Striking Fear

For me, the highlight of the D'Oliveira Trophy series was Graeme Smith's epic at Edgbaston, while I also really enjoyed the contributions of Prince, de Villiers and Amla. South Africa were worthy winners and will surely provide us with some rich entertainment when they take on Australia over six home and away Tests later in the year.

For England, despite a well-constructed win at The Oval, the prognosis is more dubious. Strauss's place once again appears vulnerable, while Ambrose's has surely been lost. Monty - stereotyped, apparently going backwards (from the lowest of low bases) with the bat and in the field and vitally lacking competition - is becoming a concern. As, of course, is Ian Bell. The evidence of the last three matches was that I and a few other observers (not to mention Bell himself) were wrong in thinking that his Lord's 199 meant that he'd finally cracked Test cricket. Much of Bell's batting after Lord's hinted at a man who'd sunk straight back into the complacency which often seems to hover just below the surface of a unit which - notwithstanding Collingwood's ultimate renaissance - still seems a bit too cosy.

Two final parting thoughts:

1. It's clear (as if it wasn't before to most people apart from Duncan Fletcher) that Steve Harmison just needs to bowl and bowl and bowl. It's anyone's guess what'll happen abroad during the winter but, for next summer, just let him bowl as much for Durham as he needs to (if there's any space between the Tests). You know it makes sense (and so, hopefully, does he).

2. For the first time in my cricket-watching life (thirty-plus years and counting) England have a specialist batsman capable of striking fear into any side in the world at any time. David Gower was a genius, albeit of a more fragile cast than KP, but he never quite seemed to have Pietersen's extra determination, self-certainty, improvisational flair and sheer balls.

Christ he's good.

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