Leeds, Aug 2 : Hello and a warm welcome to the coverage of the second Test between England and South Africa. England will have to try and forget what happened at the Oval, although it won't be that easy. South Africa humiliated the World's number 1 Test side in the first game and look in great form to dethrone England from the coveted top spot (South Africa will be number 1 if they win the series). Can England show resistance and retain the crown?
England have won the toss and elected to field
England are playing 4 seamers. Swann has been left out, Finn gets a game and James Taylor will make his debut
South Africa (Playing XI): Graeme Smith(c), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers(w), Jacques Rudolph, Jean-Paul Duminy, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir
England (Playing XI): Andrew Strauss(c), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Matt Prior(w), Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson
A Prelude: They labeled it as one of the greatest sides ever to have played Test cricket-from the English tabloids to the biased British cricket pundits, from ex-captains to the loyal staunch supporters. 'The eleven' led by Andrew Strauss were compared to the great Australian side which dominated all formats of the game from the mid-nineties till the late 2000s-the truly great side led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting. Amusing? There is more. A few had the audacity to hail it the best Test side ever-better than Don Bradman's invincibles and the legendary West-Indian side of the 70's led by Sir Clive Lloyd. A Swann was put in the same category as a Shane Warne, an Anderson and a Broad were pitted against the likes of a Mcgrath and a Brett Lee!
Let us analyse how 'Humpty-Dumpty' sat on the great wall.
The revival began with a 2-1 series victory in 2007/08 in New Zealand.
Since then England have featured in 16 bilateral Test series ( not including the current series against South Africa), 9 of which have been at home. They have been dominant at home winning 8 of the series including The Ashes in 2009 having only lost the series to South Africa in 2008.
While the above highly skewed home-record is fantastic there have been other teams who have been tigers at home but failed miserably outside and we all know how the English media reacted to India becoming the No.1 ranked Test nation! Also, England lost to South Africa at home during this period and all the other wins have been against teams which have traditionally fared miserably in English conditions. Also, The Ashes victory came against, perhaps the weakest Australian bowling attack in 2 decades.
Anyway, now comes the crucial analysis. Of the 7 away series, England have won only 2-the Ashes against a new and inexperienced Australian team in 2010/11 against whose bowling attack even Sir Geoffrey's Boycott's 'Mum' would have had a chance and previously in Bangladesh in 2009/10.
They have lost to a struggling West-Indies team in the Caribbean and to India in 2008/09. Recently there were annihilated by an erratic Pakistan team 3-0 in the UAE.
The Match: There seems to be an uneasy feeling amongst Strauss and his men. They seem to be scared and frightened after the humiliating innings and 12 runs defeat in the first Test at The Oval. There were first intimidated by Amla and Kallis and then routed by Dale Steyn. They were not expecting to be hit and they were hit badly indeed!
While Andy Flower is trying his best to maintain calm and composure in the team, the task to overcome that defeat seems daunting. Graeme Swann who was rendered ineffective at The Oval has labeled the loss as a 'Public Humiliation' and termed their recent performances as dismal. James Anderson hasn't exactly exuberated confidence by admitting that the team have felt the pressures of being the No.1 Test team and haven't quite learnt how to handle their position and are now finding it difficult to cope with the fact that they might actually lose their status to South Africa.
There is still tension over Kevin Pietersen as the World T20 draws near.
The bowling looks weak and feeble. Anderson, Broad and Bresnan look a patch of what they were a year back or rather what they were made to be! The batting is suffering from sudden collapses.
South Africa, on the other hand would not relent the pressure. Steyn, Morkel and Philander would come firing at all cylinders. The skipper who led from the front in the first Test by scoring a century in his 100th Test is back after attending the birth of his first child-rejuvenated and raring to go!
The pitch at Headingley would offer pace and bounce and some seam and swing depending on the overhead conditions which are predicted to be cloudy for most of the match. The captain who wins the toss is expected to make a call accordingly.
England: England need some inspiration. They look demoralized. They need to take their game up by a couple of notches. Greg Chappell and Sir Geoffrey Boycott have been urging the need for the home side to get Steven Finn in the eleven. He is tall and quick and doesn't have the scars of the Oval Test. There is a lot expected from James Taylor who in all probability would make his debut at No. 6 replacing Ravi Bopara who opted out for personal reasons. He is the fifth No. 6 for England this year after the likes of Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Johny Bairstow and now Ravi Bopara have failed to impress-a position which has given the home team trouble since the retirement of Paul Collingwood.
England would be hoping to get 'fifth time lucky' with the inclusion of a fresh talent into the eleven.
Taylor has been captain of England Lions over the last two years and averages 61.60 from ten first-class matches for them.
He led the Lions against the West Indians in May and scored an impressive century at Derby and this week hit his first Championship hundred for his new county, Nottinghamshire, against Sussex.
Steven Finn might replace Tim Bresnan unless England decide to go in with an all-pace attack and drop Graeme Swann ( who is suffering from an elbow injury ) but that is a highly unlikely scenario and a combination England haven't opted for in a long time.
Their best chance would be to hit the Proteas hard in the beginning and make early in-roads so that the South African middle order-the likes of Duminy, Rudolph etc who haven't been tested yet and did not get a chance in the first Test buckle under pressure.
It would also be interesting to see if they change their batting order and play Ian Bell, who has been their most consistent batsman across all formats, at No. 4-a position currently held by Kevin Pietersen!
England (probable 11): Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Taylor, Prior, Broad, Swann, Finn, Anderson
South Africa: The visitors will in all likelihood retain the winning combination as was hinted by their vice-captain Ab de Villers. There might be a case to drop Alviro Petersen who failed in the first Test and in the Tour Match against Worcestershire and get Jacques Rudolph ( interestingly he was tried as an opener in the Tour Match ) to open the innings and make way for an extra bowler. Depending on the conditions they could either play Lonwabo Tsotsobe or Robin Peterson who, if picked would give them variety in the spin department. Petersen impressed in the Tour Match with 4 wickets.