England A 116 and 285
Natal win by an innings and 57 runs
JUDGING by the way Martin Bicknell batted, England A could have saved this match if they had wrapped their batsmen in prickly corsets.
With his torn rib muscle inflicting pain with every movement Bicknell batted strictly on a need- to-play basis. Having been unbeaten for 40 minutes in Monday's first innings, he spent a further 88 agonising minutes at the crease yesterday blocking or driving anything straight and leaving the rest.
His team-mates, also allegedly intent on preserving England's hitherto impressive run, suffered no such handicap and, being able to bat with abandon, did so to be dismissed an hour after lunch and lose by an innings and 57 runs.
It was a terrible result and a performance to match. Natal were without six experienced players and a seventh, Malcolm Marshall, restricted his impact to that of an inspiring leader. He failed to take a wicket for the first time against an England side but avenged the 1991 Oval defeat that marred his final Test appearance.
After the abject batting of Monday better things were expected of England yesterday but, resuming at 183 for 3 on a docile pitch, they lost their last seven wickets for 81 runs.
Only Bicknell and Mal Loye, who made an increasingly solid 68 without ever looking as if he would bat all day, emerged with any credit though Adrian Dale perhaps got the innings' only badly behaved delivery.
'Natal outplayed us in every department but we did not help ourselves with some of the shots we played,' Hugh Morris admitted. The captain added: 'They bowled with discipline but we gave our wickets away. It was very disappointing. Things were going very well but it is a learning tour. We have to cope with the defeat and bounce back straight away.'
Under the first team's regime the rest of the day would have been spent in the nets with more today but, under England's new order, there is no more practice until tomorrow. 'I am no fan of 'naughty-boy nets,' ' Phil Neale, the team manager, said. 'They will practice better after a rest. I don't go shouting and screaming either but I have talked individually to them. It is a matter of finding out what was in their minds when they played those shots. We did not have the approach to batting for long periods of time that we have done in the other matches when we batted first.'
The match underlined just how much the team relies on John Crawley, whose seventh-over departure yesterday effectively sealed the match in most minds. Crawley, who was picked out as 'a very good player' by Marshall, was caught at slip cutting loosely to give Dale Benkenstein what is likely to become a very prestigious maiden first-class wicket.
Another inexperienced bowler, Lance Klusener, a 22-year-old farmer who is taking up cricket after finishing national service, then caught and bowled Dale off a ball that popped and dismissed Steve Rhodes, who was chasing a wide one.
Loye's four and a half hour vigil was ended when he gloved an attempted sweep to the wicketkeeper and Bicknell's broad bat was eventually beaten when off-spinner Crookes came round the wicket. Crookes, 24, finished with eight in the match, debutant Klusener, who grabbed the rabbits Martin McCague and Peter Such in successive overs, seven.
With four internationals on tour in Australia, Peter Rawson rested and Clive Rice recovering from a broken arm, it would appear Natal are heading back to the glory days of the Seventies when Barry Richards, Mike Procter and Vince van der Bijl stalked Kingsmead. 'In two years they will be the best team in South Africa,' Marshall said. England's senior side tour then and any graduates from this A tour can expect to meet the likes of Benkenstein in the Test series.
England, who left Durban last night, now play the weaker Northern Transvaal at Verwoerdburg on Friday. Having been mauled by a Peter Kirsten double-hundred this week, they too have something to prove.
'I want to see how they react,' Neale said. 'Losing sometimes makes you appreciate winning more.'
NATAL - First Innings 458 for 9 dec (C R B Armstrong 97, D M Benkenstein 95).
ENGLAND A - First Innings 116 (D N Crookes 4-35)
ENGLAND A - Second Innings
(Overnight: 183 for 3)
J P Crawley c Watson b Benkenstein81
M B Loye c Goedeke b Crookes68
A Dale c and b Klusener2
S J Rhodes c Goedeke b Klusener13
M P Bicknell b Crookes22
D Gough not out2
M J McCague c Goedeke b Klusener0
P M Such c Wright b Klusener2
Extras (b6 lb6 nb2)14
Fall: 1-62 2-70 3-104 4-204 5-218 6-242 7-275
Bowling: Marshall 28-9-53-0; Klusener 21.5-2-61-4; Crookes 46-10-103-4; Pollock 15-4-37-1; Benkenstein 10-3-19-1.
Umpires: W Diedricks and D Orchard.