Cricket / Texaco Trophy: Rhodes busy as England coast home: Thorpe thrives as South Africa are thwarted in Texaco Trophy

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South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181-9

England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .182-6

England win by four wickets

TWO one-day matches are rarely much of an event, and so it was with England's Texaco Trophy- clinching victory at Old Trafford. Most of Saturday's crowd opted to stay at home and mow the lawn, or potter off to a car boot sale, and BBC Radio, who were not about to risk an Athertonian-scale inquest on schedule tampering, only rejoined the action after The Archers Sunday omnibus edition.

In the event, the goings-on at Ambridge must have seemed pretty racy next to the rained-over denouement in Manchester, where England - grateful for the opportunity to regroup from an uncomfortable overnight position of 80 for 4 half-way through their overs - knocked off the 102 still needed for the loss of only two more wickets with 40 balls to spare.

These two contests have provided minimal entertainment, not least because South Africa have looked a tired and deflated side since losing the final Test at The Oval. Sympathy, however, is scarcely in order, as they are now off to play a few more one-day matches in Scarborough and the Netherlands. By the time Kepler Wessels' clapped-out tourists drag themselves across the Channel, potential punters should consider saving their guilders for the clog- dancing.

The only real danger to England yesterday lay in losing a couple more wickets early on, but by the time Graham Thorpe clipped a catch to short mid-on the game was up for South Africa, and a half-century from Steven Rhodes that was as breezy as the flag-stiffening north-easterly ensured a finish well inside the distance.

There have been a number of pluses for England this summer, not least the arrival of Rhodes (a couple of years later than might have been the case) as a Test-class wicketkeeper-batsman. Rhodes also has a highly combative nature, which might sail a touch close to the referee's notebook on occasions, but will none the less be a pretty big asset in Australia.

Generally speaking, however, the Texaco Trophy has done Test cricket in this country no end of good. After the satisfying burp at The Oval, this competition has been the equivalent of dishing up a plate of porridge after the brandy and cigars, and the formula is so stereotyped that the 'House Full' notices remain a constant source of amazement.

Above all, one-day cricket is dependent on a batsman-friendly surface, and at neither venue did the pitch meet the basic requirements. This was more of a surprise here than at Edgbaston, and was presumably instrumental in England omitting Devon Malcolm for bowlers better versed in what passes for a virtue in this type of combat, a nagging line and length.

It would, however, be unfair to damn Phillip DeFreitas with faint praise, given that he can apply the water cannon as well as the dripping tap when necessary. DeFreitas has been England's best bowler all summer, and despite his claims that he did not leave Lancashire with any residual ill-feeling, his high-class performance on Saturday (1 for 12 from 11 overs) would have been all the more satisfying for being at Old Trafford.

DeFreitas is certain to return to Australia this winter, eight years after his first Ashes tour prompted premature and ill-conceived predictions of a Bothamesque England career, and as DeFreitas is not a good enough batsman to be considered a Test all-rounder, there has been talk of the selectors employing these two matches as a kind of shoot-out involving Dominic Cork and Chris Lewis.

If this is indeed the case, with heavy emphasis on the if, then it is a total nonsense. It is not a vastly different concept to looking for a Michelin star chef inside a chip shop, and the selectors know all they need to know about these two already. They are both highly talented, and if there is any choice at all, it is between Cork's wonky knees and Lewis' dodgy temperament.

With either of these two adjectives applying equally well to a patchy, two-paced pitch, South Africa's innings on Saturday was as tedious a three and a half hours as has been seen anywhere all summer, and but for Daryll Cullinan's half-century, the game would have been over long before it rained. England's pawky top-order batting threatened to make it interesting, but in the end, Thorpe and Rhodes made sure it wasn't.

OLD TRAFFORD SCOREBOARD

(England won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA

G Kirsten c Lewis b Cork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 (93 min, 78 balls, 3 fours) * K C Wessels lbw b DeFreitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21 (54 min, 39 balls, 3 fours) W J Cronje run out (Cork) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (14 min, 12 balls) J N Rhodes lbw b Cork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (2 min, 1 ball) D J Cullinan run out (Fairbrother) . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 (120 min, 90 balls, 4 fours) B M McMillan st Rhodes b Udal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (9 min, 7 balls) D J Richardson c Lewis b Gough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 (51 min, 55 balls) T G Shaw b Gough . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 (6 mins, 7 balls, 1 four) C R Matthews b Cork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 (28 min, 29 balls, 2 fours, 1 five) P S de Villiers not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 (12 min, 9 balls, 1 six) A A Donald not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 (10 min, 7 balls) Extras (lb6 w4 nb4) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Total (for 9, 205 min, 55 overs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181

Fall: 1-43 (Wessels), 2-47 (Cronje), 3-47 (Rhodes), 4-64 (G Kirsten), 5-68 (McMillan), 6-113 (Richardson), 7-121 (Shaw), 8-163 (Matthews), 9-163 (Cullinan).

Bowling: DeFreitas 11-4-12-1 (nb1 w1) (9-2-12-1, 2-2-0- 0); Gough 10-1-39-2 (nb1) (4-1-14-0, 6-0-25-2); Lewis 9-0-44-0 (w1) (3-0-17-0, 3-0-14-0, 3-0-13-0); Udal 11-2- 17-1 (nb1 w1) (one spell); Cork 11-1-49-3 (nb1) (7-1-17-2, 1-0-2-0, 3-0-30-1); Hick 3-0-14-0 (w1) (one spell).

Cullinan's 50: 107 min, 84 balls, 4 fours.

ENGLAND

* M A Atherton c Wessels b Matthews . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 (68 min, 50 balls, 2 fours) A J Stewart c Cullinan b Donald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 (30 min, 18 balls, 2 fours) G A Hick lbw b Donald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (2 min, 1 ball) G P Thorpe c Cullinan b Shaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 (132 min, 116 balls, 6 fours) N H Fairbrother run out (Rhodes-Richardson) . . . . . . . . . 3 (19 min, 10 balls) S J Rhodes run out (Cullinan) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .56 (114 min, 75 balls, 7 fours) C C Lewis not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17 (42 min, 30 balls, 1 four) P A J DeFreitas not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 (3 min, 2 balls, 1 four) Extras (w4 nb10) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Total (for 6, 209 min, 48.2 overs) . . . . . . . . . . . . .182

Fall: 1-27 (Stewart), 2-28 (Hick), 3-42 (Atherton), 4-60 (Fairbrother), 5-130 (Thorpe), 6-171 (Rhodes).

Did not bat: D G Cork, D Gough, S D Udal.

Bowling: Donald 10.2-1-47-2 (nb6 w3) (5-0- 15-2, 3-1-18-0, 2.2-0-14-0); De Villiers 8-1-29-0 (nb1) (3-0-15-0, 3-1-4-0, 2-0-10-0); McMillan 10- 1-53-0 (nb5 w1) (6-1-25-0, 4-0-28-0); Matthews 9-2-20-1 (6-2-9-1, 3-0-11-0); Shaw 11-0- 33-1 (one spell).

Progress yesterday: 100: 138 min, 202 balls. 150: 183 min, 268 balls.

Thorpe's 50: 118 min, 105 balls, 6 fours.

Rhodes's 50: 108 min, 72 balls, 6 fours.

England won by four wickets

Umpires: M J Kitchen and K E Palmer.

TV Replay Umpire: B Dudleston.

Match Referee: P J P Burge.

Man of the Match: S J Rhodes (Eng).

Men of the Series: P A J DeFreitas (Eng) and D J Cullinan (SA).

Adjudicator: D I Gower.

(Photograph omitted)

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