Cricket: Afzaal's zest stricken by sleek Symcox

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The Independent Online
South Africa 284-6 Nottinghamshire 262-8 South Africa win by 22 runs

THE FIRST exercise in South Africa's rehabilitation following a Test match that gave England greater cause for optimism resulted in a comfortable victory over a sub-strength version of modest county opposition at Trent Bridge yesterday, the value of which may be limited.

Games against the tourists used to have a special place in any county's calendar but this was a poorly supported affair in keeping with modern interest levels. The head count in the stands ran into hundreds rather than thousands - although there was a counter- attraction on the television - and Nottinghamshire fielded a side lacking six first-team regulars, not all of whom were injured.

The experience was enjoyable for some, however, although the former England opener, Tim Robinson, had a nasty bruise to show for his part in keeping Nottinghamshire in the hunt after their first two wickets had gone cheaply.

The 39-year-old veteran of 29 Tests took a painful blow just over the left elbow, struck by a a high full toss from Nantie Hayward, a 21-year- old who lets the ball go at a fair pace but as yet lacks something in control.

Visibly shaken, Robinson was hit again two deliveries later but then recovered his composure so well he was able to share a third-wicket partnership with Usman Afzaal that added 129 to Nottinghamshire's total in 25 overs. On 10 at the time of the incident, he reached 50 in 78 balls before failing in an attempt to clear the fielder at cover.

With no Allan Donald to worry him and Shaun Pollock employed sparingly, Afzaal made the best impression of all among a thin Nottinghamshire batting line-up, timing his strokes well and driving with some style on the way to a 109-ball 74 that included nine boundaries. Caught at long-off, he was, like Robinson, one of four victims for the off-breaks of Pat Symcox, omitted at Edgbaston.

Once the third-wicket pair had been parted, however, Nottinghamshire fell behind the pace to an extent that catching South Africa's total of 284 was never a viable proposition, even though Paul Pollard, dropped recently from the Championship side, signalled a return to form with a half-century.

Having lost Gerhardus Liebenberg in the seventh over after the county had asked them to bat, the tourists had been given a solid foundation by Adam Bacher and Jacques Kallis, who had an escape on 34 on the way to his seventh half-century in nine completed innings on the tour, hitting two of 11 sixes propelled by South African bats.

But the real impetus came from Brian McMillan and Pollock, who dealt some heavy punishment to Nottinghamshire's second-string attack in a stand of 109 in 15 overs for the fifth wicket.