Wednesday, 6 January 2010

On the fourth day of the Cape town test there was 350 left for England to get in 90 overs with all 10 wickets in hand. Being as you can get 250 fairly gently in an ODI 50 over game, it shouldn't be too tricky. But the Test Match isn't about runs and wickets, as much as about the state of mind you carry through it, and the draw Bell and Collingwood won for England in Cape Town was down to the correct application of thought to situation.

Collingwood, in particular, stopped playing shots for runs and cut out every conceivable avenue to his dismissal in a display of parsimony St. Francis of Assisi would brag about to Mother Teresa. It sounds so simple, but so many batsmen say 'I'll play my own way' and get out driving after getting 60 in 80 balls. That's not good enough. Collingwood's 40 was better and, in the context of the series, was worth more than the century Ian Bell got at Durban. Bell's innings in Cape Town truly proves once and for all that his mind can be as strong as his cover drive is fluent. I hope he kicks on and finishes the series with a flourish.

The most striking contrast one can draw from this game is between England's second innings in Cape town and South Africa's second innings at Durban; Where England played the situation itself on its merits, South Africa got caught trying to play naturally in a highly pressurised situation. One cannot try to play naturally; it's a contradiction in terms. One cannot be both aware of the score and play as though one isn't - that is the Orwellian 'Doublethink', the Freudian Denial - it is a myth of sport's psychology brought on by the wishful thinking of men who would be miracle workers. It is also one of the definitive areas of Test Match cricket - the 'Test' itself.

England have the stuff to stand the pressure and South Africa, for whatever reason, do not.

The contrast is both striking and conclusive.


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