those who do the ugly work seldom do. South Africa don’t make that mistake and value his wicket as high as that of the star players, Pieterson and Strause.
Speaking of KP, something seems off with England’s best player. He’s been very quiet all series. The hatred South Africans feel for KP has diluted since he was last here. KP has matured, he was a brash, young, upstart when his career began and shot his mouth off to much. That doesn’t happen anymore and he is, one feels, a better person than many think. The abuse he gets at the grounds here is more in jest and sport, and he is respected much more here in South Africa. However he has hardly been seen in this series. He’s been posted out on the boundary by Strauss, hardly seems to say anything, and is rarely in much conversation with the England camp during play. He seems to almost be drifting through, as if there is a problem with the other players in the team. That has come through in his batting where he has hardly been the dominating swash buckling batsman South Africans are used to. There is definitely something off with KP here in South Africa. Which is sad for cricket – love him or hate him cricket needs KP.
pic from cricinfo.com