Cricket: Morris dancers sent to Coventry: Loye lays low as England A motor on

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The Independent Online
IMAGINE Coventry with beaches, a promenade and a funfair, and you have England A's latest port of call: Port Elizabeth, the 'Detroit of South Africa.'

Like the original, it has fallen on hard times since sanctions and the recession eroded the local car industry, and the town has a run-down feel exacerbated by the unseasonal drizzle that greeted England yesterday.

Unfortunately for those players still regaining strength after the weekend stomach troubles, the cutbacks have spread to the team hotel which, when they arrived at 2pm after a foodless four-and-a-half hour journey from Johannesburg, was unable to provide sustenance for four hours.

With the hotel several miles from the town centre, the only option was a takeaway spicy chicken-and-chips - which was not what Mal Loye, seeking his first solid meal since falling ill three days ago, was after.

Loye, who with Hugh Morris and the latest victim, Steve Rhodes, are still feeling the effects of the 'mystery bug,' said his problem now was that he 'felt weak,' which suggests he may not play tomorrow, when England take on an Eastern Province Invitation XI in the township of Zwide.

Everyone else is expected to be fit for a match which, unlike the largely ignored game in the Alexandra township 10 days ago, is expected to attract more than 2,000 township residents.

While the Boer-dominated Transvaal came late to cricket, it was established early here following the influx of 4,000 British families to populate the area. This was back in the days when round-arm bowling was still unfashionable.

Throughout the years of apartheid, cricket and rugby were popular with non-whites in the area and the match has been widely publicised, even to the extent of the organisers touring the township with a megaphone.

Zwide, which is named after the patriarchial 15th century leader of Nelson Mandela's Thembu tribe, is regarded as a step up from Alexandra, though it remains an indictment of apartheid.

The opposition is the weakest England have so far faced, featuring only two players with Castle Cup experience, the fast bowler, Rowan Lyle, and the captain, Adrian Birrell, neither of whom are regulars.

There are five non-white players, including the talented all-rounder, Kenneth Mahuwa, who played three times against India last year with increasing success.

When the Indians came here last year, members of the black consciousness movement, Azapo, met them with an airport demonstration and unrealised threats of further disruption: but all was peaceful when England arrived.

(Photograph omitted)