Cricket: England's stress rehearsal

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The Independent Online
A SERIES of rash shots meant England wasted any chance of gaining what is obviously much-needed batting practice on the opening day of their tour match against South Australia here yesterday. A flurry of misjudgements meant they fell to 22 for 4 on their way to a paltry total of 187 at the batsman-friendly Adelaide Oval.

Strengthened by the return of the captain, Alec Stewart, Michael Atherton and Mark Butcher from injury and with a maximum of four innings remaining before the First Test in Brisbane on 20 November, four of their leading batsmen wasted their opportunity to impress in ideal conditions.

Electing to bat, England were dismissed for a sub-standard total, which was looking even more so by the close as South Australia comfortably progressed to 26 without loss from 11 overs.

"It was a pretty poor effort really, not a good enough day for us with the bat," admitted David Lloyd, the England coach, without bothering to hide his disappointment. "You would like to think that your top-line batters would get a start - we have played a number of indifferent shots, and it was not good enough.

"The shot selection from everybody really has got to be better. We need to play much better than that, we can play much better than that and we will play much better than that," he said.

But for a determined 73-run partnership between Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash, the only two of England's likely top-order batsmen for the First Test to reach double figures, followed by a gutsy half-century from Dominic Cork, the tourists may have struggled to reach even 150.

Despite lost Butcher, who edged behind in the sixth over of the morning, they had negotiated the first 15 overs without too many alarms only to lose Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Atherton in a spell of 22 balls to leave them struggling on 22 for four.

Atherton is the only member of that trio who could claim that luck transpired against him after being brilliantly caught at short leg by Martin Faull turning Jason Gillespie off his legs from the middle of the bat. But neither Stewart or Thorpe had any excuses when both were caught at slip and gully by Nathan Adcock after driving wildly at deliveries outside the off stump.

Hussain, the in-form batsman in the England party following his century against Western Australia in Perth, stood up to the responsibility of shielding England's long tail superbly and with Ramprakash providing solid support, cautiously guided the tourists away from their disastrous start.

They punished the novice spin pair Andrew Crook and Ewan Arnold, both making their first class debuts, until more lapses in concentration also caused their downfalls and ended any hope of England reaching anything like a respectable total.

Ramprakash misread the turn exerted by leg-spinner Arnold and edged to slip while Hussain, attempting to guide Crook down to fine leg, instead gave a simple catch behind to the wicketkeeper, Tim Nielsen.

Instead of the expected capitulation, however, Cork made his first half century for England since scoring 59 against New Zealand in Auckland nearly two years ago while Alex Tudor compiled an enterprising 33 to guide England past 150.

Lloyd stressed: "We are always after Corky to score runs and the longer he can spend either accumulating or attacking at the crease the better. Young Alex Tudor also batted well, did all the right things and played with a straight bat. He let it go to his head at the end by chasing a wide one, but that's a good start for a lad who came here as number 17 in the squad."

But it failed to overshadow England's shortcomings and Lloyd added: "We are disappointed because that is not a 187-all-out pitch. You could do without days like that but when they happen the only way to handle it is to roll your sleeves up and put the work in.

"There were no great terrors in that pitch apart from a bit of early movement and if they had the chance to get in they should have booked in for a long time. We have not covered ourselves in glory."


First day; England won toss

England - First Innings

M A Butcher c Nielsen b Harrity 2

M A Atherton c Faull b Gillespie 4

N Hussain c Nielsen b Cook 57

*A J Stewart c Adcock b Harrity 0

G P Thorpe c Adcock b Johnson 3

M R Ramprakash c Blewett b Arnold 31

D G Cork lbw b Blewett 51

A J Tudor c Adcock b Johnson 33

D W Headley lbw b Blewett 2

A R C Fraser c Arnold b Harrity 2

P M Such not out 0

Extras (w1 nb1) 2

Total (81.3 overs) 187

Fall: 1-3 2-17 3-19 4-22 5-95 6-97 7-156 8-177 9-185

Bowling: Gillespie 15-6-24-1, Harrity 15.3-7-27-3, Johnson 13-6-20-2, Cook 20-3-74-1, Arnold 15-3-37-1, Blewett 3-1-5-2

South Australia - First Innings

*G S Blewett not out 10

M P Faull not out 15

Extras (lb1) 1

Total (for 0, 11 overs) 26

To Bat: M A Harrity, B A Johnson, A R Cook, E M C Arnold, J M Vaughan, J N Gillespie, C J Davies, N T Adcock, T J Nielsen.

Bowling: Cork 6-2-12-0, Tudor 5-0-13-0

Umpires: P G Parker and S J Davies