Cricket: Lathwell makes mark again in stirring style: Somerset batsman helps England shine brilliantly in the sun as Transvaal wilt under the visitors' heat

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Transvaal 161; England A 146-3

A C SMITH is clearly the man to take over as the new England supremo. No sooner did the Test and County Cricket Board's chief executive arrive in South Africa yesterday than the A team had one of the most successful days by an English side in recent history. If only Lord Ted could have been as inspirational.

Faced with a draining day in the sun England dismissed Transvaal in 53 overs and then moved within 15 runs of them for the loss of three wickets. Not that A C could claim to have be their sole inspiration - some of the team apparently did not know who he was.

One who clearly did was Mark Lathwell who, armed with a new bat especially brought from England by Smith, cracked 77 not out to underline his return to form.

Lathwell had broken the only bat he brought with him during his 133 against Eastern Transvaal on Wednesday - an innings completed with one of Steve Rhodes' blades. That was a patchy innings but yesterday he batted beautifully with a rich array of shots off both fast and slow bowlers.

Twice Steven Jack, a wayward but very quick bowler, was lifted for six over square leg, once immediately after he had been cover driven for four. Although he was more circumspect against the Test spinner, Clive Eksteen, he remained comfortable without being spectacular.

The only flaw in Lathwell's 144- ball innings was the run out, for the second successive match, of his second-wicket partner John Crawley. The Lancastrian was again batting so serenely it increasingly looks the only way he will be out.

The pair had added 102 when Lathwell called Crawley for a sharp single to cover and the substitute, Simon Stubbs, gave a further demonstration of the high quality of much South African fielding.

Allan Wells followed, leg before to a rare straight ball from Macky Hobson which kept low, but the nightwatchman, Mark Ilott, and Lathwell played out time with ease.

First to go had been Hugh Morris, caught at short leg off Jack in the tricky 20-minute period before tea. The captain could not have expected he would be batting before tea when he lost the toss. The pitch was the colour and texture of chipboard and his attack was bereft of the leading bowlers, Martin Bicknell and Martin McCague, who are both still short of match fitness. With the thermometer rising it looked like a heavy day on the sun cream but his bowlers excelled.

Unlike the local quicks, who were as likely to hit the close fielders as the stumps, England's seamers resisted the wicket's seductive bounce. Bowling straight and full they each swung the ball to share the wickets.

The Australian, Mike Haysman, and Dean Laing, in a fifth-wicket partnership of 70, were the only pairing to pass 25 with a late-order slog by Jack and Eksteen the next best.

Adrian Dale took the key wickets of the Test batsmen, Mark Rushmere and Jimmy Cook, in a neat spell after Ilott and Darren Gough had dismissed the openers Mandy Yachad - edging a rising ball - and Brad White - leg before to an inswinger - respectively.

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