Six of the best – England 2-2 SA


We looked back at the drawn ODI series between England and South Africa and pick out six talking points.

1) <b>Hashim is Amla-zing</b>

The Mighty # is just too much for our brains. We'd have a little bearded baby with him if we could. His innings in Southampton in the first completed game set up an 80-run win for the Proteas, and it was just superlative batting, carrying on his form from the Tests.

He then followed it up with a couple of 40s and then 97 not out in Nottingham, which allowed the Proteas to draw the series. He scored the most runs of any batsman by a rather large margin, with Ian Bell second on the list with 181, compared to Hash's 335, at an incredible average of 111.

The thing about why we, and everyone else aside from England's bowlers, love Amla's batting is that it's not boring. He's technically gorgeous, that cover drive rivaled only by Jacques Kallis and Kumar Sangakkara, but he still goes at a rapid clip, his strike rate in this series was over 95.

He hit the most fours out of all batsmen (33), Bell was next on 20, and also hoisted two sixes into the stands. He doesn't slog, he doesn't switch hit, and he doesn't jump around like a maniac when reaching fifty or a hundred.

He's old school charm and elegance mixed with modern strike rates, and he was the best thing about this series. Fact.

<b>2) Oh Ravi…</b>

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Ravi Bopara, whose horrific form with the bat is likely giving England's selectors sleepless nights. After his positive series against Australia earlier in the summer, hopes were high that he'd continue that form, but it was not to be.

Bopara's break for the game due to unknown personal reasons during the Test series left him below par in terms of confidence, and lacking in footwork and good shot selection. His scores during this series were 16, 0, 6 and 0, and in the absence of Kevin Pietersen, he needed to get some runs.

The Essex man's lack of form is a big concern, as the England middle order is already in a jumble, as Jonny Bairstow still needs to find his one-day feet and bat a bit quicker, while Eoin Morgan is not as consistent as one would like.

Only his bowling, and Jonathan Trott's injury for the final game, kept him in the side, and he looks like becoming a bowling all-rounder, despite taking only three wickets in the series.

<b>3) Swanny v Tredders</b>

Another concern for England, especially leading up to the World Twenty20, is the situation with Graeme Swann. The Nottinghamshire man is England's premier spinner by some distance, despite having a poor summer, which can partly be attributed to his elbow niggle.

Swann was rested for three of the four completed ODIs ahead of the SA T20 matches and WT20 tournament, and it will be a concern that the 33-year-old cannot play a full series. He was also rested for the final few games against Australia, though England had already secured the trophy.

The positive side to this issue is that Kent off-spinner James Tredwell has done well in Swann's absence, despite a shocking catching record in the slips. His strike rate was the best of the top five hitmen in the series, the only one under 30.

Tredwell was England's second-best wicket taker behind James Anderson, and he spun the ball enough to result in three stumpings in one game at Lord's, which saw England win by six wickets and reclaim the number one ODI ranking.

<b>4) Chucking and converting</b>

The overall batting in this series was fairly average, with only the first game in Southampton seeing any side score more than 250, and most of the time the loss of wickets wasn't down to superb bowling.

Batsmen from both sides regularly threw their wickets down the toilet to rank long hops, full tosses and wide deliveries that should have reached the boundary or been left alone.

The final ODI was a prime example of this, as nearly all England's players did something silly to get out, and the Proteas nearly choked in their chase for similar reasons.

It's almost like players don't really know how to play ODI cricket any more. Should they go all out from the start, or be patient and compile an innings? They either try to T20 their way to a hundred off 26 balls, or take ages to get off the mark, thus getting frustrated and playing a cross-bat swipe to mid-off.

Only Amla (*swoon*) managed to consistently combine attacking batting with proper strokeplay, while Ian Bell's 88 in the fourth ODI was vital to the win, and though not very high in terns of strike rate, it got the job done because he stayed in the middle.

With no more ODIs left this year, the sides won't have to worry about this conundrum any more, but they should anyway, because conversion rates from starts into big scores are declining.

There were 24 knocks in this series between 20 and 49, so the batsmen got starts, but only eight innings went above fifty and only one of those was over 100 (Hash's 150). What happened to playing a ball on its merits and picking the bad balls?

Also, the only reason AB's not getting a verbal smack down is because he finally managed to convert one of his starts in the final game, saving the match alongside Amla with his 75 not out, his first fifty of the tour.

<b>5) Come back, Jakes!</b>

While South Africa drew this series, a good effort after being a game in arrears, it will be obvious to anyone watching that they missed Jacques Kallis. His top order batting, stability in the slip cordon and valuable bowling spells were very much glaring in their absence.

Kallis has played over 300 ODIs for the Proteas, and his batting average is still above 45, while he needs just 30 more wickets to reach the 300 mark. That experience, in the face of Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy's lack of runs, could have been the difference between a series draw and a win.

The three players mentioned above were frustratingly average throughout the series, and it almost felt makeshift having them in the side. One never knew from one game to the next who was going to play, or where they would bat if they did.

Elgar was the best of the three, top-scoring with 42 in his four innings, but he didn't make 100 runs overall and had a strike rate of only 58, never looking comfortable. Du Plessis, while a superb fielder, was fairly abject, with scores of 22, 1, 1 and 3.

Those two are fairly new to the side, and often in-and-out, so it's easier to understand their slow assimilation, but Duminy has played over 90 ODIs and had a good Test series. He should have scored more than the 65 runs he did, over three innings.

<b>6) The Jimmy and Jade show</b>

Well, Jade Dernbach's a decent bowler, now isn't he! After a summer of watching Stuart Broad mope around and bowl medium pacers, it was refreshing to see a paceman firing it in and getting excited about it.

The Surrey fast bowler troubled the South Africans for most of his overs, despite getting carted about by Amla and De Villiers in the final game. He didn't play in Southampton, but replaced a below-par