Cricket: 'Captain Chaos' claims century

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire v South Africa

FAMOUS for their thoroughness, South Africa set about preparing for England, both on and off the field. But if a century by the acting-captain Gary Kirsten kept the viewing public on semi-alert in their seats, Hansie Cronje, taking a rare game off, settled back to watch videos of the England team.

Kirsten's batting is clearly a lot better than his navigating. Due to practice in Bristol the day before this match, Kirsten, unsure of the route, relied on Allan Donald instead. Despite 10-years experience of the county circuit with Warwickshire, the pair promptly lost their way and were late.

Mishaps apparently befall Kirsten regularly, and he is nicknamed "Captain Chaos" by his team-mates, the moniker apparently being coined after his first Test in charge (the one against Pakistan that was delayed after two of their players were allegedly mugged in a brothel).

But if that proved hectic, Kirsten looked far more serene yesterday than he did during the one-day series, where he made 23 runs in three matches. Mind you, with Courtney Walsh absent, and with Mike Smith not swinging the ball, there was little to ruffle feathers, let alone remove them from the tourists caps, until the off-spinner Martin Ball weighed in with three wickets.

Yet while Kirsten went about compiling the 24th first-class century of his career, the first by a South African on this ground since 1907, Gloucestershire had their successes. Coming on first change, the skipper Mark Alleyne removed both Gerhardus Liebenberg and Jacques Kallis, both batsmen edging behind.

With Kirsten coming into runs, the only other dilemma was which two from Jonty Rhodes, Brian McMillan and Lance Klusener, will play in the Test next week. At the outset of the tour it looked like being a battle between Rhodes and McMillan, with Klusener a certainty as first change bowler. Now, following a pounding in the one-dayers, Klusener's place is not so definite.

If runs count for anything these days, Rhodes after a slick 59 is leading the race. Coming in at No 5, he drove and hooked with certainty, something McMillan never matched in a scratchy knock that had lasted 42 minutes and produced just three runs before he mis-pulled Ball to square leg. Later, Klusener threw his hat into the ring with an unbeaten 33 as he and Nantie Hayward added 72 for the eighth wicket.

As captain, Cronje, an earnest sort of fellow, would no doubt have been satisfied with proceedings on the field. With both Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock also resting, his side were efficient without being awesome, that is their way.

Should England want to confuse their methodical preparations, then the first step is to pick 11 players who have never appeared on telly. In an age of satellite TV that would be a challenge for the most dedicated armchair selector.

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