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Cricket: Cullinan and Gibbs leave England grounded

t FIRST TEST Hussain holds front-line bowlers in reserve for too long to allow South African batsmen to keep pressure on the embattled tourists
WHEN IT does not rain in the high veld the sun shines, though not on England, who spent a desperate day trying to limit the damage suffered on Thursday. Blue skies might be a tonic for holidaymakers but it is not much appreciated by bowlers, especially England's, and, after Daryll Cullinan had taken a brilliant century off them, most looked weary enough to spend the next few days in a darkened room.

Cullinan's innings - his ninth Test century equals the South African record held by Dudley Nourse and Gary Kirsten - coupled with a disciplined 85 from Herschelle Gibbs allowed South Africa to totally dominate the second day. By the close, with Lance Klusener, who had been dropped in the gulley by Michael Vaughan, clubbing it merrily, they were 264 runs ahead of England with four wickets in hand.

With the pitch largely sapped of the moisture that had made batting so hazardous 24 hours earlier, England's task was always going to be herculean. Changed to a light beige, the surface allowed less carry and movement, too and, once South Africa went into lunch having lost just one wicket in the morning session, the bugle call to attack was sounded.

The day's medicine will have been hard for England to swallow, particularly as Cullinan came off claiming conditions were still helping the bowlers. It was a typical remark from someone with a reputation for low-mindedness, and apparently Cullinan would not win any popularity contests at home or abroad. A season at Derbyshire in 1995 was not deemed a roaring success and he parted company barely on speaking terms with most of his team-mates.

A contrary county that has flooded the circuit with more refugees than any other club, the bad blood was probably not entirely Cullinan's fault. Mind you, the fact that his cricket bag was flooded with dregs and other fluids by some of his colleagues after an end-of-season party (not attended by him) spoke of the low regard in which he was held.

Mother Theresa he may not be, but Cullinan can bat like an angel. There is growing evidence that he is getting better and his hundred here, his first against England, was also his fourth since January. With 743 Test runs at an average of 92.8 so far this year he has another two Tests remaining before he needs to become Y2K-compliant.

Coming to the crease after Jacques Kallis was adjudged to have leg-glanced Darren Gough to the keeper, Cullinan was content to bide his time while Gibbs, recently troubled by a injury to his toe, reaped the rewards of leaving the ball well earlier in his innings.

In some ways he treated it as an extended net in the middle, which is not surprising considering this was only Gibbs' second first-class innings since the World Cup finished in June. In the end the concentration needed proved beyond him and he was within 15 runs of a third Test century when Alan Mullally bowled him with a straight ball. It was the left-armer's second wicket of three, and he later trapped Jonty Rhodes lbw for 26.

Straightness was not a quality England's bowlers particularly dealt in, at least not after the opening 90 minutes. If Gough, Andy Caddick and Mullally were perhaps unfortunate not to have more to show for their early efforts, the pressure on South Africa was relieved once Nasser Hussain resorted to his fill-in bowlers.

After a summer in which his bowlers competed favourably, this was Hussain's first real examination as a captain in the field. If he did not flunk it, he certainly made a few errors in judgement. The most obvious of these was the way he allowed Andy Flintoff, Gavin Hamilton and Michael Vaughan (all of them essentially back-up bowlers) to bowl together, rather than rotate them.

When wickets are not forthcoming you need to have one of your front-line bowlers on at all times. Hussain did not and there was a period of 110 minutes either side of lunch when neither Gough nor Caddick were called upon. He was not helped when Gough limped off in mid-afternoon to pack a sore left knee in ice. His absence allowed Hansie Cronje, who began shakily, to settle. Indeed, by the time Gough returned to the field, after tea, Cronje and Cullinan had added a hundred.

Soon after that Caddick, whose line had been too wide for a side urgently needing wickets, hustled one through Cullinan to clip leg-stump. It was a belated triumph and although Cronje followed when he chopped on for 46 the damage already done was irreversible, a position reflected by the cheery buzz of the 11,000 strong crowd.

So far this has been a match of two days, the second far more batsman- friendly than the first. That this disparity was achieved on the toss of a coin is unworthy of something that calls itself Test cricket. Statistics can be untrustworthy vehicles but they can also be revealing, none more than the over in which each side lost their fourth wicket. For England that came in the third over; for South Africa the 103rd.

When that much ground separates the sides after two days it is not a contest and only rain, or a two-day vigil by Michael Atherton, can prevent England going to Port Elizabeth 1-0 down.

Henry Blofeld, page 25


Second day; South Africa won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 122 (A A Donald 6-53, S M Pollock 4-16).

SOUTH AFRICA - First Innings

(Overnight: 64 for 1)

H H Gibbs b Mullally 85

295 min, 222 balls, 11 fours

J H Kallis c Stewart b Gough 12

107 min, 83 balls, 1 four

D J Cullinan b Caddick 108

257 min, 170 balls, 17 fours

*W J Cronje b Gough 46

160 min, 121 balls, 8 fours

J N Rhodes lbw b Mullally 26

115 min, 81 balls, 1 four

L Klusener not out 61

100 min, 73 balls, 9 fours

S M Pollock not out 0

9 min, 1 ball

Extras (b7, lb16, w2, nb10) 35

Total (for 6, 131 overs) 386

Fall: 2-79 (Kallis), 3-175 (Gibbs), 4-284 (Cullinan), 5-299 (Cronje), 6-378 (Rhodes).

To bat: M V Boucher, A A Donald, P R Adams.

Bowling: Gough 26-6-63-2 (nb7) (5-1-14-0 5-1-9-0 7-4-8-1 4-0-12-0 5-0- 20-1), Caddick 34-12-81-1 (nb2) (9-4-19-0 6-3-5-0 4-2-15-0 7-2-13-0 5- 1-22-1 3-0-7-0), Mullally 31-7-72-3 (nb1,w1) (8-2-10-1 8-2-15-0 5-2-8- 1 2-0-11-0 4-0-17-0 4-1-11-1), Flintoff 14-5-45-0 (1-1-0-0 7-3-17-0 1- 0-2-0 5-1-26-0), Hamilton 15-1-63-0 (w1) (5-0-26-0 4-1-18-0 6-0-19-0), Vaughan 11-1-39-0 (5-1-17-0 6-0-22-0).

Progress: 100: 219min, 52overs. 150: 266, 63.1. Lunch: 155-2 (Gibbs 78, Cullinan 30) 67 overs. (New ball taken after 80 overs at 196-3). 200: 330, 80.1. Tea: 249-3 (Cullinan 94, Cronje 17) 95 overs. 250: 403, 95.1. 300: 459, 107.1. 350: 517, 121.3.

Gibbs 50: 226min, 164 balls, 6 fours. Cullinan 50: 138min, 103 balls, 8 fours. 100: 229min, 159 balls, 16 fours. Klusener 50: 81min, 60 balls, 8 fours.

Umpires: D L Orchard (SA) and S Venkataraghavan (Ind).