Cricket: ...but young Ben has feathers ruffled by chicken farmer

Graeme Wright at Hove sees England's `Golden Boy' given a hard time in front of selectors during the under-19 international
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The Independent Online
There must be something about chicken farming in Zimbabwe. Eddo Brandes, the most famous of the breed, sent England tumbling into ignominy last winter with his one-day hat-trick at Harare. Yesterday it was the turn of young Colin Delport, an aspiring poultry farmer, to flutter English feathers when he whacked 19 runs, including two sixes, off the vaunted Ben Hollioake in the closing stages of Zimbabwe's innings in the first of the two NatWest under-19 one-day internationals.

Watching England's prospective "Golden Boy" being tonked about the park by a Lomagundi College schoolboy was not what the three Gs - Graveney, Gatting and Gooch - had come to Hove to see. More to the point, perhaps, with the England coach, David Lloyd, here also, it cannot have been consoling for them to witness England's undisciplined bowling at the start of the Zimbabwean innings, or the way England relaxed later when the pressure should have been maintained. They should really have bowled out Zimbabwe inside 50 overs.

These under-19 games are said to be part of the learning curve on the road towards a Test place. True, England's educational standards are under attack, but gifting the Zimbabweans 11 extras in the first two overs, 22 in the first six and 45 overall does not speak highly of England's teaching methods. Surrey's Alex Tudor, regarded as a future England fast bowler, and the Yorkshire left-armer, Ryan Sidebottom, were the culprits with seven no balls and 11 wides between them. It hardly mattered that the Zimbabwean batsmen looked so out of their depth that they often struggled to lay bat on ball.

Fortunately for England's peace of mind, Hollioake and Nottinghamshire's Paul Franks bowled with much greater control. Keeping a good tight line, gaining lift and leaving the bat down the Hove slope, Hollioake sent back Jannie Oosthuizen and then Douglas Marillier in his first seven-over spell. Both fell to catches by the young Gloucestershire wicketkeeper, Chris Read, who made a fine impression with five dismissals in the seven Zimbabwe wickets to fall.

Assuming Zimbabwe's bowling was of a similar standard to their batting, a target of 193 was unlikely to trouble Young England. The way David Sales set about the task proved the point. The youngest to score a double hundred in a Championship match, on his debut for Northamptonshire last year, Sales ruthlessly outpaced the England A batsman, Owais Shah, in an opening stand of 132 in 18 overs.

When he was out to a good running catch by Andre Hoffman at deep midwicket, he had struck 12 fours and left an imprint on the selectors with a six on to the Sussex committee room balcony. His 74 took just 57 balls.

Now Shah came into his own, reaching his 50 off 75 balls, and with Hollioake stroking an untroubled 33 from 28 balls England cantered to victory by nine wickets with 22.3 overs to spare. If nothing else, it made some amends for England's embarrassments in the winter. Whether it answers any questions about England's future is a quite different matter.