Cricket: Bicknell to be replaced by Taylor: England A injury problem

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Natal 458-9 dec; England A 43-2

A NEW YEAR but the same old story. England A's previously glorious South African tour reverted to type over the weekend with a player lost and, possibly, a match to follow.

Having broken down four overs into his comeback match on Saturday, Martin Bicknell yesterday accepted the inevitable and will go home on Wednesday. Coming in from the cold, will be Northamptonshire's Paul Taylor, who was frozen out of England's Indian tour a year ago for reasons more to do with his team-mates' batting deficiences than for any fault of his own.

He will join an England team who are in danger of suffering their first reverse of the tour after eight successive wins. They will resume this morning, half-way through the four-day match with Natal, at 43 for 2, still 266 runs short of the follow-on target.

Though his plans were disrupted by Bicknell's absence, Hugh Morris's decision to field first was made to look increasingly mistaken as an inexperienced Natal batting side made 458 for 9 declared. England then lost two quick wickets to the debutant Lance Klusener, another example of South Africa's seemingly endless supply of fast but wild bowlers.

Things began going wrong for England barely 10 hours into the new year when Bicknell, bowling the first ball of his fourth over, felt back pain. He gamely finished the over but by then the pain was acute.

The injury concludes a miserable five months for the Surrey seamer, who has gone from being a fixture in the England team to a regular in the treatment room.

Sent here to get fit to be on standby for the Caribbean tour, he was playing his first first-class match after suffering thigh and rib muscle injuries. The latter is almost certainly connected to the new injury.

Taylor, who leaves England tomorrow, has taken 150 first-class wickets in the last two summers. In India, having made his Test debut in Calcutta, he was omitted primarily for fear of the damage India's spinners could do in the rough created by Taylor's left-arm delivery.

His selection at 29 suggests he could yet end up in the Caribbean, where some would have sent him in the first place. The favourites to be first replacement are the in-form Mark Ilott, who has been sorely missed in this match, and Martin McCague, who bowled well without often moving from cruise to express pace.

Peter Such also emerged with credit from the weekend carnage, bowling an exhausting 60-over stint, but only Adrian Dale experienced success yesterday with 3 for 38, including the wicket of the talented teenager Dale Benkenstein. He, as openers Bruce Armstrong and Doug Watson had done on Saturday, fell just short of his maiden hundred giving a soft catch to midwicket.

It was a relief to see it taken after four more drops on Saturday - including Benkenstein on 14 - and the gulf in fielding ability was quickly shown when Neil Johnson took an excellent second slip catch, leaping to his left to take a fast edge from a John Crawley slash.

With Mark Lathwell having been bowled shouldering arms to Klusener's fourth ball in first-class cricket, that left England 17 for 2 but, aided by breaks for rain and bad light, Morris and Alan Wells shepherded England to the close.

(Second day of four; England A won toss)

NATAL - First Innings

(Overnight: 296 for 6)

D M Benkenstein c Morris b Dale. . . . . . . . . .95

U H Goedeke lbw b Dale. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

S M Pollock c Rhodes b Dale. . . . . . . . . . . . . .39

L Klusener not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20

* M D Marshall not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Extras (b9 lb9 nb7). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

Total (for 9 dec). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .458

Fall (cont): 7-364 8-418 9-429.

Bowling: McCague 30-8-77-2; Bicknell 4-2-4-0; Gough 31.5-2-134-1; Dale 34-8-95-3; Such 60-15-130-3.

ENGLAND A - First Innings

M N Lathwell b Klusener. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

* H Morris not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

J P Crawley c Johnson b Klusener. . . . . . . . .12

A P Wells not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

Extras (lb1 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

Total (for 2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .43

Fall: 1-3 2-17.

To bat: M B Loye, A Dale, S J Rhodes, M P Bicknell, D Gough, M J McCague, P M Such.

Bowling: Marshall 7-4-4-0; Klusener 8-1- 27-2; Pollock 5-3-7-0; Crookes 3-2-4-0.

Umpires: W Diedricks and D Orchard.

S Africa bemused, page 24

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