Better late than never, Miles Reucroft and Andy Hunter, regular contributors to this here blog, sat down and had a chinwag about South Africa’s series with England. What is the point of a blog, if it is not to offer up ill-informed views into cyber space?
So, who was your player of the series?
Andy: Clearly almost everyone would pick Mo. He took a 10 for and got the first hattrick at the Oval in its 100th Test. However, I would pick Morne Morkel. His figures at the end of the series might not suggest a man who deserves such an esteemed accolade but from start to finish he was superb. I believe he had batsmen playing and missing over 80 times in a four Test series which demonstrates how impressive his bowling was. He has toured here before which clearly gave him an advantage but he has matured as a bowler. In 2012 when he got into a war of words with Kevin Pietersen at Headingley he was dispatched to all corners of the ground as he completely lost his head. There was no evidence of this bowler in 2017 as his hostility and accuracy made him look dangerous in every spell. He might not have taken the wickets but his performances deserved much much more and his batsmen seriously let him down. A few crunching cover drives from his lower order batting were quite fun too.
Miles: Moeen really came to the fore in this series, the first player in a four Test series to take 25 wickets and pass 250 runs. That’s astounding for a player who so often flies under the radar. Ben Stokes’s batting, as I mentioned here, looks to have matured in this series, too. For me, though, Vernon Philander was man of the series. Not so much for what he did, but what he didn’t do. He’s so important to South Africa that his injury problems were a major blow to the side. Faf du Plessis’s public comments about the fitness he keeps himself in were enlightening. The big man needs to do more for himself in order to do more for the team. He could have made things a lot more uncomfortable for England. Instead, he left the exceptional Morne Morkel, as Andy points out, high and dry without sufficient support.
What do you make of this England side?
We were talking before England’s squad to face the West Indies was announced
Andy: I like the look of Westley. Comparisons with John Crawley and Jonathan Trott appear on the money at this stage. He certainly has a tendency to walk over to the off side in order to hit the ball through the on side but he also showed some lovely cover drives. Hopefully he’ll cement his place against the West Indies.
Miles: Keaton Jennings looks certain to be dropped. It just hasn’t worked out for him. He never looked comfortable out in the middle and was far too easily worked over. As an opener, of course you will get the odd unplayable nut, but even once he had weathered early onslaughts, Jennings always managed to find a slip fielder. But who to replace him with? My hunch is that Mark Stoneman would fare little better, but I wouldn’t object to his inclusion now and he’s been banging on the door for two or three years now. If only Haseeb Hameed hadn’t had such a wretched 2017! His future remains bright, so it is worth risking a woefully out of form 20 year at the top table?