Botham: 'I haven't seen one home bowler attempt to be attacking. It's like they are brainwashed'
Legend leads criticism of Strauss's negative tactics while Pietersen success suggests dropping Swann was a mistake
Saturday 04 August 2012
England's tactics were heavily criticised yesterday, with the former Test captain and Sky commentator Sir Ian Botham even suggesting the bowlers had been "brainwashed" into accepting a policy of negative field placings and a lack of catchers.
On another difficult day for England's bowlers, Botham was one of several pundits to take issue with captain Andrew Strauss' perceived lack of aggression in the morning session, while part-time spinner Kevin Pietersen's dismissal of Jacques Rudolph brought the debate over Graeme Swann's omission into even sharper focus.
England fast bowler Stuart Broad, who finished with 3 for 96, dismissed Botham's criticism and said: "It's just Beefy being negative. There's always that expectation and pressure when you win the toss and bowl, that the opposition [shouldn't] get 400. But wicket- wise I don't think it was very dangerous to bat on. I thought we stuck at it pretty well."
But Botham was not the only one to take issue with Strauss's tactics. The main gripe centred around the England captain's willingness to remove slip fielders and an apparent obsession with posting sweepers to the boundary at the start of a batsman's innings.
With South Africa resuming on 262 for 5 after being put in, England still had hopes of bowling the tourists out for under 300 and in doing so retain a chance of victory in the second Test.
But with Alviro Petersen unbeaten on 124 overnight, Strauss opted for just two slips for the majority of the morning session while rarely posting a gully or a short leg.
The aim of the tactic was to strangle the South African batsmen and frustrate them into playing a rash shot, but despite taking 39 deliveries before either Peterson or partner Jacques Rudolph scored a run, the tourists maintained their discipline to grind out 74 runs in the morning session.
Strauss's failure to take the initiative infuriated Botham in the commentary box. "I'd have got very bored playing this style of cricket," Botham said. "Back yourself, don't wait for the opposition to make a mistake.
"I haven't seen one bowler even attempt to be attacking. It's almost as if they're brainwashed."
While Botham's Test captaincy career hardly marked him out as a master tactician, his sentiment was undoubtedly shared by a significant percentage of the Headingley crowd.
England will point out that the tactics were no different from those that got them to the top of the world rankings, but a quick glance at the home bowlers' averages for the series shows a change is required.
Pietersen's solitary success yesterday sees him sitting at the top of England's averages with one wicket at 39, followed by Anderson (three wickets at 59), Steven Finn (two wickets at 59), Stuart Broad (three wickets at 71.33) and Tim Bresnan (two wickets at 119).
Swann's return of nought for 151 from 52 overs at The Oval means he does not even have an average. But despite a poor summer for England's premier spinner – he has taken six wickets at 72.16 in four Tests – there remains a strong sense that he should have played here instead of a fourth seamer.
The extravagant turn Pietersen found with his second ball of the day to dismiss the left-handed Rudolph only reinforced the argument that it is folly to ever begin a Test match without a recognised spinner.
Bowling around the wicket, Pietersen got the ball to grip and bounce and pass Rudolph's outside edge, allowing wicketkeeper Matt Prior to effect a smart stumping, which the TV umpire Asad Rauf confirmed was out despite the suggestion that the South African's back foot may just have saved him.
"I thought Rudolph was quite unlucky because it was the only ball that turned all day," Broad said.
"When you don't play a spinner, your seamers tend to bowl a lot more. All of us have banged out about 35 overs there. You sometimes forget the role Swanny performs holding up an end and bowling the dog overs.
"Obviously there were a few raised eyebrows when that ball turned but nothing else really threatened, so I don't think there are too many panic alarms," he added.
Day two in numbers
182 Alviro Petersen's knock surpassed his previous best Test score - 156.
6 Jacques Rudolph became the sixth Test victim of Kevin Pietersen.
6,976 Test runs by Andrew Strauss, who overtook Sir Len Hutton yesterday to become England's eighth highest scorer.
93 Graeme Smith equals Allan Border's record for Tests as captain.
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