ENGLAND made no excuses last night for their inept display on the first day of the Fourth Test. But then there were none to make that would have been credible despite more exemplary fast bowling by South Africa.
“The wicket hasn't surprised us in any way” said Paul Collingwood, the team's top scorer with 47. “We expected it to do a little bit. It has probably got a little more bounce than we expected but we're a little disappointed with 180.
“All of us have got to understand what our strengths are and what our scoring opportunities are and be committed and today we weren't quite good enough.”
Some of England's batsmen were undone by good balls, especially from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel but too many fell victim to their own foolhardiness, searching for attacking shots on a sporting, but far from unplayable wicket.
England, all out for 180, were struggling from the moment their captain, Andrew Strauss, became the 28th batsman to be dismissed by the first ball of a Test match. His gentle push to leg was caught with wonderful alertness by Hashim Amla.
“It was a fantastic catch, the kind early on that can change games,” said Collingwood. “We never quite got through that new ball. You've got to be careful when it's on a good length and then back yourself to score from anything else. On wickets like that you have to be committed to all the shots you play, whether it's a defensive shot, a leave or a ball that's in your scoring area.”
Steyn took 5 for 51 and now has five wicket hauls against all the Test playing nations.
“I don't think I bowled excellently, I thought I bowled better in Cape Town but it was a spell today where I probably got a couple of lucky wickets.”
Like many other observers Steyn was mystified by England's decision to change a winning side by dropping Graham Onions who has been the best of their seam trio in the series.
“He has troubled a lot of our batters throughout,” said Steyn. “He would have been a handful on this wicket, he gets very tight into the stumps, it would have seamed and he would have been very dangerous. I guess we were surprised and relieved.”
By saying say so, of course, Steyn has raised the expectation of Onions' replacement Ryan Sidebottom to excel.
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia is taking seriously threats made against Australian cricketers by an Indian right-wing political party.
The Shiv Sena group, which Cricket Australia had no knowledge of before yesterday, has promised to prevent Australians playing cricket in India's major commercial city Mumbai in revenge for attacks on Indian students in Australia.
And with the third installment of the Indian Premier League scheduled to kick off in March, the timing of the threats have given CA cause for concern.
“We take them all seriously and we have a tried and true process that we use with the Australian Cricketers' Association to check all of these things,” CA public affairs general manager Peter Young said.