CRICKET: All-clear for Vaughan calms England's fears

Eastern Province/Border 384 England 113-2
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S SEARCH for an in-form opening batsman to partner Michael Atherton remains unfulfilled after failures by Mark Butcher and Darren Maddy. But if these two remain a cause for concern, England will be grateful that the blow to Michael Vaughan's finger was less serious than first feared after he was struck on the glove by fast bowler Garnett Kruger.

Losing Vaughan, after his composure against Allan Donald and Co, would have been a huge blow to England, whose next Test against South Africa begins on Boxing Day. Of the new caps brought in, Vaughan has most looked the part, though the half-century scored yesterday by Chris Adams showed the latter's desire not to be ignored.

According to the team physio, Dean Conway, the X-rays showed no break to Vaughan's right index finger and providing a CT scan this morning does not show any small fractures, there should be nothing to prevent him from playing in the next Test.

He is unlikely to bat again in the current match here, but that is a precautionary measure. So far in their first innings, England have scored 113 for 2 in response to the combined Eastern Province/Border side's total of 384.

With Adams and the acting captain, Alec Stewart, at the crease, there is plenty of batting to come. The first priority however, will be to reach the follow-on target of 235 with wickets in hand.

Coming in after England's pace bowlers had taken the last five wickets for 53 runs, Butcher failed to survive the first over from Makhaya Ntini and was out for a duck to the last ball before lunch.

For once it was the batsman's error, rather than one by the umpire, that accounted for the left-hander, who sliced a wide half-volley to Carl Bradfield at square gully.

Butcher's figures for this tour do not make pretty reading and in 12 first-class innings, he has made 220 runs at an average of 20. With rain washing out the last session of the day, he may not get the chance to bat again and improve them, unless England are bowled out cheaply or declare behind.

Unlike his opening partner, Maddy has not been granted many chances to shine, and the early departure of Butcher must have seemed like a heaven- sent opportunity. He began well too, punching Tyron Henderson for an off-side four to get off the mark, a shot he repeated soon after off Ntini.

Shot selection is vital for openers, whose errors tend to be exposed by the new ball. While he was there, Maddy looked as if he was choosing well. At least he did until he tried to hook Kruger's first ball, a rash shot which flew off the top-edge to fine leg, where an alert Henderson took a fine running catch.

A willowy 22-year old, Kruger is a yard quicker than Ntini and Maddy was clearly taken by surprise. His decision to hook, while in keeping with his positive attitude in recent matches, may be a decision he'll live to regret.

Indeed the error, that nanosecond of brain activity that says `yes' instead of `no,' could well have cost him a place in the next Test. On tour, getting your foot in the door can be more difficult than staying in the side. If Butcher plays in Durban and gets runs, Maddy will not get another chance this tour.

Pressure is a given condition in any professional sport, though the degrees of it vary. Adams, although not competing for a place as directly as Butcher and Maddy, still has much to prove at the highest level.

In county cricket there is an old saying: "Better to have arse than class." Adams clearly lives by this creed and it would be no exaggeration to say that he chanced his arm. His unbeaten 59, which included 11 fours, veered between ineptitude and glorious strokeplay.

A player who likes to swing his bat, Adams needs to pre-empt his big shots and at times his attempts to put Kruger off hitting a length amounted to little more than slogs to leg, some of which flew over the slip cordon.

There were some fine shots as well, mainly off the back foot past cover's left hand, but if the entertainment was high, his method suggested that he has neither the temperament or the technique to get through the difficult patches.

Hitting your way out of trouble may work in these games, but at Test level it rarely succeeds unless your name is Lance Klusener. Even then, like Ian Botham before him, Klusener is technically adept in defence as well as attack, something Adams has yet to prove.

To date, the best batsmen in the match has been the home side's captain, Piet Strydom. Resuming on his overnight score of 68, Strydom looked a certainty for a hundred when he under-edged a cut off Chris Silverwood onto his stumps for 86.

It was overdue success for Silverwood, who along with his Yorkshire team- mate Darren Gough, was the pick of England's bowlers. In fact when Gavin Hamilton nipped in with the wickets of Henderson and the wicketkeeper, Lulama Masikizana, it looked like being an exclusively White Rose morning.

Fortunately, for those who regard crowing Yorkshiremen as a fate worse than a free holiday in East London, Alex Tudor intervened by taking the last wicket with his first ball of the day. If that was well timed, what followed for Butcher and Maddy was most certainly not.

Second day of four; Combined Eastern Province & Border XI won toss

COMBINED EASTERN PROVINCE/BORDER XI - First Innings

(Overnight: 331 for 5)

*P C Strydom b Silverwood 86

R Peterson c Adams b Gough 42

T Henderson c Read b Hamilton 8

L Masikazana c Adams b Hamilton 6

G Kruger not out 6

M Ntini c Read b Tudor 4

Extras (b4, lb13, w4, nb17) 38

Total (111.1 overs) 384

Fall: 1-29, 2-123, 3-161, 4-241, 5-253, 6-333, 7-351, 8-372, 9-372.

Bowling: Gough 24-7-72-2; Silverwood 29-10-65-1; Tudor 15.1-1-72-3; Hamilton 21-1-61-3; Swann 17-3-79-1; Adams 2-0-8-0; Maddy 3-0-10-0.

ENGLAND - First Innings

M A Butcher c Bradfield b Ntini 0

D L Maddy c Henderson b Kruger 14

C J Adams not out 59

M P Vaughan retd hurt 7

*A J Stewart not out 16

Extras (b11, lb1, nb5) 17

Total (for 2, 28 overs) 113

Fall: 1-2, 2-43.

To bat: G M Hamilton, G P Swann, C M W Read, A J Tudor, D Gough, C E W Silverwood.

Bowling: Ntini 9-1-36-1; Henderson 7-1-19-0; Kruger 6-1-35-1; White 4- 3-1-0; Peterson 2-0-10-0.

Umpires: I Howell and C Schooff.

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