What can the Proteas expect from Andrew Strauss’s all-for-one and one-for-all unit ahead of English tour?

2012-06-02 00:00

IT is hard not to keep an eye on the proceedings in England as the hosts ruthlessly dissect the manful but underwhelming West Indian visitors.

They are doing so with an efficiency so chilling that the Proteas’ think-tank will have to study meticulously and prepare for properly.

How Mike Atherton, Nick Knight and the rest of the Sky Sports commentary team would love to be playing in this England team. In his prime as England captain, if Atherton failed, the England batting spine lost any sort of resolve which could see them through a session.

Knight was one of England’s best ODI opening batsmen before the advent of Marcus Trescothick. The sides Knight played in were often unable to capitalise on his starts and his weaknesses outside off-stump prevented him from forging a long and successful Test career.

While mastery of the 50-over game continues to elude them, they are certainly having the measure of the longest form. Test match cricket is still sacrilege in England and judging from the way they are playing, they are certainly lording it.

Their form away from home will continue to raise questions, as after all, to be truly dominant, you have to conquer foreign shores, but at home they are sending out a clear statement: THIS IS ENGLAND.

The West Indians were never going to be more than a middleweight boxer giving a heavyweight a run around in the ring before the heavier boxer lands the haymakers which settle the outcome. However, England have been far from heavyweights. Instead they have been super-supple cruiserweights with a mixture of swift, agile defence coupled with devastating hooks and powerfully measured counterpunches. The way they reeled in the West Indian first innings at Trent Bridge indicated a granite jaw, absorbing the punches thrown by Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels.

Under Andrew Strauss’s capable leadership, England have moved out of the Michael Vaughn-Andrew Flintoff dominated axis of impulsive and explosive cricket into this all-for-one and one-for-all unit which would gladly jump over the precipice and charge into no-man’s land unarmed ready to die for their leader and each other. The lessons they learnt on the subcontinent were on display on a lifeless Trent Bridge track, usually one of the best bowling tracks on offer at the various assortment of English Test grounds.

Their pace trio of James Anderson, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad will never come close to the pace batteries West Indies and Australians fielded in their primes, but their unrelenting accuracy, stamina and ability to bowl to the conditions is setting them apart from the rest.

Each of them contributes differently to the cause as they are different bowlers, but their execution is on the same wavelength. When Bresnan found the going tough at Lord’s, it was Anderson and Broad who provided the breakthroughs. In Nottingham, Bresnan prospered from the pressure applied by his colleagues. Graeme Swann may be quiet, but as the pitches dry out with the lengthening of the English summer, he will have a greater say.

The batting showed a trait of stickability missing on the subcontinent. Last year, they pummelled the sub-standard Indian bowling attack into submission. Kemar Roach and company have given the England batting order a decent work out, but the lack of runs kills their effort from the onset. Strauss is finding the runs and more importantly, the confidence ahead of a sterner test later on in the summer. Alistair Cook, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell are masters of English wickets and they are finding their feet. Jonny Bairstow’s short ball deficiencies will be put under the microscope, while Matt Prior will remain England’s number one stumper irrespective of his lean returns.

The stability within the England setup is as composed as a master detective extracting the truth from a suspect without meting out blows which could land them in trouble with internal affairs.

Seven series out of seven at home is no mean feat, considering Graeme Smith was the last captain to win in the Isles nearly four years ago.

Their travelling woes asides, they are beasts at home and the Proteas will have to think long and hard as to how they will apply the brakes on the developing English juggernaut.

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