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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 December, 2004, 11:44 GMT
Only England can beat England

By Geoff Boycott
Former England batsman

The England team pose for the camera after beating South Africa
Eight Test wins in a row is magnificent, but we don't want to get carried away

I wasn't optimistic about England's chances before the first Test against South Africa, which we ended up winning quite easily.

It surprised me we got through the match so comfortably, as we were not at our best and looked well short of match practice.

With so much room for improvement, I don't think South Africa can beat us. The only thing that can beat England is England.

If we work at our game and don't become complacent, then we will beat South Africa again and again.

If we take things for granted and start thinking they are an easy kill, then we will lose.

Eight Test wins in a row is a magnificent achievement, but we don't want to get carried away with talk of another whitewash and more records.

Sport has a way of kicking you up the backside if you get ahead of yourself. The only thing England need to do is focus on the Boxing Day Test in Durban.

I was worried about our batting before the first Test and I still thinks it looks questionable.

Andrew Strauss aside, there was little fluency and we looked wobbly at the crease.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss is a success because he's technically correct, is level-headed and works very hard at his game

Mark Butcher and Marcus Trescothick played one good innings each which required strength of character and graft because neither of them looked in good nick.

When one player gets 40% of your score there has to be some concern. If Strauss had got out early, how would the first Test have panned out?

The marvellous thing for England is we won in Port Elizabeth without three of our big guns firing.

Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe are our two best batsmen and they hardly made a run between them, and Steve Harmison was a shadow of himself.

In fairness, Vaughan probably got out to the best ball of the match when Dale Steyn bowled him. It was a fabulous delivery that would have got most batsmen out, including me.

Thorpe is our best player and a wonderful batsman, but he was scratchy and resembled a blind man groping in the dark. He made Graeme Smith look like Jim Laker.

Harmison struggled for line and length and was miles away from his best, taking only one wicket with a full-toss.

These aren't criticisms. All three are great players and will get better as the tour progresses, which is why I am so optimistic about England's chance of winning the series.

South Africa skipper Graeme Smith
South Africa will make changes, but will they make a difference?

Others like Andrew Flintoff and Ashley Giles made contributions, but the two best performances surprisingly came from Strauss and Simon Jones.

At the moment Strauss is playing beautifully.

He is making Test cricket look easy, but doesn't need me to tell him that hard times and loss of form will come as it does for everybody.

Strauss is a success because he's technically correct, is level-headed with a sunny disposition and works very hard at his game in the nets.

It also helps that at 27 he is not that young. He is a mature individual, well-rounded and unflappable.

Strauss was a match-winner, but Jones was a big performer as well.

He followed up a great catch in the second innings with a fantastic spell to put England in a position from which they never looked back.

South Africa missed Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis's bowling, and I'm sure they will make some changes for the second Test.

But if England improve like I think they will, it might not matter who the hosts put on the park.

England may have lost initiative
15 Dec 04 |  England

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