Shamik Das


Saturday, January 02, 2010

England should go for the throat and wrap series up

Newlands-02-01-10

Newlands, Cape Town, third Test:
South Africa v England (3rd - 7th January)



ENGLAND go in to the new year Test at Newlands confident of winning the match and series following their stunning innings win in Durban last week.

With Paul Collingwood struggling, England have called up Hampshire batsman Michael Carberry as cover. If, as seems likely, Collingwood is ruled unfit, Carberry will make his debut, with England sticking to their six batsmen, keeper, four bowlers policy.

It is South Africa, however, who have the biggest selection headaches - their leading batsmen, to a man, failing dismally in the second innings at Kingsmead, and their leading bowler, Makhaya Ntini recording figures of 0-114 to go with his match haul of 2-119 in the first Test at Centurion.

Ntini’s iconic status - he remains the only black African to have made the grade for the Proteas - makes him virtually undroppable, the pressure to pick him immense, and a worry that weighs heavily on Graeme Smith’s shoulders.

Graeme-Smith-02-01-10  Makhaya-Ntini-02-01-10

All of which begs the question of whether England wouldn’t be better off fielding a 5-1-5 line up if Collingwood fails to pass his fitness test. Instead of drafting in Carberry, England could do worse than select Liam Plunkett or Ryan Sidebottom.

Following the return to form of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, and the scoring potential of Matt Prior (60 in Durban), Stuart Broad (37 runs this series) and Graeme Swann (85 in Centurion and a quickfire 22 in Durban), it is difficult to see England being significantly worse off with only five specialist batsmen - especially given the travails of the South Africa attack.

Ntini, playing what would be his 102nd Test, looks shot to pieces, a shadow of his former self; Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis have only just returned from injury; Morne Morkel lacks consistency - evidenced by just one five-wicket haul in 35 innings - and Paul Harris went from taking seven wickets at Centurion to just one in Durban.

South Africa will not bat as badly again. Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy won’t be shouldering arms again in a hurry. Failing to field an extra bowler could be the biggest gamble of all; for all the runs in the world, if you don’t take 20 wickets, you ain’t gonna win no Test match.

Cricinfo: Live text commentary from Newlands
Test Match Special: Live audio commentary

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