It was meant to be the clash of the Titans. The showpiece event in the Test calendar. A fight between to evenly matched sides with exceptional bowling resources. None of it materialised though in the first test as South Africa thumped England by an innings and 12 runs at the Oval on Monday.
Having struggled on Day One with the ball, as the English batsmen piled on the runs, the Proteans never got their foot off the accelerator once they managed to dismiss Cook early on day two. Thereafter, every day was a lesson in how one should grind the opposition to dust, once you have him on the mat. No one epitomised that more than Hashim Amla, who barely played a shot in anger or made a mistake during his marathon triple hundred. His monk like concentration and discipline was exactly what the hosts lacked in both their innings. Kallis who is on a mission to rectify his average record in England had brought his side back into the match on Day One by dismissing Pietersen. And now was the ideal foil for Amla during their record breaking partnership. The English bowlers tried gamely for most times, but were undone by a pitch which did not offer them much assistance and by a ruthless batting line up.
The South African bowling attack on the other hand assisted by the scoreboard pressure kept producing the wicket taking spells. Ian Bell and Matt Prior once again produced some excellent rearguard action, but Prior fell to the much despised sweep shot three overs before the new ball. Dale Steyn as is his wont, smelt blood and went in for the kill. The five wicket haul for the bowler once again affirms his position at the top of the bowling rankings. He was ably supported by Tahir who got two crucial wickets in Strauss and Prior, while Philanderer kept bowling the lines that have made him the new sensation that he is. Morkel working over of Pietersen and his subsequent dismissal would give sleepless nights to Graham Gooch - the batting coach.
Looking back England seemed to have lost the match in the first innings itself, when they wasted an opportunity to make a big score. The determined, hungry and disciplined South Africans did not need a second invitation, and so are one up in the Test series.