Facing opposition which included seven players selected for the South Africa A match against their Sri Lankan counterparts later this month, England's rustiness showed as the hosts raced to a six-wicket win.
England's performance was not helped by the loss of the seamer Dean Headley with a back strain - a worrying development just days after the all-rounder Andrew Flintoff pulled up with a similar problem.
Alex Tudor was also restricted to 6.2 overs in his first game since July - but Duncan Fletcher, the England coach in his first match in charge, refused to hide behind excuses. "It was a wake-up call," he said. "The guys have just realised that every side we play out here are going to be very difficult - this was by far the strongest Nicky Oppenheimer side they have ever put out and they have signalled their intentions.
"It was a bit of a hammering, but the conditions got better as the day wore on. We hadn't played on a wicket like that so far because we've had very good batting conditions at Centurion Park and it takes a bit of time for the guys to adapt. It's the kind of day we could have done without, but there were some positives about it. Michael Vaughan batted very well and it was good to see Athers [Michael Atherton] getting some runs and some of the bowlers bowled quite well."
But for Atherton and Yorkshire's Vaughan, making his first senior England appearance, the tourists could have faced an even bigger defeat after their resolute defence and sound technique rescued them from a desperate position. Three of the top-order failed to reach double figures and Nasser Hussain, the captain, suffered the first duck of the tour.
Atherton seemed to be untroubled by his recent back problems during his innings and was eventually dismissed, having occupied the crease for over three hours, for 72 - his highest score since returning to the England side last summer.
Vaughan finished unbeaten on 59 and, with his Yorkshire team-mate Darren Gough (22no), added 55 runs for the eighth wicket before Hussain declared the England innings.
The target did not inhibit the hosts, however, and some aggressive middle- order batting exploited England's back-up bowling as they reached their target with 22 balls remaining.
M A Butcher c McKenzie b Hayward 1
M A Atherton b Kemp 72
*N Hussain c Symcox b Kemp 0
D L Maddy c Abrahams b Kemp 2
A J Stewart run out 22
C J Adams c van Jaarsveld b Abrahams 12
M P Vaughan not out 59
A J Tudor b Kemp 3
D Gough not out 22
Extras (b3 lb1 w5 nb1) 10
Total (for 7 dec, 66.3 overs) 203
Fall: 1-8 2-13 3-27 4-61 5-82 6-142 7-148.
Did not bat: D W Headley, P C R Tufnell.
Bowling: Hayward 12-3-29-1; Mpitsang 3-1-6-0; Kemp 15-4-33-4; Benkenstein 11.3-4-41-0; Abrahams 14-2-57-1; Symcox 11-1-33-0.
NICKY OPPENHEIMER XI
M van Jaarsveld c Vaughan b Hamilton 40
N D McKenzie lbw b Gough 15
A G Prince c Hussain b Hamilton 23
D M Benkenstein b Gough 41
J M Kemp not out 38
N Pothas not out 39
Extras (b2 w1 nb8) 11
Total (for 4, 37.2 overs) 207
Fall: 1-27 2-85 3-90 4-152.
Did not bat: *J Oppenheimer, P L Symcox, S Abrahams, M Hayward, P V Mpitsang.
Bowling: Gough 10-1-46-2; Headley 1.4-0-10-0; Tudor 6.2-1-28-0; Tufnell 10.2-1-61-0; Hamilton 8-1-51-2; Adams 1-0-9-0.
Umpires: K Lavery and S Wadualla.Reuse content