Oh! Geoffrey, Geoffrey. You were given a chance on a TV Masterclass to reveal the uppermost levels of batsmanship and all you did was emphasise the “foreward defensive”, which anyone can read in the most preliminary instruction books. What a missed opportunity for you, our Yorkshire legend, to demonstrate your all round skills; picking the length , moving forward and BACK! etc
I think it was Archie McClaren who memorably said “any fool can play forward” - witness the fact that tailenders invariably have that as their only move. Then there is the old adage “when in doubt, push out”. If every one of those one shot wonders were to practise playing BACK, oh! boy would they improve and, incidentally enjoy the experience.
Think about it. There are many more types of shot to be played off the back foot. There are all the cross batted strokes; the late cut , the square cut, , the leg side pull and the hook. Once you can score freely off these, then the bowlers are forced to pitch it up and get driven. The Boycott square cut was his “trademark” though he was never as good at the pulls and hooks because he had a rather low pick up of the bat.
As possibly the last of the text book sideways players he could have emphasised the huge advantages of so doing - and indeed the limitations of playing “square on”. You can get your front foot to the pitch of the ball on the off side. You have a better feel for where your off stump is. You have a much greater range playing the ball beside the body, perhaps as much as four feet whereas the the “square” men have about four inches. You can avoid bumpers with the smallest of steps across the crease and the fast bowlers have a much narrower target. The defensive shot can be expanded into a forcing shot from exactly the same body position. I could go on and on.
Geoffrey B knows all these things like the back of his hand. I know that there are always time limitations when on camera. But he should ask to be allowed a couple more slots to expand the subject. And how I would love to team up with him and explore the subject more fully.
Talk about gravitational waves. They are largely beyond our ken. But the Sunami of runs at Centurion Park earlier this week was nearly as hard to fathom.
When England posted a score of 328 it seemed to be better than par for the ground and conditions. No team with a first innings score over 300 had ever been on the losing side. England lost momentum a little in the last few overs but credit is due to the South African bowlers for that. That they were beaten by 7 wickets with overs to spare is scarcely credible.
Had this deluge of South African runs come from a frenzy of hitting with large slices of luck it would have been easier to understand. But the star performance of Amla and especially deKock owed very little to chance. They were both calculating and respectful of the England attack but the range and power of their batting was beyond anything I have ever seen before.
Amazingly, if you had never seen either of them bat before, it would have been deKock that caught your eye. He stands relatively still, has a precise pick up of the bat and hardly ever plays a totally defensive stroke, so smooth are his movements and so sweet his timing. It is hard to believe that South Africa started the Test Series without him. His trademark shots are the "pick up" over square leg and best of all a back foot, straight bat pull wide of mid-on, often for six. There is none of the brutality we have seen from Stokes.
It is true that there were favourable elements. A smallish ground with a quick outfield helped a bit and the high altitude meant that even "mishits" still cleared the boundary. Of course one has to redefine a mishit these days with modern bats. The super slow motion photography reveals the bat twisting considerably when the hit is not precisely middled but there appears to be very little difference to the way the ball travels.
Amla is more a manoeuverer of the ball but with very quick hands. He walks about the crease a lot giving bowlers choices to try to catch him out, but having to change your line at the last split second is no easy matter.
It would be nice to tell the grand-children that I was actually there to see this incredible episode in the history of batting but I watched every ball on TV and I will never forget it.
England has just lost the 4th Test in Pretoria by a country mile. As usual, the commentators avoid the obvious conclusion, which is that it was a win the toss, win the match pitch.
Understandably there is jubilation in the South African camp and they have indeed uncovered two rare talents in Rambada and Bavuma. But to suggest that this can be a sure sign of recovery in their team may be premature.
Rambada apart, their bowling resources remain stretched. Anno Domini has caught up with Steyn and Morkell is not the force he was. Both are nudging 34 years of age. Nobody has mentioned what has happened to the superb Philander but, there again, he is no Spring chicken.
Going back to the match, once they had nearly 500 runs on the board in the first innings, the result was never in doubt. Lending substance to the notion of very easy pitch conditions is the fact that there were TWO maiden hundreds – an extremely rare occurrence.
