Cricket: Tourists on track

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South Africa 270-8 dec

Leicestershire 74-4

LEICESTERSHIRE certainly did their best to make the South Africans feel at home. After winning the toss, the tourists found themselves batting on the sort of fast, bouncy wicket which they are used to back home but must have been surprised to find at Grace Road.

The assistant groundsman Steve Wright drenched the wicket a fortnight ago and had not watered it since, which explained the absence of the usual flat innocuous Leicester track. Perhaps he wanted to impress South Africa's vice-captain, Hansie Cronje, who will decide shortly whether to accept Leicestershire's offer of a one- year contract as their overseas player next season as a replacement for Phil Simmons, who is likely to be in the West Indies party to tour England.

Cronje is unsure about signing up for the full rigours of the English game although there is already a family connection with Leicestershire: his sister Hester is married to the all- rounder Gordon Parsons.

Wright may have overdone the welcome. Leicestershire's left-arm seamers Alan Mullally and the young Alamgir Sheriyar took full advantage of this unexpected treat, taking five of the eight wickets to fall before Kepler Wessels declared early. That gave his own quicks a good hour to subject Leicestershire to the same treatment.

Mullally's direction was often wayward, sometimes to good effect. He persuaded Gary Kirsten to chase a wide one and be caught at first slip but his other wickets had more merit. Wessels failed to repeat his Lord's heroics and was caught behind off inside edge and pad, and Cronje, having spent 110 minutes over his 30, was caught at short leg.

Sheriyar burst on to the championship scene with a match-winning hat-trick against Durham last weekend and completed a memorable seven days by dismissing Andrew Hudson and Gerhardus Liebenberg with sharply rising deliveries.

The best batting of the day though came from Daryll Cullinan, who hit his second 60 in successive days with a series of sparkling drives and hooks. He put on 121 for the fifth wicket with Liebenberg (59) and would be an ornament to the Test team though he has little chance of displacing Peter Kirsten.

Allan Donald and Fanie de Villiers might have persuaded Wessels to declare early. Donald was a terrifying prospect on this track, but it was De Villiers, playing the good cop with the cigarette, who dismissed Tim Boon and James Whitaker. Ben Smith got off the mark by slashing Donald over the slips for six before falling to a brilliant De Villiers catch at leg slip.

(Photograph omitted)