Team GB can inspire England

Getting 20 wickets will be the most important thing England have to do

Neil Fairbrother
Team GB can inspire England

England arrive at Lord’s to play South Africa one down. Our Test ranking as the number one team in the world is in the balance and to win this match, we probably need to find a performance better than anything we’ve produced all year.

This week’s game is under a massive cloud because Kevin Pietersen won’t be there. I watched his knock at Headingley last Saturday afternoon and it goes down as one of the best I’ve ever seen at international level.

That night, Team GB won three gold medals in the Olympic Stadium and to me, Pietersen’s was the fourth gold medal. That’s how good it was.

With all the furore of him not being there, there’s probably added pressure on everybody else, which is not helpful. Andrew Strauss, who is playing his 100th Test match - and what a landmark that is - has somehow got to focus both himself and his team on the job in hand.

England have lost their star player, but ultimately, somebody always comes in to take somebody else’s place. And in this instance, Jonny Bairstow will get another chance to sit alongside James Taylor at five and six. They’re very inexperienced for the pressures they are about to face, but it’s an opportunity to show what class players they are.

During the ODI games when KP wasn’t around, Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara stuck up their hands at the top of the order and came through as shining lights. Let’s hope someone can do it in the Test team this week.

The weather has been pleasant so, unfortunately for England, I see a pretty good batting wicket. If the overhead conditions stay as they are, then it’s going to be very, very hard to get people out -  getting 20 wickets will be the most important thing England have to do.

The bowlers will have gained a little bit of confidence from the performance at Headingley, while Bairstow got a hundred for the England Lions last week, so he couldn’t have asked for better preparation. Taylor, I thought, did very well in the second Test. Then, of course, the top four of Alastair Cook, Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Bell are all class players.

It’s up to that six to dig in, get the runs that we need and give us enough time to bowl the opposition out twice, which will not be easy.

Finally, I think the achievements of Team GB can act as an inspiration to England’s cricketers. You look at what’s happened over the last two weeks, and the way our Olympians have conducted themselves, not only as great athletes, but also the humility they have shown in both victory and defeat.

I think that is a lesson to all sports people, and it is one that should be heeded and followed.

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