Cricket: Alleyne's A-grade showing

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ENGLAND A'S eight-wicket win against South Island has set them up perfectly for the Test against New Zealand A which starts on Sunday at the Lincoln University Oval, just south of Christchurch. For the first time, everything came together and the tourists produced a convincing performance.

The captain, Mark Alleyne, contributed more than anyone. Apart from winning an important toss, he played the vital stabilising innings when other batsmen were falling swiftly at the crease. His undefeated 152 was the cornerstone of the first innings of 455 for 9, and then he chipped in with priceless wickets when South Island batted.

Prepared to bowl into the teeth of the wind in the first innings, it was he who found the ball to dismiss his opposite number, Robbie Lawson, when he was anchoring the stand.

In the second innings, Alleyne again dismissed batsmen who were well set, paving the way for the run chase so thrillingly executed by Vikram Solanki. Alleyne was satisfied with the outcome, saying: "The way we finished them off was really emphatic and that was just what we needed going into the Test series. We had prepared ourselves for some hard work and we knew that it would be difficult. The wicket didn't deteriorate at all and, if anything, it got easier for batting.

"We stuck to it and kept sneaking them out every now and then. They applied themselves very much better in the second innings but we got there in the end. When two batsmen got in on that type of wicket it was hard to dislodge them and we had to stay really patient and focused and just keep hanging in there for the breakthrough.

"The bowling was consistent throughout, getting the ball in the right type of areas and supported by some catching which was very good in this game. It was an area that we looked to improve on as we thought it was one where we might be behind and I'm very impressed by the improvement."

After a day off yesterday England A are back in the nets today at Lincoln University, with another practice session set for tomorrow.