Adams spoils England Test preparation

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Reports from Kimberley

South Africa A 470-9dec England 127-4

One way of judging South Africa's subtlety quotient is to peruse a restaurant dinner menu - steak, steak, or steak - and after arriving here expecting a winter of assault and battery, it came as something of a culture shock to England's batsmen yesterday to find themselves being teased to death by an 18-year-old wrist spinner barely knee high to a stump.

Paul Adams, the son of a Cape Coloured fisherman, reeled in eight local batsmen in his previous match, and even though England's top order batting on recent overseas tours has often resembled a shoal of tiddlers, Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Graeme Hick in the space of his first four overs represented a pretty useful catch.

Adams is that rarest of species, a left-arm chinaman and googly bowler, and given that the last of his kind to play any serious part in Test cricket was the West Indian Inshan Ali two decades ago, any evidence that the line is not extinct is a reassuring one for the game's romantics.

Raymond Illingworth is, of course, an incurable romantic, and as he trained his binoculars through the press box window while the diminutive Adams had England's batsmen groping drunkenly forward, Illy turned wistfully to one side and summed it all up with one lump-in-the-throat sentence. "Ah well," he said. "That's buggered up t'batting practice good and proper."

And so, indeed, it had. Having conceded 470 runs in four and a half sessions, England were gratefully taking their own turn on one of the flattest pitches in South Africa when, at 55 for 0 from 24 overs, Adams came to make a nasty mess of England's pre-Test preparations.

His stock delivery is the googly, spinning away from the right-hander. His second ball pitched perfectly on middle stump, turned, and clipped Stewart's off bail. In his fourth over - Mark Ramprakash having previously gone playing a horrible jab at the medium pacer Jacques Kallis - Thorpe gave a bat-pad catch to silly point, and with the fourth ball of the same over, Hick was so confused by a dipping full toss that he poked it straight back to Adams.

At this point, having gone from 55 for 0 to 59 for 4, English hearts were not exactly uplifted by the sight of Robin Smith striding out to play the twiddly stuff, but while Smith could have been out any number of times - and was dropped behind off Adams after being stuck on 18 for 11 overs - he managed, without being entirely sure how, to stick it out to the close.

The only England player to face up to Adams with anything like a degree of confidence was the captain, Mike Atherton, although even Atherton was not without his hairy moments. South Africa have picked an orthodox (and by all accounts ordinary) left-arm finger spinner for the first Test in Clive Eksteen, and for that, at least, England can temporarily offer up grateful thanks.

Adams eventually finished with figures of 18-7-33-3, and will doubtless expect to improve on those today. As for Smith, he has proved - not for the first time - that guts can sometimes make up for suspect technique, and a couple more hours at the crease should be enough to keep him ahead of John Crawley in the Test match pecking order.

All this late excitement was almost too much to bear after South Africa's A side had spent the first half of the day grinding it out against England's ineffectual attack. The party of schoolchildren bussed-in in a desperate attempt to make it look as though the game was being played in front of a crowd stuck it out until lunchtime, and were probably relieved to get back to the relative excitement of a maths lesson.

(Second day of four; South Africa A won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA A - First Innings

(overnight 325-5)

N Boje c Stewart b Hick 22

S D Jack b Watkinson 44

R Telemachus not out 9

Extras (b16, lb6, w2, nb11) 35

Total (for 9, 142 overs) 470

Fall: 1-33, 2-214, 3-261, 4-290, 5-294, 6-362, 7-395, 8-418, 9-470.

Did Not Bat: P Adams.

Bowling: Malcolm 22-3-88-1; Gough 29-6-85-3; Fraser 25-3-78-1; Watkinson 42-8-137-2; Thorpe 4-1-15-0; Hick 14-3-34-2; Ramprakash 6-1-11-0.

ENGLAND - First Innings

*M A Atherton not out 19

A J Stewart b Adams 34

M R Ramprakash c Palframan b Kallis 1

G P Thorpe not out 1

G A Hick c & b Adams 0

R A Smith not out 31

Extras (b4, lb3, w4) 11

Total (for 4, 59 overs) 127

Fall: 1-55, 2-58, 3-59, 4-59.

To Bat: R C Russell, M Watkinson, D Gough, A R C Fraser, D E Malcolm.

Bowling: Jack 8-4-15-0; Telemachus 6-1-22-0; Klusener 11-1-30-0; Kallis 7-3-8-1; Adams 18-7-33-3; Boje 9-4-12-0.

Umpires: D L Orchard and R E Koertzen.

Photograph, page 26