England yet to face vintage South Africa: Proteas will only get better

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England yet to face vintage South Africa: Proteas will only get better

Apart from one of the most obstinate batting performances in the history of Test cricket, South Africa's performance at Lord's was a shadow of the usual world-beaters that we have come to know.

The first three days were unquestionably England's as South Africa toiled in the field with an inexperienced bowling attack that lacked creativity as well as a poor batting performance, leaving the team reeling with two days to go.

Before coming into the test, South Africa had beaten New Zealand at home and successfully toured the subcontinent, winning the series against Pakistan and Bangladesh while drawing in India. Their confidence was understandly high before the series against England but the performance displayed in the first test was lacklustre and the team was "undercooked" as South African captain Graeme Smith admitted.

One of the factors contributing to the poor bowling performance was the sense of occasion. Playing at Lord's is every cricketer's dream and Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Paul Harris showed obvious signs of nervousness and inexperience with the new conditions.

Now that Lord's is over and they have a few wickets under their belt, South Africa's fast bowlers certainly will improve in the next test at Headingley, and Makhaya Ntini, at 31-years-old, will be looking to hit top form and leave a positive mark on possibly his last tour of England.

England will definitely have to up the ante at Headingly after they failed to capitilise at Lord's. South Africa will go into the second test with a big psychological advantage knowing that they got out of jail from the last test.

It will be a concern for England that with only three days rest until the second test which starts on Friday, the English bowlers will be feeling a bit fatigued after battling unsuccessfully in the field for two days. You can be sure that if South Africa wins the toss, England will be made to field once again.

South Africa's top order batsmen will also be on a high after centuries from Smith, Mckenzie, Amla and Prince. Amla has been the most impressive so far; since arriving in England he has scored three successive centuries: two in the warm-up matches and adding a stylish century at Lord's.

England may struggle to bowl South Africa out knowing that they failed miserably in the last test.

A vintage performance by South Africa in the next test will mean England will have to cope mentally and show character after not taking advantage in the opening test. If both teams can raise their level of play then we're in for an exciting, fascinating test match; which is something that is much needed to enhance the image of test cricket in the age of the more ostentatious Twenty20 style of cricket. 

Let us hope that cricket's original and most true form of the game can deliver something of a classic when these two great nations lock horns on Friday. 

Match starts: Friday, 18 July 2008,11:00 (British Time)

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