I arrived home today to learn that England, unsurprisingly, have lost the fourth and final cricket test match against South Africa in South Africa. Given they had already won the series (two wins and a draw) perhaps they could be excused this blip, although the manner of England’s defeat was overwhelming. One encouraging aspect was in the overall series a lot of good cricket was played in a good spirit.
I have long been a cricket follower and supporter of good cricket, especially at the highest level, although I confess a certain snobbery in that I place more store on the long (five days) form of the game than the short form (which could be all over in 2-3 hours). This is a time to reflect on how well my team did and look ahead to the future. Even though the latest defeat is disappointing, nothing should be taken away from the earlier performances against the number one rated side in the world on their turf. Who can forget the amazing heroics of Stuart Broad (bowling) and Ben Stokes (batting) along with several creditable performances by other members of the team. Similar should be said for South Africa. Outstanding performances by their two black players, Kagiso Rabada (bowling) and Temba Bavuma (batting) were especially heartening for cricket lovers. While South Africa was without some key players and was low in confidence following their defeat against India, it should not detract from an excellent performance by the English team, but how well this bodes for the future is a debatable question.
I suppose when I compare cricket with football, I have more of romantic attachment to the former. While commercialism is king and has in my view an unhealthy influence on these games, I still have that starry eyed idealism of wanting to see a great England cricket side. Unlike with Australia and West Indies, and despite some very good England teams in the past, but usually over a short space of time, I have yet to see a team I could rate as truly great. The game just played is illustrative that there are too many frailties within the team and what I look for in great sides is all round consistency such should an individual great player fail, he will be backed up by other great players that will deliver the goods, an impression I generally got with the great Australian and West Indian sides of the past. If England are to be considered as great, there are several areas where they need to improve. Despite having some superb batsmen and bowlers, they still need a good opening batsman; a quality spinner; bowlers who can perform when the conditions are not conducive to bowling; a greater steel to counter batting collapses and a need to improve their fielding. I would like to think all these deficiencies will be addressed. The test will be going to the Indian sub-continent and winning test series there, as well as winning the Ashes in Australia, and winning consistently over a period of 2-3 years. I live in hope. But thanks to TMS special (Aggers and co) – live commentary on occasions and always there are the podcasts, I have enjoyed following the series just played!