Cricket: Lathwell's relapse leaves England A to labour: Stephenson delays declaration but defeat still looks inevitable as tourists again display batting frailties

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Orange Free State . . . . . . . . . . . .370 and 262-9 dec

England A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .180 and 59-2

THE portable barbecues had been packed away and the last sausage eaten when Mark Lathwell, five balls from safety, slipped back over the edge of despair in South Africa last night. Lathwell, in wretched form for more than a month, was emerging from his torment with an innings of growing confidence as England A chased a hypothetical victory target of 453 against Orange Free State.

Then, facing left-armer Nicky Boje bowling over the wicket, Lathwell tried to kick away a ball spinning from the rough and was bowled behind his legs for 29, his fourth-highest score in 16 tour innings. Four balls later Boje ripped the day's last ball from the same rough and past nightwatchman Paul Taylor's over-ambitious drive and England were two down. Although their captain, Hugh Morris, unbeaten on 25, made the usual noises about trying to win, they are still 393 behind and must simply bat all today to salvage a draw.

It could have been even worse for Franklyn Stephenson delayed his declaration so long it appeared he had he had forgotten he was captain. England had expected a declaration shortly before tea, with Free State having a quick thrash once their lead reached 400. But there was no slog, and no declaration either until 55 minutes after the break which left England 23 overs.

It was a perplexing decision although, given another day of fierce 95-degree heat, England were so roasted they could have passed for the main course at the barbecue Stephenson hosted for them last night.

It was heart-in-mouth stuff from the opening over as Lathwell, having taken two off the first ball to avoid a 'pair', was nearly leg before to Stephenson off the fifth. Three runs later he looped a catch into the vacant third slip area when Stephenson found the shoulder of his bat and in the Barbadian's next over was hit on the helmet while hooking.

When Brad Player relieved Stephenson, he whipped him off his hips for four then drove another boundary through the covers. With Morris untroubled England passed 50 in increasing comfort - and then came that last over.

England had spent most of the day operating a policy of containment. Peter Such was given the bulk of the bowling, taking 3 for 88 off 35 overs, as England slowly worked their way through a batting line-up that went right down to the No 11, Herman Bakkes, who lifted Such for six and drove him for four.

The innings was built around a four-hour-plus century from the 25- year-old Mickey Arthur. Achieved with a boundary through the covers off Paul Taylor that also brought up the 400 lead it was the first century against England this tour. The second defeat beckons.

(Third day of four; Orange Free State won toss)

ORANGE FREE STATE - First Innings 370 (G F J Liebenberg 82, P J R Steyn 80; M J McCague 4-72).

ENGLAND A - First Innings 180 (A P Wells 53).

ORANGE FREE STATE - Second Innings

(Overnight: 28 for 0)

J M Arthur c Rhodes b Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .106

G F J Liebenberg lbw b Gough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

J F Venter c Morris b Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33

L J Wilkinson c Gough b Dale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

C F Craven c Lathwell b Gough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37

P J R Steyn c Loye b Such . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

*F D Stephenson b Such . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

B T Player run out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

] P J L Radley not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

N Boje b Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

H Bakkes not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Extras (b2 lb1 nb7). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Total (for 9 dec) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262

Fall: 1-34 2-117 3-120 4-182 5-202 6-217 7-227 8-228 9- 230

Bowling: McCague 9-0-26-0; Gough 17-2-49-2; Such 35-5-88-3; Taylor 19-2-65-2; Dale 7-0-31-1.

ENGLAND A - Second Innings

M N Lathwell b Boje. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

*H Morris not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

J P Taylor b Boje . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

Extras (lb2 nb3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

Total (for 2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59

Fall: 1-59 2-59

To bat: J P Crawley, A P Wells, M B Loye, A Dale, S J Rhodes, D Gough, M J McCague, P M Such.

Umpires: W Wilson and C Mitchley.

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