England’s rise in Test cricket has been a fantastic team effort all around, with many players playing a massive part in achieving the number one status before the South Africans cruelly deposed them of their title on home turf. The writing was on the wall for captain Andrew Strauss after the 2-0 defeat to the Proteas following a run of poor form and the incident regarding Kevin Pietersen and this ultimately persuaded the skipper it was time to go.
Strauss has led England to some great victories during his time in charge and marched his team out on 50 occasions of his 100 hundred tests. Winning 24 of those games in charge, he is second only to Michael Vaughan as England’s most successful captain and thanks to his 7,037 runs at an average of 40.91, Strauss will be remembered as one of the best servants English cricket has ever seen. The captaincy will now pass to Alistair Cook and to remember his predecessor, we take a look back at ten of Straussy’s greatest England moments:
England have lost their ranking as the best test team in the world after a 2-0 defeat to South Africa and although the Proteas were excellent in all forms of the game, England badly let themselves down with their catching in particular. They dropped nine chances as the series went on, with James Anderson crucially shelling a chance off AB De Villiers during South Africa’s second innings at Lords. He went on to make a match saving partnership with Hashim Amla and they took the game away from England.
Everyone knows that catches win matches, so hanging onto the key chances in a match is simply vital. Put one down and you never know when the next opportunity might come around. While Anderson’s miss was a costly one, there are several others in history that spring to mind that have proved crucial on the outcome of the match. We take a look at ten of the costliest dropped catches of all time:
One of the great sights in modern cricket is a highlight package of a Pietersen hundred. In 2005 he brought a completely new dimension to English cricket which worked hand in hand with England’s success. His ability to smash every bowler of every type and capability out of the ground is mind blowing, especially when he did it to the likes of Warne, McGrath and Murali. However, his defensive play can be exhausting to watch and this is evident in his recent failures. Against India in 2011 he completely dominated the spinners and smashed them all round the ground on a repetitive basis, scoring two half centuries one hundred and a double hundred, all in on series. However his recent failures against Pakistan have further highlighted his technical frailties when playing in a tentative manner against spin bowling. I don’t really buy the notion that he has technical issues against the left arm spinners but I can see the argument for it as he consistently plays with an angled bat, especially when prodding forward defensively and with no conviction. For me it’s just a mental issue as he almost creates the technical fault by thinking about it too much.
He has had recent success against left arm spinners such as Xavier Doherty, Will beer and Rangana Herath but he did so playing aggressively, not by prodding and poking his bat with unprecedented uncertainty. For me he is at his best when he dominates the bowlers, is running down the wicket and consistently hitting with the spin. His natural ability to destroy bowling attacks in a fearless manner is what gifted him a place into the test side, so he should maintain that attitude that made him a star. He is the first to admit he isn’t the most technically sound player but there aren’t many shots this brilliant batsmen can’t play and the fear he strikes into opposition bowling attacks is always evident. Of course, the introduction of the Decision Review System is extremely significant to the success of spinners in general but many believe it has brought finger spinners back into the game. Recently when asked about left arm spin Pietersen has deflected by comparing the situation to Graeme Swann against left handers and indeed he is right in comparing the two. Swann often takes just a few balls to dismiss a left hander and there is no doubt that the introduction of the DRS has made finger spinners much more successful in general.
When at his best Pietersen is up there with the best players in the world, dominating bowling attacks by putting them off their lines, lengths and more importantly their confidence. Pietersen should recapture his old methods of see ball, hit ball as that is his natural game, prodding and poking at the ball looks completely and utterly unnatural to him and is painful to watch at the best of times. Essentially this means he will get caught of the boundary every now and again but you must accept that even though that is the way he plays, his statistics are still far better than any of his team mates. Sitting one place behind Andrew Strauss he is the 12th highest run scorer for England in test matches, with a greater average than many above him on the list. He will soon have a chance to rectify his failures against Pakistan when the team travel to Sri Lanka, there the conditions will be extremely similar to Abu Dhabi and Dubai.