Counties pull together for England; can SA cricket do the same?

2011-06-22 00:00

THE weather had the final say in the third Test of the series between Sri Lanka and England at the Rose Bowl in Hampshire.

An impressive rearguard action from stand-in captain Kumar Sangakarra salvaged pride and a damp draw for the Sri Lankans in a series in which more than 369 overs were lost to rain.

England’s performance was not entirely convincing, but they will be pleased to have chalked up another series win. They move on to hopefully better weather and the one-day internationals, a format probably better suited to the visitors.

England Test captain Andrew Strauss, who has retired from one-day cricket, will return to play for Middlesex, where he will prepare for the Test series against India starting in July.

Strauss, who scored just 27 runs, struggled in the series against the Sri Lankans and Middlesex have just one four-day fixture before the start of the Test series against India.

So England’s team director Andy Flower has made a plan.

At Flower’s request, Somerset have agreed to play Strauss in their warm-up match against India before the Test series gets under way.

This type of arrangement is possible because of the structures Flower and his management team have put in place around the country. Counties are pulling together and are concentrating on making English cricket more powerful.

Flower admits, “It’s a good indication of how the counties can work together.”

It also sends an important signal that English cricket is healthy. In the past counties have focused on their own fortunes, but that is changing.

Flower and Strauss appear to have a very good relationship and it’s giving English cricket confidence and solidity. I’m not sure the state of cricket in South Africa is as hearty.

Would franchises welcome Graeme Smith for a game or two if he were struggling to find form? Are our franchises working together to make SA cricket stronger?

Gary Kirsten and his management team will need to ensure they are. The new Proteas coach’s tenure with India was a triumph, but Kirsten is quick to pass on the credit to captain MS Dhoni. There is no doubt India’s success was built on the solid foundation of their relationship.

Kirsten has a challenge on his hands. Smith has not enjoyed harmonious associations with coaches in the past — Ray Jennings, Eric Symons, Mickey Arthur and Corrie van Zyl have all come and gone.

It’s vital for the success of the Proteas that Kirsten and Smith are united in their goals. A positive relationship between coach and captain will provide much needed stability and, hopefully, better fortunes.

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