THIS second Test is the most important England have played for quite some time. South Africa are not going to be easy to beat and they comfortably won the first. The reality is we have to win this because the third Test is at Lords where the pitch is pretty flat; if South Africa want to play for a draw there it’d be pretty easy for them to do that so we have to win at Headingley.
I was confident before the first Test but the way South African are playing it is hard to be that way again. I met up with Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn last week and they are very confident; they know there’s more to do but they know how much experience they’ve got and what’s needed.
Both of these teams really are at their peak, and that’s what makes this series so interesting. Both have a lot of experienced players who are playing well – it’s a head-to-head clash of the best teams around at the moment. I just hope the weather doesn’t inhibit the cricket too much – it should be fascinating to watch.
Like I’ve said before, I really hope Steven Finn plays today. Surely the selectors will give players like him a chance given the way the first Test went. Sometimes you have to take a risk to win so I hope they pick the team that gives them their best chance. In the first Test, Stuart Broad didn’t bowl particularly well – our bowling in general wasn’t good enough. These are good players but there’s no doubt in my mind that we have to bowl better.
Series defeat would suggest we are no longer the best team in the world; South Africa would instead be the best. They would have beaten us on home soil. We all know in cricket that it’s very hard to win away from home – if we’re the world No1 but they can come to our back yard and beat us they deserve to take our mantle.
I believe there’s some shame in losing that mantle, too – I don’t believe we should be losing at home. If England go to South Africa or India and lose then okay, but they’ll have underperformed if they lose this series.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer who captained, and then later acted as chairman of, Warwick