[Updated 18 Jan to include links and pictures]
Today, Matthew Hoggard took the final wicket and his 12th in the match to seel a win for England versus South Africa. Yet just a few hours before, it was South Africa who were box favourites. Hoggard will deservedly take the tabloids tomorrow, but Trescothick setup the real chance of a win with a brutal 180. He started the day on 101, which had so far taken him 159 balls. By the time he was out, he’d left South Africa an improbable 324 to win. His striking and clean hitting was a sight to watch – in the space of a couple of hours, he’d demolished any hope SA had of winning. His feet might not move, but his bat certainly does! As destructive an innings to start the day as I’ve seen in years.
Given the weather forecast, which turned out to be wrong, England had to strike early with the new ball. After 20-odd overs, the ball went incredibly soft and the pitch became a belter – and Hoggard duly obliged, with an awesome display of old-fashioned swing bowling. He’s never been an out-and-out pace bowler (although he did top 91mph 4 years ago…younger and stupider back then!), but has always swung the ball. He’s had many good performances in the past 18 months – today was by far his best one. He’s an unfashionable bowler – a workhorse, engineroom, machine…he just keeps on going, and rarely lets the team down. A true team player, one who I think even opposing players would warm to and share a beer with. A bloody good bloke and today was just reward for his efforts, especially with England lacking a fit-n-firing Harmison.
It was perhaps England’s best win for years. They were well beaten at Cape Town, and again looked weary and jaded in this game. In fact – some of the cricket was truly awful; a really scrappy, backyard-fight, bare-knuckle-contest of a Test match. Both sides kept winning back the momentum, and both sides kept losing it – sometimes through special bowling, more often through poor shots – but when England had a sniff, they honed onto the victory like a white-shark on a dead seal. The rustiness, apart from Hoggard, was still there – Jones missed a run-out, Vaughan dropped a catch and Anderson dropped a sitter – but the sheer belief of the team is just thrilling to behold. Some of my Indian and Pakistani readers refuse to concede England are a good side – performances like today might sway some of you to change your opinions.
- Hoggard to Rudolph – stumps cartwheeled
- Hoggard to Kallis, next ball – edged to first slip, Jones doing his best to screw it up by diving in front!
- Flintoff to Pollock: really unsettled him, during a spell where he roared in. No one mentions his pace, Flintoff, but he’s right up there – and when his adrenanline is flowing, he’s as quick as anyone. Ball smashes into Pollock’s helmet, and is then caught behind later in the over. Classic fast bowling.
- Smith coming into bat. Advised against even taking the field by the medics, after being concussed by his sadist of a coach Ray Jennings (who else?)…made a memorable half-century. Guts.
Newspapers, quotes etc
Cricinfo have an excellent newspaper roundup.
“The coaching style of Ray Jennings will no doubt again be questioned. His aggressive methods, which caused the injury to his captain Graeme Smith during the warm-up on this Test’s fourth morning, are controversial to say the least. If Smith’s injury had been an unlucky accident Jennings could be forgiven, but this is the second time in two months that a player has been concussed courtesy of Jennings’ warm-up bat. In Kanpur six weeks ago the unlucky man was Dippenaar. It is one thing having a hard nut as a coach, quite another having simply a nut.”
It contains a lot more, so much that I’ll reflect on it in another post later.