Cricket: England A Tour: McCague kept off artificial wicket: Off-spinner Such joins strike bowler on the sidelines for the opening match against an adventurous Transvaal Invitation selection

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND A have omitted two of their six full Test caps for today's South African tour opener, but neither Martin McCague nor Peter Such will be unhappy about missing out.

With the match against a Transvaal Invitation XI being played on an Astroturf wicket and with studded boots banned, it was decided not to risk McCague. Despite growing up on matting wickets as a teenager in Australia, he showed in the A-team match in the Netherlands this year that he is not comfortable bowling in such conditions.

Phil Neale, the team's coach, said he wanted McCague 'to be able to bowl flat out. He's a strike bowler and I want him ready in case he has to be called up for the West Indies.'

The off-spinner Such avoids the dubious pleasure of bowling to a square-leg boundary that is just 50 yards long and bordered by a razor-wire fence that overlooks the running sewer of the Alexandra township's Jukskei River.

Given the presence of the wire - which is to prevent local residents stealing the wicket to use as carpet, as happened in Soweto - players are not expected to perform the customary boundary-saving heroics.

John Crawley is also omitted from England's 14-man squad for a match which, while more important for the sheer fact of its taking place than the result, they are anxious not to lose.

The opposition are a mix of promising local non-white youngsters and seasoned Currie Cup players. The batsmen Mandy Yachad and Mark Rushmere and the spinner Clive Eksteen have represented South Africa since their international return. But in a bold move, the team will be led by the 18-year-old Geoffrey Toyana from the impoverished Soweto suburb of East Orlando. The focal points for the anticipated 2,000 crowd will be the fast bowler Walter Masemola and the batsman Justice Nkutha, who both grew up in the corrugated-iron roofed shanties of Alexandra.

England A: H Morris (capt), M N Lathwell, A Dale, A P Wells, M B Loye, D G Cork, S Rhodes, R D B Croft, M P Bicknell, D Gough, M C Ilott.

Transvaal Invitation XI: G Toyana (capt), B White, M Jachad, M Rushmere, Ahmed Omar, D Laing, S Jacobs, C Eksteen, J Nkutha, J Malao, W Masemola.