Cricket: Crawley rallies to the cause: Neale nags charges after first indifferent showing of England A tour

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Natal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .458-9 dec

England A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116 and 183-3

IT WAS almost enough to make Bob Bennett lose his appetite. With lunch just about to be served the England A tour manager had seen his team lose their seventh wicket of the morning and ninth of the innings still 204 runs short of the follow-on. While England's run may have been too good to last, did it have to end like this?

Thanks primarily to a staunch innings from John Crawley - and despite further poor second-innings batting from his team-mates - it might not, although a ninth successive win looks a distant dream.

With a day to play England, with seven wickets remaining, are 159 runs behind Natal's first-innings score. Rain, or a day's batting, is required to restore pride and confidence.

After a month of uninterrupted success this game, against a talented but inexperienced Natal side, has posed some hard questions of England. If they get out of it, it will do as much good as any number of steamroller victories. But they have to save it first.

Having mistakenly inserted Natal then, through poor catching and some ill-considered bowling, allowed them to amass more than 450, England needed to show some steel in their batting.

Instead they forced Phil Neale, the team manager, to resort to his first real 'bollocking' of the tour. While Neale, despite his football background, is unlikely to go around smashing televisions and throwing cups of tea around the dressing- room, England were made well aware of his disquiet. 'The hallmark of the tour so far has been our discipline with bat and ball, today we forgot some of the basics. They were told it was unacceptable,' he said.

It is not as if the team were undone by Malcolm Marshall's wizardry. He went wicketless, bowling only seven overs in the first innings and 21 in the second - 10 of which were spin of variable, at times indescribable, quality.

His heroes were the off-spinner Derek Crookes, who took 6 for 115 while bowling 55.2 overs in the day - a complete Benson and Hedges innings; the raw quickie Lance Klusener; and the medium- pacer Shaun Pollock - son of Peter - who shared seven more.

Neither was the wicket to blame, Darren Gough, top- scoring with 24, and Martin Bicknell, who batted undefeated for 40 minutes despite pain from his muscle tear, underlined its benign nature.

Morris was first to go, edging a cut to the wicketkeeper in the fifth over of the morning. Alan Wells, who had already been dropped, was then harshly judged leg-before but there were few other excuses.

Mal Loye was bowled off a bottom edge pulling the deceptive Klusener's third ball. Adrian Dale edged a ball he wanted to leave and Steve Rhodes edged to slip forcing off the back foot.

Despite the lunchtime lecture, the second innings brought further horrors. Morris drove a low full toss to cover, Lathwell prodded a bat- pad catch and Wells was caught inexplicably driving Crookes to mid-on.

'It was felt we did not want them to dominate as in the first innings,' Neale explained, 'and Alan feels his natural game is to hit the spinner over the top, but he got beaten in the flight and kept on when he could have blocked.'

When Loye, on two, charged Crookes, Neale was out of his seat but sank back relieved when the stumping was missed. Loye, despite being troubled by back spasms, settled to anchor a half-century from Crawley - though even he survived a very sharp slip chance early on.

(Third day of four; England A won toss)

NATAL - First Innings 458 for 9 dec (C R B Armstrong 97, D M Benkenstein 95).

ENGLAND A - First Innings

(Overnight: 43 for 2)

* H Morris c Goedeke b Crookes. . . . . . . . . . . .16

A P Wells lbw b Pollock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

M B Loye b Klusener . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

A Dale c Goedeke b Pollock. . . . . . . . . . . . . .13

S J Rhodes c Johnson b Crookes . . . . . . . . . . . .3

D Gough c Watson b Crookes. . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

M J McCague b Pollock. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

M P Bicknell not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

P M Such c Johnson b Crookes . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Extras (b4 lb3 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .116

Fall (cont): 3-49 4-49 5-64 6-67 7-97 8-104 9-105.

Bowling: Marshall 7-4-4-0; Klusener 18-6-37- 3; Pollock 18-8-33-3; Crookes 26.2-9-35-4.

ENGLAND A - Second Innings

M N Lathwell c Bruyns b Crookes . . . . . . . . .36

* H Morris c Benkenstein b Pollock. . . . . . . .25

J P Crawley not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .68

A P Wells c Watson b Crookes. . . . . . . . . . .20

M B Loye not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

Extras (b6 nb1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

Total (for 3). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183

Fall: 1-62 2-70 3-104.

Bowling: Marshall 21-6-46-0; Klusener 10-0- 32-0; Crookes 32-5-80-2; Pollock 8-3-19-1.

Umpires: W Diedricks and D Orchard.

Slater digs in, page 27

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