Cricket: Solanki states case with cute strokeplay

England 267-8 v South Africa
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The Independent Online
THE INK was barely dry on Vikram Solanki's application to the Dropped By England After Scoring a Century Club. It was presumably being considered by the club president, Geoff Boycott, who was famously axed after scoring 246 not out against India 38 years ago.

This extreme selectorial measure is usually adopted to penalise slow, selfish scoring, as in the case both of Boycott and Ken Barrington, who was omitted against New Zealand the game after compiling an extremely tedious century through which everybody slept.

Solanki was more in the blink and you miss it category. Last December against Zimbabwe he scored 100 from 91 balls. Come the first match of the Standard Bank Series eight weeks later and he was out on his ear.

It was tempting to think that the management were punishing him for taking unfair advantage of a popgun attack. England were forced to recall him for the third match yesterday as they needed an extra batsman when Michael Vaughan accepted medical advice not to play through his virus.

Solanki offered a sizeable plate of food for thought, if not a banquet for the tour selectors when they pick the XI for the fourth match in Cape Town tomorrow. He was the top-scorer in a total of 267, with his fourth one-day half-century. His 66 was full of cute, improvised shots, clever, unexpected piercing of gaps in the field and a determination not to go completely bonkers.

It was characteristic but on this occasion forgivable that he should miscue one when he might have been looking to see the innings through. But he had helped to establish a position from which they might have expected to do somewhat better. All of England's batsmen got in, but Solanki was the only one to make a half-century. It was the kind of pitch on which batsmen had to be prepared to graft and take risks to prosper. England's risks, in almost every case, simply did not come off.

The official reason for Solanki's omission was twofold: the desire to find a place in the team for the richly talented Ian Bell, and the hunch that Geraint Jones might make a one-day opener. In the event, Jones began to give some credence to this notion.

He and Marcus Trescothick, the stand-in captain, gave the innings a dashing start for the second match in a row. Trescothick especially looked in venomous touch before he narrowly misjudged a shot to leg. Jones batted with customary zest but his dismissal, hitting back a low full toss to the bowler, was rather soft.

There were cameos from the rest of the middle order and England's top seven all reached double figures. Andrew Strauss is understandably having a leaner time of it than he did in the Test series - he must feel deflated - but made his highest score in six one-day innings.

Briefly, it looked as though Kevin Pietersen would simply continue his heroics of three days previously when he scored a century. Once more, he hit some sizzling shots with extravagant use of the bottom hand but having been dropped once he was then caught trying to pummel another leg- side shot.

Paul Collingwood was caught on the midwicket boundary using a seven-iron when a six was needed. As for Bell, he had no chance to shine. Batting at seven, he is there mostly for the experience rather than for the kind of runs it is expected he will one day bring to the team. He had just struck a rasping four when he, too, holed out.

England's total left South Africa needing to make the highest total in a day-night match at St George's Park to win. An esoteric record maybe, but still one that needed breaking.

At 1-0 down in the series and with another sell-out crowd desperate for them to come back, they had no option but to go for it in style while the white ball was still hard. Their captain, Graeme Smith, crunched a series of fours through the covers as if to belie his weakness outside off stump. Smith's face was wreathed in anxious concentration. His side needed a win, he needed runs.

It was too much to expect the home side to avoid messing with their batting order again. In Jacques Kallis they have an indubitably world class one- day No 3 and in Herschelle Gibbs they have an exciting No 4 who was an exciting opener until earlier this week. But when their first wicket fell, in came Nicky Boje. He clubbed a quick 20 before sacrificing himself, Ashley Giles taking a fine catch off the bowling of Kabir Ali.

Solanki's recall offered an extra zest to England in the field. He is electric at point and cover. He took the news of his dropping well because the team is the thing.

Earlier on this tour, Doug Insole arrived for a match and popped into see Boycott who was commentating. Insole was chairman of selectors in 1967. Boycott could not resist pointing out that he should never have been dropped.

PORT ELIZABETH SCOREBOARD

England won toss

ENGLAND

*M E Trescothick c Smith b Nel 33

41 min, 43 balls, 5 fours, 1 six

G O Jones c and b Boje 39

82 min, 46 balls, 4 fours, 1 six

V S Solanki c de Villiers b Nel 66

115 min, 87 balls, 4 fours

A J Strauss c Prince b Pollock 35

42 min, 40 balls, 3 fours

K P Pietersen c Gibbs b Nel 33

50 min, 37 balls, 2 fours

P D Collingwood c Kallis b Ntini 22

31 min, 21 balls, 1 six

I R Bell c Smith b Ntini 13

23 min, 16 balls, 1 four

A F Giles c Pollock b Ntini 3

7 min, 4 balls

Kabir Ali not out 6

9 min, 6 balls

D Gough not out 3

6 min, 3 balls

Extras (b2, lb8, w1, nb3) 14

Total (8 wkts, 207 min, 50 overs) 267

Fall: 1-49 (Trescothick), 2-99 (Jones), 3-156 (Strauss), 4-207 (Solanki), 5-225 Pietersen), 6-246 (Collingwood), 7-253 (Giles), 8-257 (Bell).

Did not bat: M J Hoggard.

Bowling: Pollock 10-0-44-1 (nb1) (6-0-26-0, 4-0-18-1); Ntini 10-0-58- 3 (nb1) (2-0-11-0, 3-0-17-0, 3-0-11-0, 2-0-19-3); Nel 10-0-49-3 (nb1) (5-0-22-1, 1-0-8-0, 1-0-5-1, 1-0-5-1, 2-0-9-0); Boje 10-0-42-1 (one spell), Kallis 7-0-45-0 (5-0-29-0, 1-0-10-0, 1-0-6-0); Kemp 1-0-10-0; Smith 2- 0-9-0 (w1) (1-0-5-0, 1-0-4-0).

Progress: Rain delayed start until 2.45pm. 50: 43 min, 63 balls. 15 overs score: 74 for 1. 100: 85 min, 120 balls. 150: 121 min, 186 balls. 200: 150 min, 230 balls. 250: 194 min, 286 balls.

Solanki 50: 91 min, 73 balls, 2 fours.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and B G Jerling (SA).

TV replay umpire: K H Hurter.

Match referee: R S Madugalle.

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