Cricket: Such puts SA in a squeeze: England defend well

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South Africa A . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173-4

England A

WHEN Hugh Morris lost the toss for the sixth time in eight matches yesterday he half expected to see a noose hanging from the players' balcony. But to his relief, instead of stringing him up his England A bowlers spent the first day of the A Test strangling the South African batting.

On a true if slow pitch, South Africa A averaged less than two runs an over and made just 43 in the final two-hour session. The off-spinner Peter Such was at the heart of a masterly defensive performance, delivering 24 overs for 25 runs. All but one were bowled in an unchanged spell which changed the shape of a game that seemed pre-ordained from the moment Morris lost the toss, and Jimmy Cook elected to bat.

Both Ilott, straining for pace in the absence of Martin McCague, and Darren Gough were wayward with the new ball and Mickey Arthur and Karl Liebenberg were able to reach 50 in the 18th over with ease. By then Robert Croft's spin was already in evidence but it was Adrian Dale's gentle seamers that were more telling, his nine overs for 18 slowing the charge and nearly dismissing Liebenberg off a false shot that fell just short of point.

Liebenberg, 21 and in line to earn a place on the summer tour of England, was so becalmed by Such that he even pushed back the rare half-volleys while a sweep was edged on to the wicketkeeper's pads. Yet it was Arthur, a centurion against England 10 days earlier, who went first, bowled middle stump missing a sweep.

With runs precious, the running had been increasingly of the 'Wait, no, oh Christ' variety. Two months ago that would have been perfectly safe against this team, but Dale and Mal Loye both went close before Ilott ran out Rudolf Steyn with a direct hit from mid-on.

Cook was nearly leg before first ball to Gough but the Yorkshire seamer's impressive second spell was rewarded next over as Liebenberg, pulling, paid for his captain's fortune. Not that Cook prospered: after two fine back-foot drives, he edged Ilott for Morris to take a good low catch. Had Adrian Kuiper's sharp bat-pad chance to silly point been held by Alan Wells in the last over England would have been estatic.

As it was they remain very pleased. The South Africans, having been 134 for 1 at tea, have to attack today if they are to make their runs quickly enough to pressurise England.

(First day of five; South Africa A won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA A - First Innings

J M Arthur b Such . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 G F J Liebenberg lbw b Gough . . . . . . . . . . . . .79 P J R Steyn run out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 * S J Cook c Morris b Ilott . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 A P Kuiper not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 E O Simons not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Extras (lb2 nb5) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Total (for 4) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .173

Fall: 1-87 2-144 3-145 4-165.

To bat: D N Crookes, S J Palframan, C E Eksteen, M W Pringle, A Martyn.

Bowling: Ilott 18-7-37-1; Gough 13-5-28-1; Croft 25-6-61-0; Dale 11-1-20-0; Such 24-14-25-1.

ENGLAND A: M N Lathwell, * H Morris, J P Crawley, A P Wells, M B Loye, A Dale, S J Rhodes, R D B Croft, D Gough, M C Ilott, P M Such.

Umpires: C Mitchley and B Lambson.

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