Cricket / Third Test: Atherton ponders position despite England's triumph: Illingworth pledges support for his captain after a chequered summer while Malcolm is given man of the series award

Click to follow
The Independent Online
South Africa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .332 and 175

England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .281-7 and 205-2

England win by eight wickets

ENGLISH cricket spends enough time shooting itself in the foot for the occasional shot in the arm to be more than welcome, although even in the aftermath of victory yesterday, Michael Atherton has not ruled out reaching for the officer's pistol and squeezing the trigger on a shot to the temple.

Despite receiving a vote of confidence from his chairman (enough to make anyone tremble with the football season under way) Atherton is both heavy of heart and light of wallet after the events of this summer, and his demeanour at yesterday's press conference was a long way removed from euphoria.

Having been appraised of Raymond Illingworth's personal wish for him to lead the side in Australia, Atherton said: 'I've been

appreciative of Raymond's support all summer, and I appreciate his support now. However, I have a couple of days to reflect between now and Thursday (when the Ashes captain will be announced) and I have to reflect on one or two things that have gone on this summer.

'Everyone reads the newspapers, and the criticism sometimes hurts. It makes you wonder whether it is all worthwhile. I have learned a considerable amount in the past three weeks or so, both about myself and the way people treat me.

'The most important thing to me is the desire to play in a winning England team this winter, and if me being captain becomes a burden on the team, if every move you make becomes so scrutinised and penalised that it affects the team's chances, then that is something you have to weigh up.'

Atherton's skin is thicker than his boyish looks and affable exterior would indicate, but some of the arrows fired at him over the dirt in the pocket and dissent affairs have been of the rhinocerous- piercing variety, and there is little doubt that his current mood is dangerously introvert.

On the other hand, when he gets round to reflecting more deeply on the support he has received from both team and public, it remains a shade of odds-on that he will both be offered, and accept, the captaincy this winter. He was given a standing ovation when he was out shortly before England clinched yesterday's series-equalising eight-wicket victory, and (on the initiative of Graham Gooch, who called a team meeting on Saturday in Atherton's absence) the players have also asked him not to pack it in. In fact, if Atherton does give up the captaincy, it will probably be only on the grounds that he can't afford it.

On the match itself, Atherton said yesterday: 'It would have been nice if it had been a five- match Test series', although this is not necessarily a view shared by his bank manager. Of all the statements issued during Atherton's troubled month, his bank statement would be comfortably the most interesting.

Two consecutive trips to London have cost him pounds 4,300 - pounds 2,000 over the dirty pockets, pounds 1,500 for alleged dissent, and pounds 800 when the England team were yesterday fined 30 per cent of their match fee for poor over-rates. The latter cost the South Africans, who earn less, pounds 450 each, but Atherton's debit column is such that he will probably opt for amateur status for the two Texaco Trophy matches this week, and go on to the scorecard as Mr M A Atherton. No wonder he cancelled his Pall Mall restaurant dinner after being fined on Friday night - he probably only had enough money left for a bag of chips.

At least yesterday's lunch would have been on the house, despite England knocking off the 97 runs still required 20 minutes before the soup was due on the table. And if Atherton has mostly been in the soup rather than consuming it lately, at least he had Devon Malcolm's man of the match / series champagne to help wash it down.

If the blue touch paper to England's remarkable charge to victory was initally led by Phillip DeFreitas and Darren Gough thrashing South Africa's bowling around on Friday night, it was Malcolm who all but finished the job on Saturday with his 9 for 57, the sixth best analysis in Test match history.

Malcolm's bowling was rated by the South African captain Kepler Wessels (who has faced a good many of the West Indies' fiercest bowlers in his time) as 'right up there with any of them', although Wessels was a little kinder to some of his own batsmen by what he omitted to say. South Africa are back in Test cricket by dint of finally becoming multi-racial, but the flag they hoisted on Saturday was conspicuously white.

Even so, Malcolm has scarcely bowled with more venom, and the clang on the helmet he received when Fanie de Villiers let him have a first ball bouncer on Saturday morning was nothing like the clanger De Villiers dropped by bowling it in the first place. Malcolm was not hurt, and when the physio ran on with a selection of new helmets it was more like a bridegroom's mother fussing around in a hat shop, but when Malcolm got up he made - by his standards - a long and impassioned speech. 'OK boys,' he informed his opponents, 'you're history.'

