Cow Corner

Colly clubbing can’t prevent Jo’burg drubbing

Cow Corner

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England's batting was as inept and reckless as umpire Daryl Harper's decision-making as the tourists imploded in their second innings with South Africa storming back to share the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy at the Wanderers.

Paul Collingwood woke up on the fourth morning having been hypnotised into thinking he was Denis Compton, and proceeded to unfurl a staggering array of strokes around the Bullring as he was left to wonder why everyone was so shocked.

Collingwood's wagon-wheel looked like it had been pinched from a Sir Vivian Richards archive as Brigadier Block was transformed into Captain Charge and pummelled 12 fours and an almighty six to leave the England balcony as bewildered as the hosts. At times, it appeared the number five was playing in Antigua not Johannesburg as his team-mates poked around haplessly.

Even television-umpire Harper could not overshadow Collingwood in a frenetic morning as Kevin Pietersen blocked the ball obdurately before he adopted the role of the slip cradle in a quite bemusing role-reversal.

Giraffe-like paceman Morne Morkel ravaged the England lower-order with a spell of 3-0 in six deliveries, as the tourists resembled storm-troopers, marching back and forth from the wicket with alarming regularity.

The manner of Matt Prior's dismissal was the most harrowing, as the number seven swaggered to the crease, bristling with intent, and continued to pretend that he was playing Brian Lara cricket on his Playstation as he was dropped first ball by Hashim Amla at short-leg following a flamingo-flick.

Prior's second and final act was to take on a hook shot to the revved-up Morkel - a shot not even Sir Viv would have entertained at such an embryonic stage in his innings - and utterly disregarded the match situation and his team's plight as he skied the ball up in the air.

The look on Collingwood's face at the non-striker's end resembled that of Raymond Illingworth's countenance when Chris 'Prat without a hat' Lewis developed sun stroke in 1994, as Prior stalked off after his breathtakingly deplorable slog-jaunt.

South Africa's man-of-the-series Mark Boucher did his best to write England off before attempting to dig himself out of his hastily-dug hole while using the term 'pressure' as frequently as possible before the start of play. But he proved to be entirely accurate in his prediction.

"They say one foot is on the plane already for the tourists - I'm not saying that's the case with England - but we've had them under pressure for five or six days of Test cricket now and pressure does eventually get to do you, as is always the way when pressure builds," Boucher said.

Lunch was due to be taken prior to what proved to be the final over of the day but, despite Jacques Kallis's vehement protestations, play continued until the final wicket of Ryan Sidebottom had been taken.

But Kallis need not have feared as Prior et al had a tee-time booked at Wanderers GC for the afternoon, and the portly all-rounder would have been left to plunder the luncheon at his own pace with his lifetime-achievement award sat on the table beside him.

England move on to Bangladesh in March, and a press conference tomorrow is expected to confirm that Alastair 'Yes skip' Cook is to be promoted from vice-captain to lead the tour.

Much has been made of Collingwood's monopolisation of the EGA Tour (England's Golf Association on Tour), and the Test series starting in Chittagong will give Strauss valuable time to re-model his swing ahead of the summer.

The Bangladesh tour will clearly provide much more than just an opportunity to bolster Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott et al's ailing batting averages, and give James Tredwell a honeymoon period in international cricket - really, everyone is a winner.

England can take a lot out of this series, having demonstrated copious amounts of character and application to save two Tests in improbable fashion, and after a stunning demolition of the hosts in Durban.

But equally, the propensity of England's batsmen to assume that the lower-order is made up of Sir Jack Hobbs, Wally Hammond, Sir Len Hutton and Compton is ultimately misplaced, and greater accountability must be taken if Strauss's/Cook's side are to move to the next level.

SHOT OF THE DAY: Colly finally had enough of watching wickets tumble at the other end and danced down the track to bulldoze an emphatic drive straight back over Steyn's head at the Golf Course End. After seeing the batsman reach the neighbouring driving range, a rather peeved Steyn could not think of anything banterous or derogatory to offer until halfway back to his mark. He then turned and walked all the way back over to remind the bewildered batsman of his supposed shortcomings.

STAT OF THE DAY: Umpire Harper came into the fourth Test in Johannesburg boasting a 50 per cent success rate with the validity of his judgements according to subsequent replays. Despite it taking a very notable dip over days two and three, Harper confounded his critics by making a correct judgement on day four to haul his average back up to the 50 mark.

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: Poor batting, poor­ bowling and a lack of application cost England a series­ victory. If KP cannot get­ runs against Bangladesh I think he should throw his bat­ away. Broad, I know­ you are young but just grow up and stop throwing­ tantrums and be a man and stop shaking your head when­ you know that you edged the ball. As for Prior, I think he should admit to­ Priory Clinic to get his head examined! Well done to South­ Africa for drawing the series. (P does his best Geoffrey Boycott impersonation and comes off his long run!)

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