Cricket: De Villiers turns on the power

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The Independent Online
South Africa 270-8 dec and 51-1; Leicestershire 167

THE HEROICS belonged to Leicestershire and their last-wicket pair, Paul Nixon and Alamgir Sheriyar, yesterday but the kudos remains South African property, with an overall lead of 154 and a few more Test points made.

When a torrential downpour ended play before tea, Leicestershire's batsmen had a few torrid tales to tell, notably about the lethal bowling of Fanie de Villiers, with six for 67, Allan Donald and Richard Snell on by far the quickest pitch at Grace Road this season.

Not so long ago, it could have been renamed Grave Road because nothing much stirred on the topsoil. De Villiers appreciated its new properties, but Donald was even more awesome, making the ball rear and prompting David Richardson, the wicketkeeper, to take it regularly at full stretch.

On Saturday night, Ben Smith had top-edged a six over third man off Donald, an experience enough to make the tail quiver. From 74 for 4 overnight, Leicestershire subsided to 129 for 9 before Sheriyar, in his second first-class game, shared the best partnership of the innings, worth 38, with Nixon. Discretion and valour were mixed with a touch of impudence as Nixon once ran a bye to the wicketkeeper to regain the strike.

The South Africans believed that the pitch was the fastest they have encountered on this tour, which prompted a rubbing of hands and a few too many short deliveries when the odd variation of a yorker might have been more beneficial.

De Villiers produced one when tearing out Jonathan Dakin as Leicestershire battled to save a follow-on which might not have been enforced anyway. The target was 121, and was passed with three wickets intact in an innings whose anatomy was seven dismissals to catches at or close to the wicket, two bowled, and an admirable return catch by de Villiers.

When South Africa took strike a second time, with swift runs the priority, Andrew Hudson had the misfortune to be leg-before to one of the few deliveries which have kept low in the match.

Hudson was in need of runs after making six and three in the Lord's Test but, logically, South Africa will retain an unchanged team at Headingley. When play was abandoned because of a slippery square and outfield, the tourists had their sights on Tetley Bitter sponsorship money as part of the victory trappings.

They have won only one of seven games against counties, picking up pounds 2,000 for overturning Nottinghamshire last Friday. The major prize is clinching a brief three-match Test series, which allows England little recovery time.