What influence will the KP Pietersen-debacle have on the outcome of the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy-series between England and South Africa?
On the eve of the Lords-test this is probably the most asked question in England.
There is no reason why the bizarre events of the last few days should bother the South Africans at all. The English media did everything in their power to drag the Proteas into the obnoxious skirmish between KP Pietersen and the ECB. They tried their utmost to create a scandal around KP’s alleged sms’s to certain Protea-players. But they failed, because the South Africans recognised the whole palaver for what it is: a storm in a teacup and not worth a second thought.
It might however proof to be a massive hangover for the England team.
For starters they face the Proteas without KP; and that in itself is a massive disadvantage for the hosts.
Jacques Kallis rightly commented that any team who loses KP is worse off.
In their hearts the English probably feels the same but they certainly refuse to say so with their mouths.
Players, mainly Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad; a host of England cricket “experts”, including the outspoken microphone brigade of Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Sir Ian Botham; as well as former England captains and coaches refuses to acknowledge that their national team is with its back against the wall in the aftermath of the KP-ECB-scandal and in the absence of Kevin Pietersen.
Those who saw Johnny Bairstow and James Taylor in action in the flesh or on the tele will agree that they are nothing like Pietersen; they are simply not in the same league.
The loss of Pietersen leaves a massive gash in England’s batting line-up. If the English denies this they are shooting the shit.
If one of Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook, Ian Bell or Jonathan Trott offers resistance the Proteas will always favour their chances to rip the English batters apart once a wicket or two falls.
Amongst the England batters only Matt Prior is a shot maker which is problematic and not beneficial for the host’s ambition to remain the number one test nation on the globe. Right at the top Andrew Strauss is fighting for his captaincy and maybe his career. The pressure on him will be colossal and the Proteas will exploit it.
If England is going to win the test, which they must do to hang on to their number one spot, they will have to create momentum and to play the game at pace.
Their batters need to score at least 3.5 to the over for at least 120 overs.
I cannot see them do that against Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Vernon Philander, Jacques Kallis and Imran Tahir.
Thus far in the series only Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior showed the ability to propel the over rate above 4.
Taking the Kia Oval and the niggling arm injury of Graeme Swann into consideration Graeme Smith should not be overly worried if his men have to face the spinner on day 5.
Smith should fancy his bowler’s chances against a batting line-up that is by and large struggling and now also inexperienced.
A normal Lords-pitch will assist the bowlers on day one but on days two and three it should be a batter’s heaven.
For these consideration Smith, if he wins the toss, should consider to have a bowl first up. If the Proteas nick over two or three English wickets in the morning session of day one they will have England against the ropes.
With three of England’s top 4 gone the Proteas have the ammunition to cut through the new guys and the lower order.
Everything indicates that England will play four bowlers and without Ravi Bopara or Kevin Pietersen to provide any assistance they will come close to bowl every single over. This could constitute a massive workload if the first two games are taken into remembrance.
At this stage all the Protea-batters are in good nick and familiar with atmospheric and weather conditions.
If the South African batters get to 50 overs with only 2 or three wickets down they will be heading for another run feast.
Bowling England out in three or four sessions is certainly on.
If it happens the Proteas occupies the crease for 5 to 6 sessions it will earn them at least a draw but more likely a victory. It will propel them to the number one test spot in the world.
Before the series started it was perceived in England that it would be a contest between the Protea batters and the English bowlers. At the Oval and Headingley the Proteas came out best; in fact they made James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann and Steven Finn look ordinary.
Granted, the Protea-bowlers were not that impressive either but this time round they have an easier target than the Britons.
Lords, situated in St John’s Wood, is owned by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and are widely regarded as the home of cricket.
The ground capacity is 28 000.
Under normal circumstances Lords can be intimidating and this time the KP-controversy and the dogfight for the number one test spot on the table it could be a sellout.
Not that it will bother the Proteas. It seldom did in the past and since readmission they won three and drew one of the four games they played there.
Early weather predictions indicate that rain will not have a say on the first two days and that the test will probably go the distance. This time no team can count on rain to rescue them.
Normally the Lords-pitch is batter friendly with even bounce and pace but the English media speculated over the last few days that it will be prepared to support Swann and spin.
Unless the pitch is way different from its normal complexion the Proteas will not be bothered about England pace or spin attack.