Cricket: Neale looks for positive reaction after first defeat

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The Independent Online
IN THE new South Africa signwriting is likely to take over from security fencing as the nation's boom industry and nowhere more so than the venue for England A's latest match, Glenn Moore writes from Pretoria.

Today the tourists become the first - and last - England team to visit Verwoerdburg where they play Northern Transvaal. The new town, built between here and Johannesburg since England's last visit 29 years ago, is named after Hendrik Verwoerd, the architect of grand apartheid who devised the theory and then, as Prime Minister, instituted many of its practicalities before being assassinated in 1966.

South Africa's politically correct United Cricket Board is coy about the link on its fixture cards. In a departure from the usual South African practice they refer to the venue by the name of the ground, Centurion Park, rather than the town.

The journey to the ground provides further cricketing embarrassment as it is reached via John Vorster Drive which commemorates the Prime Minister who banned the South African-born Basil D'Oliveira from touring with MCC in 1968.

This is a further indication that, after the multi-racial coastal cities of the past few weeks, England are back in Afrikaner country. Indeed, their hotel is less than a mile from the administrative heart of the government here.

One player who does feel at home is England A's captain Hugh Morris, since he spent two winters coaching and playing in the area in the mid-1980s.

He has already been catching up with old friends, and he is likely to encounter more familiar faces today as Rudi Bryson, who had an unsuccessful summer with Surrey in 1992, and Roy Pienaar, once of Kent, are in the Northern Transvaal team.

They also have two Test players in Tertius Bosch and the West Indian batsmen Clayton Lambert, but will be without South Africa's new bowling hero, Fanie de Villiers, on tour in Australia.

England's selection plans have been disrupted by an injury to the Glamorgan batsman Adrian Dale, who bruised his right thumb fielding in Durban and had difficulty batting in the nets yesterday.

England had considered changing the batting order but Phil Neale, the team coach, said: 'If Adrian is unfit any plans we may have had to move him up the order go out of the window.'

Robert Croft, who has a stomach upset, was also restricted in training and England will pick from the full squad this morning as they seek to dispel the memory of the innings defeat by Natal.

'More than at any stage of the tour we are likely to find out about the character of players from the way they react in the next few days,' Neale said.