I can pay the diminutive Bavuma no greater compliment than to compare him with the great Tendulkar. Look how still he remains as the ball is bowled. His bat is geometrically vertical in defence. When he drives there is a good stride forward but he forces off the back foot and pulls the short ball with equal aplomb. I will be surprised if he does not continue in the same vein for a while to come.
Rambada is an interesting case because his action is not particularly impressive. But what happens the other end certainly is. Despite a quite gentle run-up (none of the rushing in which is so much part of Steyn’s armoury) and despite not much of a “gather”, he rotates his body smoothly and powerfully giving him plenty of pace. He was as much the best South African bowler as was Finn for England before his injury.
England’s upper order remains a real problem. It is extraordinary that no opening partner for Cook has been able to establish himself in all the years since Strauss retired. Compton has the right attitude but his technique will still get him into trouble.
He stands bolt upright with his bat raised when facing the quicker bowlers – not against the spinners – so now has to bend forward to allow room for the bat to come down straight. While this alteration is taking place the bat wavers off a true line.
Throughout our batting line up, there is a ridiculous habit that has creaped in i.e. making a practise stroke after every ball. The only signal that it sends to me is that they are trying to learn the job as they go along. Then there is the abiding problem of not getting the front or back foot across close to the line of the ball. Which is almost impossible to do from a square – rather than sideways- position.
We can only thank heaven for the marvellous example set by Joe Root who is largely blameless in these two respects. Perhaps he should be the batting coach. Mind you, how I would love to have half an hour with some of them in the nets. I doubt I would do them any harm.
It is not often that you find batsmen pleading the case of bowlers in the eternal struggle between bat and ball. But there has to be first and this is it.
I must be a bit slow because it has taken me a long time to reconcile the pluses and minuses of the Decision Review System, despite being basically a supporter. But a "not out" umpiring lbw decision on appeal from Ben Stokes against Amla got me thinking.
England asked for a review which showed a good 45% of the ball hitting the top of the stumps. But in these cases anything less than a full 50% of the ball hitting, means that
the decision remains with the original judgement. Which is unfair in one major sense.
Were the umpire to sense it was a marginal call but give it OUT, then that would give a just and proper reward to the bowler. If the review showed that the ball was missing, then no harm done - the batsman is reprieved and the game continues without incident.
By favouring the "NOT OUT" option there was indeed harm done. Harm to the bowler's figures and harm to the proper progress of the game. The only possible harm of giving a completely incorrect decision would be to the umpire's reputation. But he is already in the dock for giving a not out decision for a ball which would have sent the bails flying.
My message to umpires must therefore be to give the "marginals" OUT in the best interests of the game.
Oh! And another thing from yesterday's first day of the Test Match at the Wanderers - or is the Joburg ground called something else these days? No matter.
The Bazuma run out. Commentators deliberated on whether it was too short a single. Only one of them, the thoughtful and reliable Michael Atherton, mentioned the tell-tale matter of " ball watching" by the non striker. The otherwise admirable Mr Bazuma was brazenly guilty of turning his head to follow the ball instead of trusting the batsman and responding instantly to the call. Had he done so, he would have been home with yards to spare. The only good and decent thing he did was to try to complete the run. I can think of one Yorkshire opening bat of my time ( who ran me out the first time I batted with him) who would have taken the precaution of saving himself!
Harking back to my recent lament about bowling tactics, or lack of them, to certain batsmen - here we go again, with Enland's fast men against De Villiers. In common with the Australian Steve Smith, DV walks across his stumps before the ball leaves the hand.
Is it coincidence that these two are rated perhaps the two most successful batsmen in the world? I think not.
They have it in common that the moment the ball is aiming for the stumps, they are adept at turning the ball through the open spaces on the leg side. As the bowlers become increasingly frustrated, their reaction has been to bowl wider and wider of the off stump. As Willis and Underwood used to do to Viv Richards to their cost.. The " beauty" of this batting system, or at least the bowling reaction to it, is that they have virtually excluded being bowled or lbw.
Surely it is worth a try, bowling at the stumps and putting fielders where they hit the ball !! Freddie Trueman told me that he was only looking at the batsman's feet as he ran in to bowl. You can bet your bottom dollar he would have had two more leg side fielders with at least a couple of attempted yorkers every over. When I buttonholed Captain Cook on the subject at the end of last season I got a shrug of the shoulders, little more. Unless a little common sense dawns on our heroes, they are in for some long spells in the field.