Malcolm is the gentlest of men, and will mostly be spotted in Australia this winter plugged into his Walkman and writing postcards back home. However, without his contact lenses he would not be able to identify the tip of his biro from the other end. Once, when he played in glasses, and they fell off, the batsmen ran five while he scrambled around on all fours in the outfield trying to find them.

However, on pitches like this one he is as mean as anyone around, and if England can arrange a video of Saturday's bowling to be shown to the Australian batsmen before the Test match in Perth, there may be a few doctor's notes being produced in the home dressing room.

England's target of 204 was scarcely a doddle, but once Graham Gooch got stuck into Allan Donald on Saturday night (Gooch was first out with the score at 56 midway through the fifth over) England's momentum was unstoppable. When England began their second innings in Trinidad last winter needing 194, they had 15 overs to bat in the day, and finished 40 for 8. On Saturday, it was 204 with 16 overs to bat, and they finished 107 for 1.

Donald, in fact, had taken such a spanking - initially from Gough and DeFreitas, and then from Gooch - that he returned yesterday morning with figures of 0 for 75 from his previous six overs. Yesterday's 1 for 51 from eight was, therefore, something of a triumph.

Atherton took him on too, piercing the offside with that trademark back-foot drive, and Graeme Hick has looked an entirely different player since Illy whispered a few words of endearment ('pull tha' bloody finger out . . .') into his ear. Hick finished on 81 not out, and perhaps the most satisfying aspect of a rollercoaster summer is that he has finally found the self-belief to become a world class Test batsman.

(South Africa won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA - First innings

G Kirsten c Rhodes b DeFreitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 (11 min, 12 balls) P N Kirsten b Malcolm . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16 (54 min, 30 balls, 2 fours) W J Cronje lbw b Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 (94 min, 65 balls, 2 fours) * K C Wessels lbw b Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 (118 min, 84 balls, 7 fours) D J Cullinan c Rhodes b DeFreitas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 (12 min, 11 balls, 1 four) J N Rhodes retired hurt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 (20 min, 14 balls, 1 four) B M McMillan c Hick b DeFreitas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 (269 min, 193 balls, 9 fours) D J Richardson c Rhodes b Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 (127 min, 89 balls, 8 fours) C R Matthews c Hick b Benjamin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (8 min, 4 balls) P S de Villiers c Stewart b DeFreitas . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 (62 min, 50 balls, 2 fours) A A Donald not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 (34 min, 21 balls, 1 four) Extras (b8 lb10 w1 nb18). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 Total (410 min, 92.2 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .332

Fall: 1-2 (G Kirsten), 2-43 (P Kirsten), 3-73 (Cronje), 4-85 (Cullinan), 5-136 (Wessels), 6-260 (Richardson), 7-266 (Matthews),

8-301 (de Villiers), 9-332 (McMillan).

Bowling: DeFreitas 26.2-5-93-4 (nb6) (6- 1-19-1, 8-2-26-1, 1-0-8-0, 5-0-26-0, 6.2-2-14- 2); Malcolm 25-5-81-1 (nb2 w1) (4-1-13-0, 4-0-13-1, 5-1-22-0,2-0-9-0, 5-2-8-0, 5-1-16-0); Gough 19-1-85-0 (nb8) (7-0-20-0, 3-0-13-0, 1-0-3-0, 5-1-27-0, 3-0-22-0); Benjamin 17-2- 42-4 (nb5) (4-0-15-1, 6-1-13-1, 7-1-14-2); Hick 5-1-13-0 (4-1-9-0, 1-0-4-0).

ENGLAND - First Innings

G A Gooch c Richardson b Donald. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 (61 min, 43 balls, 1 four) * M A Atherton lbw b de Villiers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (5 min, 1 ball) G A Hick b Donald. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 (138 min, 85 balls, 4 fours) G P Thorpe b Matthews. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79 (158 min, 115 balls, 11 fours) A J Stewart b de Villiers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 (154 min, 106 balls, 7 fours) J P Crawley c Richardson b Donald . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 (27 min, 12 balls, 1 four) S J Rhodes lbw b de Villiers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 (52 min, 33 balls, 1 four) P A J DeFreitas run out (Cullinan). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .37 (55 min, 31 balls, 4 fours, 1 six) D Gough not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 (68 min, 47 balls, 6 fours, 1 six) J E Benjamin lbw b De Villiers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (6 min, 7 balls) D E Malcolm c sub (T G Shaw) b Matthews. . . . . . . . . . . . .4 (8 min, 4 balls, 1 four) Extras (b1 w1 nb15). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Total (372 min, 77 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .304

Fall: 1-1 (Atherton), 2-33 (Gooch), 3-93 (Hick), 4-145 (Thorpe), 5-165 (Crawley),

6-219 (Stewart), 7-222 (Rhodes), 8-292 (DeFreitas), 9-293 (Benjamin).

