Cricket: Cork heads the queue of understudies: Injury problems still cause concern for McCague and Bicknell

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Western Province 177

England A 74 for 2

WHEN Hugh Morris lost the toss yesterday for the third successive first-class match, the result was predictable: England found themselves fielding. Running around in the South African sun was hardly the way the tourists would have wanted to start the day following their Christmas party, but they produced a creditable performance nevertheless.

As in Johannesburg, Morris was rescued by England's bowling. While Martin McCague and Martin Bicknell were thought unlucky to be sent on this tour, Mark Ilott, Dominic Cork and Darren Gough were regarded by some as fortunate to be on it. Yet, four weeks into the tour, the Test discard, Ilott, and his two uncapped fellow seamers have responded so well that if form dictates who answers any Caribbean SOS, it must be one of them.

Yesterday they took three wickets each to take their tally to 42 at under 19 runs apiece as the Castle Cup leaders were dismissed for 177. Although Morris and Mark Lathwell were dismissed before the close, the deficit is down to 103 runs. With the pitch already showing variable bounce, gaining a three-figure lead will be imperative today.

It was Ilott who broke through yesterday, dismissing the adhesive opener Sven Koenig (26 in 28 overs) and the West Indian Carlisle Best inside six balls as lunch beckoned.

The innings ground on to 118 before Cork did everyone a favour with three wickets in seven balls. Herschelle Gibbs and Deon Jordaan were dismissed attempting attacking shots that had become rusty with disuse, so accurately had Robert Croft bowled.

Cork also dismissed his former Derbyshire team-mate, Adrian Kuiper. Strangely, for such a brutal batsman, he shouldered arms to a perfectly straight first ball. Cork said: 'I always bowled outswingers in the nets to him and I think he was expecting one of those.'

The wickets were the first of eight to fall in 21 overs for 59 runs. Gough's three included the in-form captain, Eric Simons, and Mark Lathwell underlined his development as a short leg by staying down well to take a low catch off Ilott.

There was also welcome reward for Croft. He had been preferred to Peter Such on the tour's rota system, but McCague and Bicknell were omitted to give them more time to recover from niggling muscular injuries. While McCague, who suffered a side strain training on Christmas Eve, and Bicknell, who is recovering from his rib muscle problem, could have played yesterday, all is clearly not right.

Both, because of more serious injuries during the summer, have adapted their actions. When they finally got to bowl yesterday - in the middle after the close since Newlands' rebuilding plan means there are no nets at the moment - they did so with the physiotherapist, Wayne Morton, filming their actions.

(First day of four: Western Province won toss)

WESTERN PROVINCE - First Innings

D Jordaan c Rhodes b Cork 65

S G Koenig c Loye b Ilott 26

C A Best lbw b Ilott 0

H H Gibbs b Cork 20

A P Kuiper b Cork 0

* E O Simons lbw b Gough 7

A C Dawson not out 25

R J Ryall c Lathwell b Ilott 2

M W Pringle c Loye b Gough 7

A Martyn b Croft 8

D MacHelm b Gough 0

Extras (lb5 w1 nb11) 17

Total 177

Fall: 1-63 2-65 3-118 4-118 5-124 6-146 7-152 8-159 9-176.

Bowling: Ilott 19-3-42-3; Gough 17.5-2-47-3; Cork 15-1-52-3; Dale 7-3-7-0; Croft 21-8-24-1.

ENGLAND A - First Innings

M N Lathwell lbw b Martyn 8

* H Morris c Ryall b Simons 19

J P Crawley not out 29

A P Wells not out 12

Extras (b1 lb3 nb2) 6

Total (for 2) 74

Fall: 1-9 2-37.

To bat: M B Loye, A Dale, S J Rhodes, R D B Croft, D G Cork, M C Ilott, D Gough.

Umpires: C Mitchley and R Brooks.

More cricket, page 23

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