Angus Fraser: Bowlers win matches. So why did England fail to make Wright move?

Inside Cricket

Andrew Strauss's stock could not have been higher four months ago when he joyously paraded a replica Ashes urn around The Oval. Since defeating Australia Strauss's reputation has continued to rise, and quite rightly so – he is an impressive man and an excellent leader.

But one of the beauties of life, and in particular sport, is that even the best are brought back down to earth and Strauss has had a difficult week in Centurion, where his side are fighting to remain competitive in the first Test against South Africa. From an English perspective his team's plight is particularly disappointing because this should have been a Test they dominated, given Jacques Kallis's rib injury, the uncertainty surrounding the South African side in the build-up to the match and the late withdrawal of Dale Steyn, the home side's spearhead. South Africa are unlikely to be this vulnerable for the remainder of the series.

So why has England's approach at Centurion appeared largely uncertain and conservative when they were the complete opposite on 23 August, the day they regained the Ashes in south London?

England's awful record in the first Test of recent overseas series – they have lost six of the previous seven openers – may well have preyed on their minds and influenced the selection of the team and the tactics they have largely employed. Before the effervescent Graeme Swann arrived at the crease yesterday England wore the look of a side that seemed happy to draw rather than win the first Test.

Replacing the recently retired Andrew Flintoff and maintaining the balance of the side was always going to be a difficult, if not well nigh impossible, task. Flintoff's ability to bat at six may have at times been questioned but his bowling has always been excellent.

But England did not really try to balance the side, and it was disappointing to see his position filled by a batsman rather than someone with the potential to bowl. The bowling of Luke Wright, England's best option as a post-Flintoff all-rounder, may still be pretty raw but it is bowlers that win matches and he should have played.

Picking Wright would not only have helped England's cause in the field, it would have made a statement to South Africa. It would have told Graeme Smith's side that England did not fear South Africa and were after them.

Having picked the extra batsman it was then slightly baffling to see England opt to bowl on winning the toss. If the England management expected the pitch to offer assistance to the faster bowlers on the first day it would have made sense to pick a fourth seamer.

The move would have eased the burden on Stuart Broad, Graham Onions – playing in his first overseas Test – and James Anderson, who still appears to be recovering from a knee injury. As it was, Onions, who has suffered with a calf strain/cramp, struggled with the heat and Anderson looked short of a gallop. England were fortunate that the pitch offered spin and encouragement to Swann, who bowled beautifully.

Swann continues to be a revelation, providing the England team with character, mischief and performances. In many ways Swann is not a modern cricketer.

He is not a natural athlete or someone who conforms to modern sporting stereotypes. Swann gets out, enjoys himself and appears to have interests and a life away from cricket. Perhaps that is why he is the most enthusiastic cricketer England currently have.

When Swann walks out to play for England there seems to be no place in the world that he would rather be. Watching him succeed at a late stage in his career should provide every cricket lover with enjoyment. It should also encourage some of his more earnest team-mates to realise how fortunate they are, get out and live a little more.

Ntini feat deserves ton of respect

Of the 49 cricketers to have played 100 or more Test matches, only eight have been fast bowlers and that is why the achievements of Makhaya Ntini should be celebrated and treated with a huge amount of respect.

Ntini has had an unimaginable influence in turning post-apartheid South Africa into the multicultural Rainbow Nation that it is, but he has had a hugely positive effect on fast bowling.

Throughout his career the fitness levels of the 32 year old have become the stuff of legend and, in an era when over-coaching has tended to oppress natural talent, he has shown that a fast bowler can take wickets at the highest level with a technically imperfect action.

During my career I have been fortunate enough to witness many great cricketing moments but I would rate the time when Ntini took his 10th wicket in the 2003 Lord's Test against England to be one of the finest I have seen. South Africa won the Test and during it Ntini bowled his heart out. On taking his 10th wicket, that of Stephen Harmison, he dropped down on to his knees and kissed the Lord's pitch. It was a spine-tingling moment.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015