Ian Bell says England is not a phony number 1 but the Oval suggested otherwise. Dale Steyn says he already plays for the number one team. He says the current series against England is merely the rubberstamp the Proteas need to become the best, officially. The Oval certainly fuelled his confidence and not entirely unexpectedly.
England was mercilessly “hammered” by some of the best cricketers in the world. ICC-rankings confirm that that four of the Protea batsmen are amongst the top 6 in the world. According to the rankings Dale is the best bowler in the world and Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander are also in the top 6.
England had all the warnings they needed to realise that this is a seriously competent Protea team; probably the best South African cricket team ever.
So no, England is not phony; they are simply not as good as the Proteas.
The fact that England failed to understand the greatness of the Proteas added as much to their demise at the Oval as the Proteas did.
The England players were brainwashed to believe that they were superior to the Proteas with the bat, the ball and in the field. Misguided confidence and arrogance of the England team and its cronies dismissed them as much as the Proteas did.
Andrew Strauss and his men’s worst enemies in the build up to the Oval was a band of deaf and blind media-related “cheerleaders” who wrote one column after the other telling the England team they just needed to pitch to defeat the “unfit”, “underprepared” and “incapable” Proteas.
The commentary box brigade systematically dug a hole for the Proteas and England disappeared in it.
The English players chose to ignore the warning signs and listened to intently to Nick Night, Michael Vaughan, Michael Atherton, David Gower, Ian Botham, David “Bumble” Lloyd and the hot-headed and stiff upper lipped tea drinking brigade of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
This “distinguished” group of lords and lads made Jonathan Trott believe he is in the same league as Hashim Amla. Everyone and sundry, accept the ECB maybe, were made to belief that Kevin Petersen is better than Jacques Kallis. They told the world Alistair Cook is better than Smith and they were taken seriously.
They convinced the entire England that their pace-attack was superior to that of the Proteas.
At least Nasser Husain and Michael Vaughan’s captaincies were demolished by Proteas of the past. They should have told their players the Proteas is likely to pull an “Oval” on them; leaving them gasping for air and in hopeless despair. They really should have warned their countrymen.
The moment Shane Warne, and sir to be, Shaun Pollock started to sing their praises the English players should have realised they are being mislead.
While this went on the South African camp remained silent. They said nothing to contradict the English. Well, maybe not nothing; for strategic gain they agreed England is the best, the team to beat, and that their opponents are classy. They sat silently and wait; and when they spoke it was on the field and the sounds of the ball uprooting stumps and bails, and that of bat on ball was deafening.
England is in deep trouble and they only now realises it.
They are in trouble because they chose to ignore the problems facing them and to concentrate on overrated strong-points.
They chose to ignore the problems with their opening batters; that Strauss is past his best and Cook, erratic.
They chose to ignore their problem at six.
They chose to ignore the tantrums of Stuart Broad and the way he blows up when the tough gets going.
They chose to ignore and disrespect their biggest asset, James Anderson and dropped him from a test he wished to play in.
They ignored the explosive consequences of the bad blood between the ECB and James and KP.
They chose to play one bowler short.
They chose to prefer Graeme Swann ahead of Monty Panesar.
The ECB and its cronies had a lot of decisions to make prior to the first test and in all material aspects they made mistakes. Worse of all was to overestimate themselves and to underestimate the Proteas. Subsequently they lost test one.
If England loses the series and their number one spot the ECB should take most of the blame.