Cricket: Ramprakash keeps England on track

First Test: South Africa bowlers fight back after a poor first day but the home side's batsmen manage to continue their good work

ALEC STEWART will be thankful that his first two days as England captain were not reversed as both South Africa and the Edgbaston pitch gave a truer reflection of their character yesterday. With 462 runs on the board, England remain firm favourites to win the First Test, though the visitors' retort will have at least brought a glimmer of hope.

South Africa's chances will be improved further should a nasty blow to Darren Gough's right hand prove anything more sinister than a bad bruise. Struck by Alan Donald 20 minutes before the end of play, Gough was in obvious pain and he later went for an x-ray on his right index finger.

South Africa leave little to chance and their coach, Bob Woolmer, would have drummed into his bowlers the need to bowl a fuller length. Fortunately for their captain, they obliged, and England found runs harder to come by than they had 24 hours earlier.

Even so, with England resuming on 249 for 1, any pressure would have been firmly on the South Africans. By their own unremitting standards, they had had a bad first day and amends had to be made sooner rather than later.

The first wicket came before most spectators had settled in their seats. With 103 runs burning a hole in his back pocket, Michael Atherton was perhaps destined to be extravagant. Whatever his state of mind, his attempt to force Allan Donald off the fourth ball of the second over was ill-judged, the extra bounce ensuring that the edge ended in Mark Boucher's gloves. It was the kind of shot Atherton had eschewed for most of the previous day and its boldness allowed South Africa to achieve in five minutes what had taken them almost four and a half hours to do on Thursday - take a wicket.

The early breakthrough, while clearly boosting South Africa's bowlers, did not herald a collapse. Coming to the wicket a place lower than had been planned, Nasser Hussain immediately announced himself with a sumptuous cover-driven four. Other boundaries followed, including a majestic pull off Shaun Pollock, who having sensed a quickening in the pace of the pitch, couldn't resist trying one half way down.

After an initial burst from his two frontmen, Hansie Cronje brought on Paul Adams from the City End, alternating his three main pacemen from the other. It was, give or take a few overs from Jacques Kallis, the pattern for most of the day, and one that, until the post-tea session, threatened to get South Africa back into the game.

Never at his strongest against spin, Stewart was slowed by the unorthodox consistency of Adams's left-arm spin. By his normally fluent standards, England's captain was reduced to a crawl. Having carefully reached 49, he cautiously played out a maiden to Adams only to fall to a loose drive at the other end.

Although power tends to invest more significance in a person's actions, it was just the kind of shot the old Stewart might have been guilty of. Any claims, however, that the captaincy is affecting his batting are a tad premature.

Four balls later, Hussain followed his skipper back into the pavilion, the victim of a cruel jape by Dame Fortune. Playing calmly back to Adams, Hussain was undone by a grubber that barely bounced six inches, which even at Adam's reduced pace, is lethal. It was reminiscent of his dismissal in the third Test in Trinidad, when Carl Hooper produced something equally unplayable and Hussain must be wondering what he has done to upset those who sit in judgement in the cricketing Valhalla.

The double strike, which came with the score on 309, left England bereft of momentum. The loss, too, of Graham Thorpe, England's recent player of the year, soon after lunch, did not help matters as only 61 runs were scored in the second session. According to the Speedster, Thorpe was bowled by the quickest ball of the Test, a 87 mph swinger from Pollock that the left-hander hit across.

England's caution, though perhaps overdone, illustrated that they still do not entirely trust this potentially awkward pitch. The way in which Mark Ramprakash wore his ascetic's hat, rather than the jauntier one he had been seen in recently for Middlesex, betrayed England's desire to bat only once.

Nevertheless, it was another assured display from the Middlesex captain and he was a model of calm authority. Since his coming of age in the West Indies, Ramprakash is unafraid to play the ball on its merits. If that means sitting tight for a few overs, or walloping a half-volley for four, so be it. After all, that is what most Test cricket is about.

Once Mark Ealham, who spent 53 minutes scoring five runs, had become Adam's third victim, Ramprakash decided to accelerate. In partnership with Dominic Cork, who struck the ball sweetly, the pair added 55 in 89 minutes before Donald, returning with the third new ball, removed Ramprakash with his first delivery.

After a brief stoppage for rain, Cork followed, well caught by Pollock at third man as he slashed uppishly at Donald. In failing light, Donald proved more a handful than he had done at any stage of the innings, and Robert Croft driving loosely, became the bowlers fourth victim after he edged behind.

Edgbaston

scoreboard

Second day; South Africa won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 249 for 1)

M A Atherton c Boucher b Donald103

366 min, 279 balls, 12 fours

*A J Stewart c Cullinan b Klusener 49

187 min, 128 balls, 5 fours

N Hussain lbw b Adams 35

98 min, 82 balls, 5 fours

G P Thorpe b Pollock 10

39 min, 30 balls, 1 four

M R Ramprakash b Donald 49

194 min, 151 balls, 4 fours

M A Ealham b Adams 5

56 min, 39 balls

D G Cork c Pollock b Donald 36

128 min, 109 balls, 5 fours

R D B Croft c Boucher b Donald 19

33 min, 21 balls, 2 fours

D Gough not out 16

34 min, 15 balls, 2 fours

A R C Fraser c Cronje b Pollock 9

27 min, 21 balls, 1 four

Extras (b18,lb26,w8,nb2) 54

Total (722 min, 181 overs) 462

Fall: 1-179 (Butcher), 2-249 (Atherton), 3-309 (Stewart), 4-309 (Hussain), 5-329 (Thorpe), 6-356 (Ealham), 7-411 (Ramprakash), 8-430 (Cork), 9-437 (Croft), 10-462 (Fraser).

Bowling: Donald 35-9-95-4 (w2); Pollock 42-12-92-2 (nb2,w1); Klusener 31-7-74-1; Cronje 11-3-28-0 (w1); Adams 42-10-83-3; Kallis 20-7-46- 0 (w1).

SOUTH AFRICA: G F J Liebenberg, G Kirsten, J H Kallis, D J Cullinan, *W J Cronje, J N Rhodes, S M Pollock, M V Boucher, L Klusener, P R Adams, A A Donald.

Umpires: D R Shepherd and R Tiffin.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Imperial College London: Safety Training Administrator

£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...

University College London: Client Platform Support Officer

£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...

Guru Careers: Instructional Designer / e-Learning Designer

£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...

Recruitment Genius: Schools Education & Careers Executive

£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?