Cricket: Bat to basics as tour sags

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The Independent Online
THE success of England A's South African tour is in the balance after another weak batting display raised serious questions about the side's character and left them facing their second defeat.

In many respects this has been an impressive tour but, on the two occasions the batting has been put under the type of pressure it would face in a Test match, it has failed.

In Natal, chasing 458 for 9 on a blameless wicket they were dismissed for 116 before losing by an innings. Here, facing Orange Free State's far less daunting 370, they collapsed for 180. On both occasions batsmen have been dismissed playing shots ill-advised in both timing and execution.

Having conceded a first-innings lead of 190, England were saved further ignominy by Franklyn Stephenson's decison not to enforce the follow-on, his openers extending the lead to 218 by the close. The respite may only be temporary as the decision had much to do with the likelihood of the wicket becoming lower.

One factor in both games has been the omission of the tours' most impressive bowlers, Mark Ilott, Dominic Cork and Robert Croft, who have taken more than 50 wickets between them at less than 17 runs apiece. Although done on the admirable basis of sharing out the cricket, it was a risky policy against South Africa's strongest provincial side. The loss of Cork and Croft also weakens the batting which, with Darren Gough at eight, had a vulnerable appearance.

It looked even worse when he came in at 102 for 6, a series of senior batsmen having contributed to their own dismissals. Especially culpable were Mal Loye, who was stumped off an occasional off-spinner and Steve Rhodes, who was bowled trying to pull a full toss.

The day had started badly for England as, with the thermometer already climbing towards the nineties, they took more than half an hour to take the final Free State wicket, conceding 26 further runs.

It became rapidly worse when both openers were dismissed within four overs. Most pitiful was the loss of Mark Lathwell, whose miserable run continued when he was bowled off his fourth ball for nought. Having received three short balls from Franklyn Stephenson he was neither back nor forward to the next, a quicker one, which went straight through him. Since making 83 in the opening first-class innings of the tour he has made just 99 runs at an average of 12.

Equally disappointing, given his staunch batting at Verwoerdburg last week, was Hugh Morris's exit, bowled aiming a careless drive.

Three overs later it was briefly 8 for 3 as John Crawley was given out leg before off Stephenson. But, within seconds of making the decision, the umpire Willie Wilson rescinded it. 'My first reaction was that it was stone dead out,' he said. 'Then I realised he got an edge on it and changed my decision. I have never done so before.'

There were no complaints from Stephenson, who was already in the process of withdrawing his appeal.

The best chance of respectabilty came in the Alan Wells-Crawley partnership but, having added 67, Crawley was caught behind to his familiar nemesis, slashing outside the off stump.

(Second day of four;

Orange Free State won toss)

ORANGE FREE STATE - First Innings

(Overnight: 344 for 9)

B T Player not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 H Bakkes c Rhodes b Gough. . . . . . . . . . . . .7 Extras (lb6 w2 nb6). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .370

Bowling: McCague 25-4-84-4; Gough 28.5-5-77-3; Taylor 23-2-81-1; Such 23-4-73-1; Dale 13-2-49-1.

ENGLAND A - First Innings

M N Lathwell b Stephenson. . . . . . . . . . . . .0 *H Morris b Bakkes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 J P Crawley c Radley b Player. . . . . . . . . . 31 A P Wells c Venter b Stephenson. . . . . . . . . 53 M B Loye st Radley b Venter. . . . . . . . . . . 11 A Dale c Stephenson b Bakkes. . . . . . . . . . .20 S J Rhodes b Venter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 D Gough c Radley b Craven. . . . . . . . . . . . 15 J P Taylor lbw b Stephenson. . . . . . . . . . . 11 M J McCague c Liebenberg b Craven. . . . . . . . 14 P M Such not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12 Extras (b1 lb4 w1 nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180

Fall: 1-0 2-4 3-71 4-94 5-98 6-102 7-131 8-142 9-152.

Bowling: Stephenson 15-4-48-3; Bakkes 16-4-32-2; Craven 13.3-2-35-2; Player 17-5-22-1; Venter 6-0-23-2; Boje 12-5-15-0.

ORANGE FREE STATE - Second Innings

J M Arthur not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 G F J Liebenberg not out. . . . . . . . . . . . .16 Extras (b1 nb3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Total (for 0). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

To bat: P J R Steyn, L J Wilkinson, J F Venter, * F D Stephenson, C F Craven, B T Player, P J L Radley, N Boje, H Bakkes.

Bowling (to date): McCague 5-0-17-0; Gough 4-1-10-0.

Umpires: W Wilson and C Mitchley.

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