Ray Illingworth has singled out the "distractions" of Cape Town as one of the reasons for England's slump in fortunes. The chairman of selectors believes the arrival of wives, girlfriends and children significantly altered the focus of the England squad.
Since arriving in Cape Town on New Year's Eve, Mike Atherton's side have lost the final Test and with it the series, and two one-day matches under the lights of Newlands. Illingworth reacted to Tuesday's six-run defeat in the first one-day international against South Africa by again raising the sensitive issue of the presence of family and friends on tour.
"There have been a lot of distractions in Cape Town," Illingworth said. "For the first three Tests of the series people were very committed and everyone had their thoughts channelled. I don't care what anyone says, it is difficult when family and friends are around. But now we must get back our discipline and our focus."
Atherton, the captain, said that his side's lower middle order had "bottled it" after a slide from 155 for 3 to 205 all out. Illingworth echoed Atherton's comments and hinted that some team changes would be made for today's game in Bloemfontein, also a day-night affair. "Our tail is not getting many runs against their bowlers and against Allan Donald in particular. He's only conceding two an over later on and we know the South Africans are going to continue using him during the latter part of our innings."
Illingworth may use Jack Russell down the order and said that Dermot Reeve would also be capable of the role, but he was short of match practice. Illingworth also hinted that Robin Smith might get a recall, possibly in an opening role alongside Atherton - with Alec Stewart rested to allow Russell to take over the gloves.
n Australia A completed an emphatic six-wicket win over West Indies in Sydney yesterday, reaching 243 for 5 from 50 overs. West Indies' problems were compounded by an injury to Richie Richardson, who aggravated a hamstring problem and is now doubtful for the World Series Cup match against Sri Lanka on Sunday.