What the papers say about Headingley

The pundits in various papers had two things on their minds after the second Test draw at Headingley: The declaration made by Graeme Smith just after tea on day five, and England's bowling attack heading into the third Test at Lord's.

<b>The pundits in various papers had two things on their minds after the second Test draw at Headingley: The declaration made by Graeme Smith just after tea on day five, and England's bowling attack heading into the third Test at Lord's.</b>

<i>Richard Hobson</i>, in <b>The Times</b>, wrote: "There is a certain history behind the Smith/Strauss rivalry. During the Champions Trophy game in Centurion three years ago, Strauss refused his opposite number a runner when Smith was suffering cramp. Strauss did not actually say that Smith should have been fitter, but that was what he meant.

"For a time during what could have been a thrilling final session yesterday, it felt as though they were competing to be the braver. Smith stole a long march with the declaration, Strauss responded by promoting Kevin Pietersen. Employing himself at No 3 did not look bold and the sight of Jonathan Trott coming out at the fall of the next wicket appeared to signal the end of the chase.

"Smith played another interesting card, introducing the spin of JP Duminy as early as the thirteenth over. A comparison had to be drawn with the reluctance of Strauss to employ Pietersen until shortly before lunch, when he struck second ball. Back came Andrew The Boldish, perhaps surprising Smith when Matt Prior followed himself and Trott. The chase was back on.

"Not for long, though. Ultimately it was England who gave up first on the possibility of victory, Smith waiting until only six overs remained before offering a draw. If this was a boxing match, Smith was asked, would his be the team going to Lord's ahead on points? "Well," he said, wondering if there was a trick in the question, "we are 1-0 up, so I would say 'yes.'"

<i>Vic Marks</i>, in <b>The Guardian</b>, wrote: "My guess is that both captains would have settled for a draw at teatime at Headingley on Monday, which was never the case at Centurion 12 years ago. But neither Smith nor Andrew Strauss wished to be seen to be doing that. By his declaration Smith regained the initiative at a stroke.

"It looked as if he was prepared to lose in order to win. Test captains rarely do that. The gauntlet had been thrown down. But Smith knew the odds were in his favour. So we waited with eager anticipation to see who would open the batting for England. That would give us a sure sign. If it was Alastair Cook and Strauss we knew that the gauntlet was being ignored.

"Out came Cook… and Pietersen, the preferred opening pair for ODI cricket until that controversial retirement. England had decided to engage in the propaganda war. They would show willing; they were prepared to pursue the practically impossible."

He concluded: "So who had the bragging rights (which are of modest value) by the end of it all? In the last hour Smith was the only captain who could have won the game, having enticed four wickets in the run chase.

"England had been brave but their willingness to chase against the odds may have betrayed an anxiety about how the devil they are going to prevail at Lord's."

<i>Simon Hughes</i> in the <b>Telegraph</b> sang Smith's praises, writing: "Smith is the reason South Africa rose to the No1 team in the world in 2008 and threaten England's status now. He has desire, he has ambition and he has considerable presence. He is a leader of men.

"He is the Table Mountain of South African cricket, robust, immovable, standing tall. He is someone weaker characters can stand behind.

"He has the type of uncompromising streak you normally associate with Australian captains. Yet he wears the cap lightly. He is not a bighead or a strutter or an awkward character.

"He does not expect special treatment. In fact, he expects nothing. He is a willing-to-get-his-hands-dirty kind of captain. He shoulders responsibility."

Adding: "If England are to win at Lord's and retain their No1 status they will have to get past Graeme Smith first."

<i>Jonathan Agnew</i> said on the <b>BBC</b> of the final day's drama: "It was an intriguing final day at Headingley, much more interesting than we thought it might have been.

"I thought Graeme Smith's declaration was brilliant. In a way it was forced upon him but it's not the sort of declaration Smith and South Africa are renowned for.

"It dangled a carrot as England messed up the batting order – do we go for this? It's only a three-match series; how do we play it? So there was some uncertainty, and that was Smith's chance to try to nip in and win the game.

"Whether he'd have declared had they been 250-4, I don't know, but he'd probably have chosen to have done so with 20 overs to go, to come steaming in and knock Andrew Strauss over or something to make a point. As it was, I thought he played it really well and it set up a really interesting finish."

The other topic occupying the pundits' minds was England's bowling attack, notably the absence of spinner Graeme Swann in a match that saw part-timer Kevin Pietersen take four top-order wickets. They also singled out Stuart BRoad for his five wickets on the final day, which forced the declaration.

<i>Nasser Hussain</i>, in the <b>Daily Mail</b> said: "Stuart Broad located the kind of rhythm that can make him so dangerous. And that's crucial going into the final game at Lord's, where he's taken 11 wickets in a Test this summer and where he's scored runs in the past.

"People were wondering if Broad should have been left out of this game after South Africa's run-fest at The Oval. I thought that was ridiculous. He's in the team precisely because he can produce game-changing spells.

"England will also tell themselves that the flurry of wickets removed the scenario of every South African batsman heading for Lord's in good nick.

"England must treat the last Test as they have treated all their matches in the past couple of years – as a game which they have the best chance of winning if they pick their normal side. Unless the track is a belter, it means a four-man attack – and the return of Graeme Swann."

<i>Mike Atherton</i>, writing in the <b>Times</b>, also called for Swann's inclusion at Lord's, saying: "With three wickets, albeit late-order ones, for Imran Tahir, and four for Pietersen in the match England may have to revisit their strategy.

"England ought to have played Graeme Swann here, which is not to say that Swann would have made a tangible difference. The pitch and the rain (the best part of two sessions were lost), probably, would have been the winner in any case, although Swann would have given Strauss some much need variety in the first innings and potential in the second.

"A mistake then, but Strauss has made few of them and must be allowed to make a bad call now and again. The off spinner is sure to play at Lord's, where England must now win to retain their No 1 status.

"Lord's is a bad venue to go to with a win a necessity, though, given that it has been the pitch that has deteriorated the least in the past