Crawley crawls to landmark

England in South Africa: Weather limits chances for tourists' bowlers to prove worth
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S cricketers at least got on the field yesterday, which is something, but their contribution to a very long day was scarcely exhilarating. Because of the recent rain and England's consequent lack of activity in the middle, play was extended by half an hour at each end, beginning at 9.30 and continuing until six o'clock (five overs actually remained when bad light called a halt).

John Crawley completed his first century for England, Jack Russell made a typically frisky 64 and the quicker bowlers had a bit of a work-out. Frankly, though, not a great deal else happened as seven and a half hours cricket yielded 286 runs.

The weather interference was becoming a serious concern. England's four seam bowlers entered this match with one first-class wicket between them on tour and Dominic Cork, Darren Gough and Peter Martin had not bowled at all.

They made steady inroads into Border's batting and England will be in a position to enforce the follow-on if they capture the final four wickets for less than 38 this morning. However, the need for batting practice - especially for Robin Smith - is such that England might well bat again.

Cork collected three wickets, started finding his range with his outswinger and also scored 43 runs - a reassuring indication that England's star of last summer is getting into his stride.

Mark Ilott, though, was the pick of the bowlers on display.He had several vehement leg before appeals turned down, but was successful against Peter Kirsten, the veteran right-hander who played comfortably the most stylish innings of the day.

Crawley spent more than 11 hours while making 85 and 108 and his determination not to succumb to foolish mistakes reached painstaking proportions as he closed in on his hundred. Crawley nudged just eight singles in the first hour before finally straight driving Makhaya Ntini to the boundary. Ntini, though, was the pick of the Border bowlers on his first-class debut and showed sufficient pace and guile to suggest he has a future at this level.

Russell is batting well enough for Raymond Illingworth, the team manager, to consider batting him at No 6 in the first Test. He will do so if England field a balanced attack of either four seamers and one spinner, or three and two. Russell later held a fine catch diving in front of first slip but then, surprisingly, dropped his second chance of the tour.

Illingworth said yesterday he wants to play the Test team in the next match against South Africa A in Kimberley. The grey areas, so to speak, are Smith and Devon Malcolm. Both will be in the side for this game, the last before the first Test, but with the clear proviso they must perform to be certain of selection at Centurion Park on 16 November.

The pair have had their problems over here. Smith's first-class scores are 4, 0 and 0, while Malcolm has been troubled by the knee injury which required surgery in September as well as the management's irritation at his apparent inability to heed their advice.

Illingworth explained: "Robin has got to play at Kimberley, but if he doesn't get runs there . . . Robin was certainly pencilled into our Test XI when we left home, but we must be fair to the other batsmen. If they are scoring runs and Robin is not, then you have to be consistent. Robin has just got to try to keep up his confidence.

"He shouldn't be apprehensive about the cheekbone he broke last summer, because so far we have faced only medium-pacers on slow pitches. Our guys have been bowling short stuff at him in the nets and he doesn't seem concerned. I think he has a few technical problems, but he can't change at 32."

Curious that, because Illingworth and Peter Lever did not think 32 was too old to try to change Malcolm. The fast bowler had some fluid drained off his puffy right knee on Thursday evening, one of the reasons why he has yet to reach full throttle or even his full run. Illingworth perhaps now realises his lack of fitness has contributed considerably to his problems early in the tour.

"Devon will play at Kimberley and he needs a hard bowl," Illingworth said. "He must show us he can bowl quickly and he must have confidence in his knee."

l England A bring back Nick Knight for the first four-day game of their tour to Pakistan when they play a Combined XI in Karachi today. He comes in for Lancashire's Jason Gallian.

ENGLAND A (v Pakistan Combined XI, Karachi, today): *N Hussain, N V Knight, A McGrath, D P Ostler, J C Pooley, R C Irani, K J Piper, I D K Salisbury, S D Udal, E S H Giddins, A M Smith.


(Third day of four; no play on Friday)

(England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Thursday: 218 for 4)

J P Crawley lbw b Fourie 108

R C Russell c Palframan b Howell 64

D G Cork c & b Howell 43

D Gough c Emslie b Ntini 7

P J Martin c Botha b Howell 5

R K Illingworth b Fourie 3

M C Ilott not out 1

Extras (b1, lb6, w2, nb12) 21

Total (133.1 overs) 351

Fall (cont): 5-280, 6-306, 7-315, 8-330, 9-347.

Bowling: Fourie 30-7-75-4; Ntini 32-5-84-2; Botha 14-1-42-0; Emslie 11- 2-39-0; Howell 29.1-9-58-3; Cronje 13-2-31-1; Pope 3-0-15-0; Strydom 1- 1-0-0.

BORDER - First Innings

P J Botha c Russell b Cork 1

F J C Cronje c Cork b Gough 24

*P N Kirsten lbw b Ilott 53

D J Cullinan not out 15

P C Strydom run out 10

S J Palframan b Cork 21

S C Pope c Illingworth b Cork 1

I L Howell not out 5

Extras (b8, lb6, w1, nb8) 23

Total (for 6, 48.3 overs) 153

Fall: 1-8, 2-81, 3-90, 4-111, 5-141.

To bat: B C Fourie, P A N Emslie, M Ntini.

Bowling: Ilott 14-4-34-1; Cork 11.3-2-36-3; Gough 7-0-29-1; Martin 7- 2-23-0; Illingworth 9-4-17-0.

Umpires: D Orchard and R Noble.