Cricket: Taylor hopes to sparkle

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THE biggest danger England A players are likely to face in this diamond-mining town is the prospect of being buzzed from the air by a former Test batsman or falling into a hole big enough to put Lord's in with space to spare for a few gin and tonics.

It was not always the case. The last time an English cricket team came here, riot police ringed the ground and Mike Gatting naively described anti- apartheid protestors against his 'rebel' team as 'a few people singing and dancing'.

This time England A have been feted with a civic reception and guided tour of the town's premier attraction - the 'Groot Gat', or 'Big Hole'.

The largest hole in the world dug entirely by manual labour, Groot Gat is more than a mile round, 800 metres deep, and provided 14 million carats of diamonds in the five decades after their discovery in 1869.

It also attracted enough cricketing prospectors for Kimberley to be awarded the inaugural Currie (now Castle) Cup for providing the best performance against the first English team to visit South Africa 105 years ago.

With Cecil Rhodes and the Oppenheimer family sewing up the mine soon after, the area became a social and sporting backwater and England A's regional opponents today, Griqualand West, are now a minor provincial side.

But they do have John Morris, currently considering moving from Derbyshire to either Durham, Warwickshire or Surrey and better known for being David Gower's co-pilot in Australia in 1990-91.

Morris, who at 29 will still harbour dreams of a recall, has considerable incentive to do well in England's last one-day game of the tour. Even keener to turn in a gem of a performance, will be Paul Taylor, who plays his first game since joining the tour last week.

'He's not here to make up the numbers, he's a full part of the side,' the team manager, Phil Neale, said. 'If he plays well he has a chance of selection for the A Test at the end of the tour.'

Taylor definitely plays, and the rest of the side will be selected this morning. Mal Loye, who has been feeling unwell for several days, is doubtful.

If England win and avoid low-flying planes, they can celebrate at one of the town's two drive-in bars, a facility possibly unique in the country.