Hard As Nails

England's evisceration at the hands of Steyn and Morkel was quick, it was bloodless and it had been coming. With Steyn closer to his outstanding best than ever before against England and Morkel looking once again like a bowler who could terrorise the world, something had to give, and with England's two best batsmen continuing to struggle and the lower order failing to compensate (just what was Prior thinking?) it was always likely to be the precarious lead which they brought north from Cape Town.

On England's side it was a series for low-key heroes; less so South Africa, with the immense Kallis and Smith doing what they do best, although yesterday it was refreshing and appropriate for the frequently overlooked Mark Boucher to take his share of the limelight.

Despite their strange flirtation with Thami Tsolekile and AB de Villiers (not sure what happened to him) under Ray Jennings it's now very hard to imagine or remember a South African side without Boucher behind the stumps. Low-slung, perennially scowling, shuffling up and down the cut strip for hours on end and catching chance after chance off the seamers. His trademark celebration - a leap in the air and the ball thrown skywards - is an island of relative flamboyance in a sea of businesslike reserve.

Boucher now stands as one of the greatest post-isolation South African cricketers; a wicket-keeper of class and consistency, a batsman of timing and fortitude who's at his very best under pressure, a hard-as-nails senior pro who's seen it all and more, and who, with Ntini gone, represents, along with Kallis, the final link with the Cronje era.

He's never exactly been a cricketer to warm to, but this time of all times he didn't deserve to end up on the losing side.


Dean @ Cricket Betting Blog said...

Don't think Matt Prior was thinking anything, on that evidence he has no brain.

Even measured against some of the awful shots that England's top order generally get out to, it was an absolute joke.

On the point of Boucher, I would agree with most of what you say.

In my opinion (before Prior's latest spell behind the stumps) England spent a long time scrathing around county cricket trying - with no success - to find the 'English Adam Gilchrist'.

They would have been far more successful had they settled on a steady - street fighter - type player like Boucher, reliable with the gloves and always stands and fights when his team need him.

Plays plenty of great knocks with no recognition as well, I remember his 40 odd at Edgbaston in 2008, supporting Graeme Smith who got a century to win the test and series.

Smith got all the plaudits, but when Boucher came in, England had a sniff of a chance, but he tied up one end and got the job done with his skipper.

Brian Carpenter said...

I could have written a whole post about Prior's shot - it was symptomatic of England's defeatist mentality (apart from Collingwood of course) on the last day and only confirms what he's shown before, which is that for a player of his talent he's prone to moments of astounding thickness with the bat. As was the case with Geraint Jones, as his keeping's improved his batting's declined, although I think he remains the best man for the job.

Great point about Boucher's innings in support of Smith at Edgbaston - I was watching that afternoon and while I remember Smith's great innings well I think I'd probably taken Boucher's contribution for granted, as people have been doing throughout his career.

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