TWO DAYS of this match have gone and England are no closer to solving their selection dilemma, namely who will fill the No 8 spot. So far, neither of the two contenders, Gavin Hamilton and Alex Tudor have sent the pulse racing and both would do well not to squander any further chances to state their case when their opponents, Northerns/Gauteng, resume their innings today.
So far, Tudor has barely raised a sweat let alone made an overwhelming case, bowling just one expensive over and scoring an unbeaten four in England's total of 303, a total Northerns/Gauteng have so far responded to by finishing on 85 for 3. In the increments by which these things are judged, Hamilton is just ahead, having scored 16 runs and taken the important wicket of Daryll Cullinan, albeit with a questionable lbw decision.
Tudor's absence was puzzling. On a pitch that offered pace and bounce, he should have been begging to bowl. It was not as if any of his colleagues bowled well. Indeed most were guilty of bowling too short, a failing that was severely punished by Neil McKenzie, who cut and pulled with great power.
McKenzie has those shots in his genes. His father Kevin, whose prime coincided with the years of isolation, was regarded as one of the best hookers of a ball ever seen. On a day in which 36 overs were lost to rain and bad light, his son's efforts - a high-class fifty, off just 71 balls - stood out in the gloom. He was in early too, Darren Gough removing Sven Koening lbw with his sixth ball.
Gough huffed and puffed, but while his effort could not be faulted, he still looks rusty and far too few balls landed on a length around off- stump, a crime Andy Caddick was also guilty of.
When England resumed on 238 for 6, they were hopeful that Chris Adams and Andy Flintoff would contribute significantly. There has been talk ahead of the Test series that neither will fancy the short stuff that Allan Donald and Co are bound to lavish upon them. On this occasion, the rough stuff was hardly used, though Adams did take a nasty blow on his right thumb after David Terbrugge got one to climb.
The knock disturbed Adams who was out two balls later, fending Greg Smith to slip. Fortunately X-rays showed there was no break, though he took the precaution of staying off the field when England bowled.
Flintoff, recently criticised for being indolent, at least worked hard to play himself in. He then unleashed some weighty strokes. At the other end Hamilton added his typically expansive cover drives. But as is so often the case with players who strike the ball so well away from their body, strengths can also become weaknesses and he fell when attempting another.
Almost immediately Flintoff followed him, his former Lancashire team- mate Steve Elworthy squeezing an off-cutter between bat and pad. Soon after Gough lofted the same bowler to mid-off, a shot that brought a swift change of boots as England took the field. Unless there is a change in the length bowled, they could still be there at close of play tonight.
Second day of four: Combined Northerns/Gauteng XI won toss
ENGLAND - First innings (Overnight 238-6; M P Vaughan 85, M A Atherton 81).
C J Adams c van Jaarsveld b Smith 19
A Flintoff b Elworthy 26
G M Hamilton c van J'veld b Terbrugge 16
A J Tudor not out 4
D Gough c Eksteen b Elworthy 4
Extras (b8, lb9, nb15) 32
Total (112.4 overs) 303
Fall: 1-43, 2-44, 3-176, 4-218, 5-234, 6-235, 7-252, 8-295, 9-295.
Bowling: Elworthy 26.4-5-73-3; Smith 24-4-77-3; Terbrugge 30-6-67-4; Masimula 11-0-33-0; Eksteen 20-7-36-0; McKenzie 1-1-0-0.
COMBINED NORTHERNS/GAUTENG XI - First innings
S V Koenig lbw b Gough 0
A M Bacher c Stewart b Caddick 4
N D McKenzie not out 56
D J Cullinan lbw b Hamilton 11
M van Jaarsveld not out 5
Extras (lb4, nb5) 9
Total (for 3, 29.1 overs) 85
Fall: 1-0, 2-37, 3-73.
To Bat: N Pothas, S Elworthy, *C E Eksteen, W B Masimula, D J Terbrugge, G J Smith.
Bowling: Gough 9-1-25-1; Caddick 12.1-5-25-1; Tudor 1-0-10-0; Hamilton 7-1-21-1.
Umpires: D L Orchard and W A Diedricks.