Cricket: Springboks' strike attack still off pace

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The Independent Online
IT may never be fully explained why two experienced bowlers such as Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock wasted the conditions so hopelessly on the first day of this Test. The legacy of their performance was apparent on the second day when both were clearly lacking in confidence.

The pair bowled rather better yesterday, which would not have been hard for them, but they were still some way from their best.

Donald, it is true, was suffering from the recurrence of an ankle injury, but even so he was still slower and less penetrative than one would have expected even though he had the added spur of taking Mike Atherton's wicket with the fourth ball of the day.

Pollock was nothing like as threatening as he is at his best either and seemed, in the middle of the day, to be content to bowl a restrictive line outside the off stump. If he had been on form he would surely have fancied his chances of bowling out the batsmen, and if this was a conscious decision rather than just waywardness of line it was quite an admission.

One interesting and pertinent aspect of it all is whether the ignominy of what has happened will have a carry-over effect when the players leave Edgbaston?

It may seem stupid even to suggest that such experienced bowlers will not be able to put all this behind them. If South Africa should lose here the likelihood must be that they will pick themselves up, as the Australians did last year, when, after losing the first Test at Edgbaston, they won three of the next four to retain the Ashes.

The Aussies were clearly under-prepared but made sure everything was in working order 10 days later when the Lord's Test began.

The South Africans are a dedicated bunch of cricketers without quite the same flair. Yet this performance in the first Test may have come as a more devastating surprise to them than it did to the Australians and it will be fascinating to see if their coach, Bob Woolmer, is able to find the magic cure by next Thursday week.

Deep down the South Africans were convinced they would beat England, and yet at the first major outing the cornerstone of their game, the dedicated efficiency, has crumbled. The memories will linger and it may just be that their main attacking weapon will still be lacking in confidence when they are next asked to perform.

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