Cricket: Revived McCague a foil for Croft craft: Kent fast bowler enhances his prospects of replacing his county colleague Igglesden on Caribbean tour

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England A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .566-5 dec

Eastern Province . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .192 and 304

England A win by an innings and 70 runs

AS A close friend - they shared the trauma of following Crystal Palace down to the First Division last spring and you cannot get a much better bonding experience than that - Martin McCague would not have welcomed the news of Alan Igglesden's latest misfortune on the Algarve.

Yet it cannot have escaped his notice either that if Igglesden fails to make the plane to Antigua, McCague, especially with the fitness of his England A team-mate Martin Bicknell uncertain, is a strong candidate to replace him.

So it was a relief yesterday for both him and the manager of the senior England team, Keith Fletcher, when he successfully came through his first major test since remodelling his action after breaking down in the Headingley Test last July.

McCague took only two wickets as England completed a comfortable, if prolonged, win over Eastern Province but he showed signs of regaining the pace that persuaded Fletcher and company that this Irish-Australian was really English.

He certainly convinced Eastern Province's leg-spinner Adam Huckle who, after nearly treading on the square-leg umpire in his haste to back away from McCague in the first innings, ran himself out trying to escape him in the second. Mind, given McCague's enthusiasm for engaging batsmen in one-way debate he may have just been trying to avoid a perforated eardrum.

McCague also did for Eldine Baptiste, whose dismissal, caught behind off the fourth ball of yesterday's play, effectively settled England's sixth win in six matches and occasioned a peak rating on the decibel count. 'He bowled some quick balls and showed intelligence and aggression,' his captain, Hugh Morris, said. 'I think he needed a long bowl (McCague bowled 36 overs in the match). He will be much more confident after that.' The team manager, Phil Neale, added: 'He will get quicker as the tour goes on. You want your strike bowler to be aggressive and he is certainly keen to let the batsmen know he's there.'

England still had a bit to do. Andre Botha, who had added 101 with Baptiste on Sunday, was only dislodged by the second new ball, leg before to Mark Ilott, while Tim Shaw, feasting on a diet of short balls from Dominic Cork, and Grant Morgan ensured lunch would be taken.

But, with Shaw caught off his boot driving at Peter Such, the debutant Morgan was again left unbeaten having made 86 runs without dismissal in the match.

Morris was also pleased with Robert Croft, who he said 'looked dangerous whenever he came on to bowl' and Ilott, who 'has been in good rhythm all tour'.

'They were difficult to prise out in the second innings and that was probably a good thing,' Morris added. 'Complacency could have become a concern and we needed this. It was frustrating at times but a good workout for the bowlers.'

Today England A fly to the Cape of Good Hope, which can rarely have seemed more aptly named, for the final goodwill visit - to the Langa township - on Thursday and the most testing match so far, a four-day game with Western Province in Cape Town beginning on Sunday.

ENGLAND A - First Innings 566 for 5 dec (J P Crawley 286, A P Wells 126, H Morris 79).

EASTERN PROVINCE - First Innings 192 (R D B Croft 5-41).

EASTERN PROVINCE - Second innings

(Overnight: 185 for 4)

A Botha lbw b Ilott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .74

* E Baptiste c Rhodes b McCague. . . . . . . . . . . . .58

T Shaw c Crawley b Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42

] G Morgan not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26

R Lyle lbw b Such. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7

A Huckle run out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

G Roe c Rhodes b Ilott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

Extras (b5 lb8 nb10 w2) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304

Fall: 1-34 2-36 3-36 4-84 5-186 6-228 7-274 8-282 9-304.

Bowling: McCague 27-8-74-2; Ilott 27-4-6-65-2; Cork 20-6-58-2; Croft 20-7-40-1; Such 23-5-54-2.

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