Imposition of agony

You’ve got to love Ray Jennings. The self-appointed hard man of South African cricket believes more than anyone in the country in making the opposition suffer. Back-to-back Test matches in Durban and Cape Town result in players feeling the agony of the heat, humidity and wind and he had the perfect men in Jacques Kallis and Boeta Dippenaar to impose the suffering on England.

There were many, many good reasons not to enforce the follow-on and put England’s weary, pained bowlers back in the field. Another couple of hundred runs would put the game entirely beyond the wildest dreams of England’ supporters and remove the possibility of another Durban-like resurrection on the scale of the 570-7 they managed after being bowled out for 139.

Tactically there were sound reasons for Graeme Smith’s decision to bat again, despite a huge lead of 278, but there were also good reasons to have put England back in again. Charl Langeveldt and the rest of the bowlers had only bowled half a dozen overs apiece in the second innings and they were fresh and raring to go.

But the over-riding reason for the decision to put England back into the field was the physical suffering they would endure – not to mention the emotional and psychological strife.

Jennings tries hard not to impose his views and beliefs on Smith but, when the skipper has suffered an early dismissal and needs time to reflect on his position of authority, the coach’s words of advice would have been received with welcome ears.

I can’t be sure what ‘Jet’ said, but when he looked around at his own players and saw them creaking with the aches and pains of seven days cricket out of nine, I’m certain he would have reminded them that Michael Vaughan and his team were feeling much worse.

If Kallis had carried on the savage assault with which he started his innings then England may, subconsciously at least, have consoled themselves with the fact that the end was nigh. Perhaps defeat was looming but, when you are batting to save the Test, only two men are involved. The rest can spread themselves around the assortment of physiotherapists benches and comfortable chairs in the dressing room, only occasionally required to gather together to applaud a team mate on reaching a gritty 50 before returning to restful slumber.

But with Kallis and Dippenaar steadfastly blocking the cover off the ball, leaving it and sporadically taking a single, the England team were made to feel not just despondent but angry at the apparently ‘aimless’ batting of the home side.

Taking a cue from the imaginative and vivid imagery often employed by Jennings, imagine you were a mouse that had been caught by a vicious swipe from a cat. The blow had maimed you badly and there was very little hope of survival. But instead of ripping your head off with a final swipe, the cat waits, interspersing it’s patience with periodical swipes, without claws. The result is anger – not merely a painful but resigned acceptance of defeat. Jennings hopes that anger will still be around during the fourth and fifth Tests, and that it will be a sufficient distraction to help sway the series South Africa’s way.


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