Cricket: Transvaal first test for England A

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AFTER a week cast in the role of missionaries, England A today begin the serious business of their South African tour with a four-day match against Transvaal, traditionally the powerhouse of South African cricket.

Transvaal are attempting to recapture their glory years after a period of dissension marked by administrative coups and personality clashes. Despite the absence of Darryl Cullinan and Richard Snell, on tour in Australia, they will still be strong opposition, including six players with international experience. Three, former Somerset opener Jimmy Cook, batsman Mark Rushmere and spinner Tim Eksteen, are Test caps.

For England A, Martin Bicknell has already been ruled out of the match due to the hangover of his autumn knee operation, while Martin McCague - who had a back operation in mid-summer - must pass a fitness test in the morning.

The coach, Phil Neale, and Hugh Morris, the captain, underlined that it was simply a matter of easing them back into competitive cricket and that there was no question of having gambled on their fitness.

'Questions were asked before we came and both we and Bicknell were satisfied that he would stand up to the tour. It is always a gradual process coming back from an operation,' Neale added.

With Morris emphasising the need to make big scores in four-day cricket, England are likely to play only four specialist bowlers, two of whom could be spinners.

ENGLAND A (from): H Morris (capt), M Lathwell, J Crawley, A Dale, A Wells, M Loye, D Cork, S Rhodes, R Croft, D Gough, M Ilott, M McCague, P Such.

Transvaal: J Cook (capt), B White, M Yachad, M Haysman, M Rushmere, D Laing, N Pothas, S Jacobs, T Eksteen, M Hobson, S Jack.