Cricket: Graveney rates favourites `beatable'

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The Independent Online
FEW WILL doubt that England's first decisive World Cup test is facing them in the shape of South Africa at The Oval on Saturday, but David Graveney, the England manager and chairman of selectors, insisted the tournament favourites are "not unbeatable".

"South Africa have justifiably been made favourites, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that," he said. "They're a good team and so are we, and they know they can't afford to make too many mistakes against us. We beat them once in the Texaco Trophy one-day series last summer, although they gave us a hammering before the last World Cup. But they will know, like everyone else, that if you have a bad hour, or hour-and- a-half, it can make life pretty difficult for you."

Graveney added: "South Africa beat India and Zimbabwe had a good win over Kenya, but it's a bit early to say what will happen in our group. Everybody realises that you've got to reach a level of performance in each game, and our guys are desperate to do well in the World Cup."

England eclipsed the holders, Sri Lanka, in the opening match of the tournament at Lord's on Friday, but South Africa looked the part in chasing 254 to beat India by four wickets at Hove on Saturday.

"It was South Africa's quality of bowling and fielding which ensured that India could not accelerate to the degree they wanted to," Graveney said. "Also their depth of batting ensures that every player comes in and picks up the rate. When you can do that, you win more matches than you lose."

Next on England's agenda at Canterbury on Tuesday is Kenya, who beat the West Indies in the last World Cup. Nick Knight is without realistic hope of forcing his way back into the side, and England look certain to retain Nasser Hussain at the head of the order with the captain, Alec Stewart. Hussain made only 14 at Lord's but at least, with Stewart, he forged a half-century partnership.

Meanwhile, it seems unlikely that the International Cricket Council will let South Africa use their new communication system during the remainder of the World Cup, even if they do decide to appeal.