Atherton slip has England on back foot

FIFTH TEST: Early loss of captain's wicket allows South Africans to capitalise on furious finale by Adams and Richardson
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reports from Cape Town

England 153 and 17-1 South Africa 244

It took a last-wicket stand of 73, between the oldest and youngest members of this South African side, to finally take the day and possibly this fifth and final Test match, away from England.

Only a week ago, Dave Richardson had not even kept wicket to Paul Adams, let alone batted with him. Yet together they combined to produce the highest partnership of the match so far to give their side a first-innings lead of 91; a lead that looked even more decisive when they took the prize scalp of Michael Atherton just before the close.

England's knowledge, if any, about Adams' cricketing prowess before this series will almost certainly have been restricted to his bowling. But if the tourists believe they now know everything about Adams' bowling, they also know about his batting, too, and such a belated and unexpected assault from him and Richardson stunned the fielding side.

The bowlers, who no doubt had been quietly applauding themselves for having worked their team back into the game, suddenly seemed helpless as memories of the home side's last stand of 72 in Durban came flooding back.

On a pitch whose vagaries appear to have eased under another day's blazing sunshine, England, apart from the last hour, bowled about as well as could be expected. Devon Malcolm, though, seemed to lack both fire and desire, a by product perhaps of his lack of cricket in the middle. Both he and Angus Fraser have not played a first-class match since the second Test in Johannesburg a month ago, something for which the poor weather and an even poorer itinerary must be blamed.

Yet even they would not have expected the kind of treatment meted out by a teenager, whose off-the-mark shot of five - courtesy of four overthrows following a wild bit of fielding from Dominic Cork - was a run more than his previous highest first-class score of four.

With the second new ball still hard and shiny, it was a moment that seemed to inspire both Adams and Richardson into throwing the bat. Only Peter Martin of the five bowlers England threw at the pair in a desperate bid to break through managed to escape punishment, and it was Martin who eventually ended Adams' spirited 29, when Graeme Hick held a brilliant one-handed diving catch at second slip.

Until then, England had held the opposition to a lead of manageable proportions, particularly after a sluggish afternoon session that saw South Africa add just 38 for the loss of three wickets in the 25 overs bowled. In that time the odds against England winning dropped from 6-1 at lunch to 9-4 by tea as England's bowlers applied the squeeze.

It was a slow passage of play even by these teams' standards, coming as it did after a standard morning's cricket that saw 65 runs added for the loss of one wicket: that of Gary Kirsten, caught by Atherton at mid- wicket after he pulled a short ball from Mike Watkinson.

Without Kirsten to act as sheet anchor, Daryll Cullinan, who had played two delightful off-side shots off Cork to bring up his fifty, decided to take to the role himself. It was a mistake and he completely lost his way, a situation that cost him his wicket as he edged one that bounced to Jack Russell.

As catches go, it was fairly straightforward though one loaded with significance as it took Russell past Alan Knott's record of 24 catches in a series for England. That was against Australia in 1970/71 over a six-match series which, under Ray Illingworth's captaincy, England won 2-0.

Four balls later, he snaffled another as Jonty Rhodes played a loose shot away from his body. That brought in the local wonder boy, Jacques Kallis, who, taking his cue from what had gone before, remained almost entirely strokeless for his seven which took 64 balls before he played across a straight ball from Martin.

If anything, Martin bowled even better than Cork had done the previous evening, getting both swing and bounce, and he finished with 3 for 37. But despite his later indiscretion in the field, it was Cork who produced the day's most brilliant display of fielding, when he ran out Brian McMillan after a one-handed pick-up and throw from cover hit the stumps at the bowler's end.

The eighth wicket then fell to a smart catch by Robin Smith, diving to his left at short leg as Shaun Pollock aimed to heave Watkinson to leg. Allan Donald followed soon after the new ball was taken, edging Cork behind to give Russell his fourth catch of the innings and his 27th of the series, one behind the world record held by Australia's Rod Marsh, set against England in 1982/83. To have a chance of beating it, Russell will be hoping his team can provide enough runs for the bowlers to work with.

Considering Richardson, his counterpart in this series, has only taken seven catches, it would seem to suggest England are dominating the bowling. However, as we know this not to be the case, the disparity must have come about through the home side's technical deficiencies against swing bowling.

The England captain possesses the best technique on either side. However, after a trying time in the field Atherton's judgement was found wanting as he followed a wide delivery from Donald. So far he is the man who has kept England in this series. Unless a successor comes forward, these teams will be parted with South Africa taking the spoils.

Newlands scoreboard

(Second day; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings 153 (R A Smith 66, A A Donald 5-46).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings

(Overnight: 44 for 2)

G Kirsten c Atherton b Watkinson 23

(158 min, 99 balls, 3 fours)

D J Cullinan c Russell b Martin 62

(204 min, 134 balls, 7 fours)

J N Rhodes c Russell b Fraser 16

(99 min, 70 balls)

B M McMillan run out (Cork) 11

(51 min, 29 balls, 2 fours)

J H Kallis lbw b Martin 7

(98 min, 65 balls, 1 four)

D J Richardson not out 54

(154 min, 98 balls, 5 fours)

S M Pollock c Smith b Watkinson 4

(19 min, 24 balls)

A A Donald c Russell b Cork 3

(14 mins, 12 balls)

P R Adams c Hick b Martin 29

(67 mins, 38 balls, 3 fours, 1 five)

Extras (lb22, nb1) 23

Total (461 min, 101 overs) 244

Fall (cont): 3-79 (Kirsten), 4-125 (Cullinan), 5-125 (Rhodes), 6-144 (McMillan), 7-154 (Kallis), 8-163 (Pollock), 9-171 (Donald), 10-244 (Adams).

Bowling: Cork 25-6-60-3 (nb1) (8-4-11-2, 5-0-12-0, 3-0-13-0, 5-2-10-0, 4-0-14-1); Malcolm 20-6-56-0 (6-3-11-0, 4-1-14-0, 4-0-11-0, 2-1-2-0, 4-1-18-0); Martin 24-9-37-3 (3-2-2-0, 6-1-9-0, 6-3- 9-1, 4-3-2-1, 5-0-15-1); Fraser 17-10-34-1 (2-0-9-0, 3-2-8-0, 10-8-8-1, 2-0-9- 0); Watkinson 15-3-35-2 (1-0-1-0, 6-1-8-1, 6-2-12-1, 2-0-14-0).

Progress (second day): 50: 101 min, 23.3 overs. 100: 200 min, 44.2 overs. Lunch: 109-3 (Cullinan 53, Rhodes 9) 47 overs. Tea: 147-6 (Kallis 7, Richardson 2) 72 overs. 150: 332 mins, 72.1 overs . New ball: 84 overs, 166-8. 200: 416 min, 90.5 overs. Innings closed: 5.43pm.

Cullinan's 50: 157 min, 113 balls, 7 fours.

Richardson's 50: 143 min, 91 balls, 5 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

*M A Atherton c Richardson b Donald 10

(20 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

A J Stewart not out 4

(30 min, 23 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser not out 0

(9 min, 6 balls)

Extras (lb2, nb1) 3

Total (for 1, 30 min, 7 overs) 17

Fall: 1-16 (Atherton).

Bowling: Donald 4-2-9-1 (nb1); Pollock 3-1-6-0 (nb1) (one spell each).

Umpires: D L Orchard and S G Randell. TV replay umpire: K E Liebenberg.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.