Bowling: Donald 17-2-76-3 (nb8) (8-2-16-1, 3-0-12-1, 4-0-18-1, 2-0-30-0); De Villiers

19-3-62-4 (nb7) (3-0-12-1, 7-2-20-0, 2-1-5-0, 4-0-18-2, 3-0-7-1); Matthews 21-4-82-2 (5- 0-16-0, 5-1-16-0, 4-1-13-1, 4-1-21-0, 3-1-16-1); McMillan 12-1-67-0 (nb6 w1) (5-1-23-0, 2-0- 11-0, 5-0-33-0); Cronje 8-3-16-0 (nb1) (one spell).

SOUTH AFRICA - Second Innings

P N Kirsten c DeFreitas b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 (16 min, 13 balls) G Kirsten c and b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (6 min, 3 balls) W J Cronje b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (11 min, 7 balls) * K C Wessels c Rhodes b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28 (94 min, 61 balls, 4 fours) D J Cullinan c Thorpe b Gough. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 (220 min, 134 balls, 12 fours) B M McMillan c Thorpe b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 (82 min, 63 balls, 4 fours) D J Richardson lbw b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 (7 min, 7 balls) C R Matthews c Rhodes b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (2 min, 3 balls) J N Rhodes c Rhodes b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 (37 min, 20 balls, 1 four) P S de Villiers not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0 (5 min, 2 balls) A A Donald b Malcolm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0 (2 min, 2 balls) Extras (lb5 nb9). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Total (247 min, 50.3 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .175

Fall: 1-0 (G Kirsten), 2-1 (P Kirsten), 3-1 (Cronje), 4-73 (Wessels), 5-137 (McMillan), 6-143 (Richardson), 7-143 (Matthews), 8-175 (Cullinan), 9-175 (Rhodes).

Bowling: DeFreitas 12-3-25-0 (nb2) (6-3-6- 0, 6-0-19-0); Malcolm 16.3-2-57-9 (nb3) (5- 2-4-3, 6-0-36-1, 5.3-0-17-5); Gough 9-1-39-1 (nb5) (3-0-16-0, 5-1-19-0, 1-0-4-1); Benjamin 11-1-38-0 (nb2) (8-1-24-0, 3-0-14-0); Hick

2-0-11-0 (one spell).

Progress: Lunch: 40-3 (Wessels 15, Cullinan 15) 17 overs. 50: 90 min, 19.3 overs. 100: 153 min, 32.1 overs. Tea: 143-5 (Cullinan 74, Richardson 3) 42 overs. 150: 214 min, 44 overs. Innings closed: 4.45pm.

Cullinan's 50: 132 min, 81 balls, 7 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

G A Gooch b Matthews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 (27 min, 20 balls, 7 fours) * M A Atherton c Richardson b Donald . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 (161 min, 113 balls, 12 fours) G A Hick not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81 (151 min, 81 balls, 13 fours) G P Thorpe not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 (17 min, 14 balls, 3 fours) Extras (lb6 nb7) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Total (for 2, 180 min, 35.3 overs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . .205

Fall: 1-56 (Gooch), 2-180 (Atherton).

Bowling: Donald 12-1-96-1 (nb12) (2-0-27- 0, 2-0-18-0, 5-1-17-0, 3-0-34-1); De Villiers 12-0-66-0 (nb3) (5-0-35-0, 2-0-5-0, 3-0-17-0, 2-0-9-0); Matthews 11.3-4-37-1 (4-0-20-1,

1-0-1-0, 6.3-4-16-0).

Progress: 50: 26 min, 4.3 overs. 100: 68 min, 13.3 overs. Close: 107-1 (Atherton 42, Hick 27) 16 overs. 150: 119 min, 24.4 overs. 200: 178 min, 35 overs. Innings closed: 12.41pm.

Atherton's 50: 91 min, 66 balls, 9 fours.

Hick's 50: 90 min, 53 balls, 9 fours.

Umpires: R S Dunne, K E Palmer, A G T Whitehead (TV replays).

Man of the match: D E Malcolm.

Men of the series: England: D E Malcolm. South Africa: B M McMillan.

First Test (Lord's): South Africa won by 356 runs.

Second Test (Headingley): Match drawn.

SERIES DRAWN

(Photograph omitted)

Comments