Sportsvibe caught up with former South African cricket captain Kepler Wessels to give us his views on the first Test match at The Oval between England and South Africa. Wessels, an ambassador for ESPNcricinfo.com offered us his expertise, looking at where South Africa are strongest and where England can improve.
If you read our preview piece ahead of the first test, Kepler predicted the series would be very tight and really could not pick an overall winner. "I'm not surprised that South Africa won but I think, like everybody, I'm surprised by the manner in which they won,” he said at the time. “I think even they [South Africa] were surprised by the fact they won so convincingly and that they won so well."
What started the ball rolling for South Africa?
"South Africa were able to put England under so much pressure and in the end, all disciplines went out the window. I think it was a two-fold thing; it was a phenomenal performance by South Africa and secondly they were able to put England under so much pressure that they disintegrated quite early on in the Test match."
Where did it go so wrong for England?
"Once the pitch got flat, there was absolutely no variety in the England bowling attack. This added a problem to [Andrew] Strauss to have options and in the end he was looking to just two bowlers - James Anderson and Graeme Swann. Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan didn't look threathening. The wicket went flat and England ran out of ideas and [Andrew] Strauss had no options. It just compounded the problems and went downhill from there."
How did South Africa press home the advantage?
“South Africa have become good in being ruthless when they've got you on the ropes. Guys like Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, and Graeme Smith to a lesser degree, they concentrate phenomenally well and if they sniff that they've got you, they won't give anything away. Where England struggled with bowling on a flat pitch, South Africa on the other hand have got five bowlers with good variety. Smith had options all the way through and you're almost dealing with two different situations."
What were the key differences in the way the two sides performed?
"I think one of the things that made England so good over the last few years is that we all thought, or we think, that they have a stronger mental attitude under pressure. We think that they're better mentally and harder mentally but I think this time they lost their composure a lot earlier than we thought and expected. Jonathan Trott and Alastair Cook batted well in England's first innings, they applied themselves and did a good job. You have to look at (Kevin) Pietersen and (Ravi) Bopara and their shot selection under pressure and whether they were prepared to do the hard yards.
Hashim Amla ended 311 not out in South Africa's mammoth total of 637 for 2. In doing so, he set the highest individual score by a South Afrcian in Test matches. What are your thoughts of Hashim Amla's fantastic innings?
"I've known him (Hashim Amla) for quite a long time and everthing for him is geared to concentrating for long periods. The way he practices, the way he thinks, it's all for being able to bat for a long time and to stay in his game plan. He doesn't want to step out of his game plan in order to frustrate the opposition and then to make it as difficult as possible to get him out. I definitely think he can bounce back and do it again. I've seen him do it in India in similar fashion where he just kept scoring runs. Looking to the next Test match though, if you get in on a pitch like Headingley and it's nipping around then a ball can have your number on it no matter how you are but I have to say that he is phenomenal."
Make sure you keep an eye out for Kepler’s preview of the second test this week.
'Catch all the latest cricket news, analysis, results and ball-by-ball coverage on ESPNcricinfo.com and via the new ESPNcricinfo iPad App available to download in August'.