Paul Radley offers his thoughts on those who shone and others who disappointed during the recently-concluded series.
Moeen stars as Rabada struggles: Winners and losers from England v South Africa Test series
Crisis? What crisis? So England cannot find an opener to partner Alastair Cook. Their middle-order is a revolving door. Their No 2 spinner keeps showing up the No 1 spinner – to the extent the No 1 spinner is not even around anymore. Their fastest bowler is out injured – again.
And yet they still thrashed a South Africa side ranked higher than them in the ICC standings, despite one aberration at Trent Bridge. Who starred and who flopped during England’s 3-1 series win?
Ask England supporters who they think is the best all-rounder in the world, and most would likely plump for Ben Stokes straight away. The US$2 million (Dh7.34m) man, the best remunerated overseas player in the history of the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament, and a formidable force in the Test sphere to boot, might not even be the best all-rounder in his own team. This series was a triumph for Moeen Ali. He took 25 wickets in all, 10 in the game at Lord’s, five in an innings at Old Trafford, and a hat-trick at The Oval. Oh, and he played two of the decisive innings in the series with the bat, too.
The lanky seam bowler needs to clean out his ears. Twice in the series he had players caught behind, but had to be told the news, as he did not hear the nick. Other than being aurally challenged, life is pretty sweet for Roland-Jones at the moment. His eight wickets on debut at The Oval earned him a stay in the starting XI, and probably a place on the plane to Australia this winter, too.
Perhaps the only South African to emerge from the series with his reputation enhanced. Which might be in some way due to the fact he did not arrive in the UK with much of a profile at all. The left-arm spinner ended the series with 17 wickets, a haul that bettered all of the Proteas’ vaunted quicks, other than Morne Morkel, who was named South Africa’s player of the series.
TV viewers in this region do not always get the full package from the host broadcasters, including the specials features before play, and during the lunch and tea breaks. Thank goodness OSN are able to air all of the Sky Sports coverage from the UK series. Items like “The Zone”, the pre-play masterclasses given by the likes of Shane Warne, Shaun Pollock and Dan Vettori, have been a treat.
Graham Caygill: England's top order must fire if they want to win series
Watching an out-of-form player fighting against the inevitable can be tough. Seeing Jennings’ travails at the top of the England order was like water torture. Did the hundred he made on debut in India (after being dropped first ball) blind everyone to his limitations? Or is there really an opener of substance in there battling to prove his worth? Time will tell, but his place in the side to face the West Indies must be in serious doubt, let alone his flight ticket to the Ashes.
For Jennings, ditto Kuhn. Debuting in the Test sphere aged 33, the opening batsman must have wanted to show the wider world what they had been missing all this time. Instead, it was just confirmation he probably does not really belong there after all. At least not when faced with the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Was he blunted by his ban? He was ruled out of the second Test after one indiscretion too many, then was less than devastating thereafter. At times he looked like he was wondering how he was supposed to behave rather than the best method of getting the batsmen out. Perhaps we are all expecting too much from a fast bowler who is still just 22, but he will have finer series than this one.
If this is to have been Domingo’s last series in charge of South Africa, it could not have past in much sadder circumstances. Most obviously, there was the cricket. His side lost, and really did not get close. Then there is the ongoing coaching shemozzle. Domingo has had to reapply for his job as coach, and the likes of Geoffrey Toyana and Ottis Gibson have apparently been measured up for the role even while he is still in office. And he had to leave the tour twice over the course of the three months, as his mother died following a car accident. Which puts all of the above in sharp perspective.