Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farce Shows Cook's Men Still Have Long Way to Go

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Farce Shows Cook's Men Still Have Long Way to Go

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Stocks in Pretoria

ENGLAND went from the sublime of their series-winning victory in Johannesburg to the ridiculously bad here after slumping to a humiliating 280-run defeat at Centurion.

It would be tempting to say England turned up for the final morning of this fourth Test against South Africa with hopes of yet another great escape. But in truth they didn't turn up at all as they were blown away inside the first 65 minutes of the day.

The tourists had resumed the day on 52 for three but lost their final seven wickets for 49 runs as they were routed for just 101 in their second innings.

England's embarrassment at a collapse that saw them lose their last seven wickets in just 13.4 overs will be tempered by the fact they had already won the series thanks to that remarkable victory in the third Test at The Wanderers.

However, the lack of application, thought and skill shown on this final day of the series is a sign that despite their potential this group of players have a long way to go if they want to become the world's No1 Test team.

South Africa's consolation victory -- their first in Tests for more than a year -- has given the series scoreline a touch of respectability, 2-1 is much better than 3-0 from their standpoint.

And in Kagiso Rabada they have an immense talent who should fill them with hope for the future. The 20-year-old produced a stunning display of fast bowling here, taking four of the seven wickets that fell this morning to take his match return to 13 in all.

The portents of doom were there for England early on when Joe Root was dropped off just the seventh ball of the day, wicketkeeper Quinton De Kock shelling the chance created by spinner Dane Piedt. South Africa didn't have to wait long for the breakthrough, though, as Morne Morkel dismissed James Taylor in the next over.

Kyle Abbott, struggling with a tight hamstring, had taken the first over of the day much to England's surprise. However, Morkel took over from Abbott at the Hennops River End in the third over and needed just six deliveries to remove Taylor with a fierce short ball that brushed glove on the way through to De Kock. Taylor's departure brought Ben Stokes to the crease.

Yet if he thought Root might be able to help him through the early stages of his innings on a pitch showing even more variable bounce than the previous evening, he was mistaken.

Root has been England's best batsman over the past year. But he looked badly out of touch this morning and, after that early let-off, he fell to Piedt in the fourth over, edging to slip. Alastair Cook's side were now 58 for five, still needing 324 more runs to chase down their notional target of 382, after losing two wickets in the space of four balls. England had been in a similar position in the 2009 Cardiff Ashes Test, when they had batted out 98 overs on the final day -- the same as they needed to do here -- after finding themselves five wickets down in the first session. …

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