Breaking news: England not as bad as South Africa

Cricket

England triumphed over South Africa 2-1 without being triumphant.

England went into this series with grounds for optimism that they were a better team than South Africa despite their ranking as the best Test team in the world.

South Africa were a team on the decline, at best one in transition with the added hindrance of injuries to Steyn and Philander, their premier strike bowlers. As the series developed, England didn't have to be better than South Africa to win this series, they simply had to be less bad,

An early lead was gained in Durban thanks to runs from Compton, Taylor and Bairstow and wickets from Ali and Finn. For Compton, Taylor and Ali, it would be their only significant contribution of the tour. Broad's outstanding 6-17 secured the Third Test and with it the series. However, once again England's champagne went flat as they lost the last Test, capitulating in an hour on the final day. 

So how will this series win set England up for the summer?

Only Cook, Root, Stokes, Finn, Broad and Anderson are assured of their places for the summer series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Bairstow's runs over the winter will probably be enough to keep his place despite his awful wicketkeeping in South Africa, especially with his main rival Buttler seeking IPL gold. Ali will compete with Rashid for the spinner's place and should start the first Test but requiring an improvement to keep that place,

That leaves Hales, Compton and Taylor. It is hard to imagine England not changing the batting line-up at all after a winter of being propped up by Root, Stokes and Bairstow but it is equally as hard to imagine England changing all three players.

There simply aren't three better ones with sufficient experience. So who will be dropped? Hales is looking most vulnerable and will surely be replaced with an opener or number three. This could mean Compton returning as a Test opener, but only on licence, as an average of 30 doesn't make for a long Test career.