Cricket: England A enter the land of the trots: Tourists visit the Afrikaner heartland to play Orange Free State. Glenn Moore reports from Bloemfontein

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The Independent Online
LESS than a decade ago, when the only Indians allowed in Bloemfontein were those appearing with John Wayne, a South African journalist of Indian descent needed a visitor's permit to cover cricket here and could not stay overnight.

Today, in this Afrikaner heartland, England play an Orange Free State side captained by the West Indian Franklyn Stephenson. Although there is a long way to go - and Stephenson has this season been racially abused by an opponent (who was suspended for two games) - it is an indication of how much has changed in South Africa.

Much has also changed in Free State cricket. From being a poor Second Division side a decade ago, they won the domestic first-class Castle Cup for the first time last season. Off the pitch they have constructed a 16,500-capacity stadium and instituted the best youth system in the country, in which non-white players have a growing influence the younger the age group.

Though without Allan Donald and Hansie Cronje, who are in Australia, and the injured Corrie van Zyl, they are potentially England's strongest provincial opposition with their natural talent strengthened by the Afrikaner ethos of trots: a pride and passion in the community similar to the Welsh hwyl.

Eight of the side are Afrikaners, and there will also be some Yorkshire nous since the team is coached by Jackie Birkenshaw.

England pick from a full squad with Paul Taylor definitely playing and Mark Ilott, though recovered from a back-muscle spasm suffered on Wednesday, likely to rest.

Meanwhile, their record as exemplary ambassadors was spoilt in Kimberley when the tourists went unrepresented at a braai, put on by Griqualand West after Wednesday's match. While the occasion was optional, and sprung on them at late notice, their hosts were disappointed that neither management nor any players attended.

While no one wants to be trapped with a bore who knows 'just where you are going wrong', as can happen, such occasions are a part of touring, the more so in places like Kimberley where the visit of an international cricket team is a major event in a social calendar that otherwise revolves around the church or the pub.