It was only a matter of time before a team of such quality would take the top position among Test-playing nations, and when South Africa defeated England in a gripping final Test match at Lord’s in London, to take the series 2-0, it was also well-deserved. South Africa are quite simply the best balanced side in the world today, with four world-class batsmen in Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, A. B. de Villiers, and Jacques Kallis and three of the best bowlers in the game today in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and the ever-revelatory Vernon Philander. They possess a supreme all-rounder in Jacques Kallis and a more-than-useful leg spinner in Imran Tahir. After years of choking at the big moments and underperforming generally, South Africa now have the chance to dominate the game for the next two or three years in a way that Australia did a decade ago. Yes, they’re that good.
The England cricket team have problems. They were off the boil throughout this series, in spite of moments of inspiration that almost floored the South Africans. Stuart Broad is mysteriously off the pace as a bowler and the top four batsmen have not consistently put in the big scores that they used to. England’s fielding has also not been as sharp. None of it is catastrophic, and the emergence of Steven Finn and Jonny Bairstow as genuine Test-caliber players is good news.
But the big problem is Kevin Pietersen. It sounds as if he were an insufferably arrogant presence, someone only engaged with the England players on sufferance. It’s hard to see how his enormous talent (and fragile yet expansive ego) could fit once more into the England cricket team. Like Achilles with the Greeks, he is a distraction that could set back the campaign to regain the top position in world cricket for years. I (Martin) would suggest dropping him and rebuilding for the future, hard though that may be to swallow at the moment.