Cricket: Tudor and Tufnell fluff their lines

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The Independent Online
IT WOULD be pushing it to suggest that this England side have captured the hearts and minds of a nation still in the first flush of restored youth. The crowd which initially turned up for the second day of the match against KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins at Kingsmead yesterday was of a size to cause considerable concern to turnstile manufacturers and would have been on the low side on a dank Tuesday in Derby, never mind Durban.

Doubtless, this was partly because the rain which had ended play early the previous day turned into the monsoon variety so that it was possible to believe that cricket would never again be played in South Africa. Although the new day dawned gloriously, potential spectators may already have made other arrangements, connected with buying an ark. Unfortunately, the other possibility was that they were not remotely entranced by seeing these maligned tourists against a vastly inexperienced provincial side, some of whose members had to take leave of absence from school and college.

In the event, the proceedings were rarely less than pleasantly diverting and, unsurprisingly, did not go entirely England's way. The strength of the opposition in these provincial outings is such as to make them meaningless in providing form guides for the Test matches but it helps not to lose them.

If there was a serious point at issue in this match it centred around Alex Tudor and Phil Tufnell. Poor Gavin Hamilton, runless and wicketless on his Test debut in Johannesburg, had been left out of the side here so it is clear that he will not take any part in the Second Test at Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

Presumably, Chris Silverwood, who aggravated a sore ankle in his only match at Lenasia and thus ruled himself out of consideration for his first first-class match of the tour, cannot be selected either. This is a pity because he was considerably rapid in the Wanderers' nets - "like lightning," said bowling coach, Bob Cottam - although estimates from inside the camp that he was two yards quicker than Allan Donald may be over-egging the pudding. They may also provoke something horribly quick from Donald.

To complicate the selection further there is also a slight doubt over Alan Mullally, who has a strained side. He will not bowl again until tomorrow but he is confident of his fitness. The one place probably available lies between Tudor and Tufnell. The nod will depend on the state of the pitch - neither bowler specially turned the selectors' heads. Tudor looked a little more dangerous yesterday than he did on the first day, which did not make him a handful.

It had been firmly declared that he would be given a lot of work and that was reflected in 25 overs. They were mostly too short and while he achieved some welcome bounce, 3 for 91 was not a perfect return. He is still not fluent in the delivery stride. Tufnell suffered somewhat more. If he is to play in Port Elizabeth it would probably be as a run-saving stock slow bowler rather than a wicket- taking spinner. Yesterday he kept being clubbed for sixes. There were 86 runs off his 26 overs, 33 off his final three.

This all made for grand entertainment. John Kent, a 20-year-old batsman in his second season, went on to make his second century. Three balls after he had reached it, having struck seven fours and two sixes (and being put down by Michael Atherton on 77), he departed. The Dolphins did not then go quietly. The last-wicket pair, Kevin Pietersen and Gary Gilder, batted with wonderfully annoying abandon. They drilled sixes over long- on and inside out over cover,Pietersen hitting four of them in an innings of 61 that spanned only 57 balls.

England made a composed start. This was opening bowling without Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock involved and it is not to disparage KZN's attack to say that it showed. Both Atherton and Mark Butcher settled quickly. Butcher was unsure when spin entered the attack, twice in an over playing in a grossly unwieldy fashion against Pietersen's off breaks. But it was Atherton who fell, taking a pace down the pitch, misjudging the flight and finding himself stumped.

Nasser Hussain strode in and, perhaps feeling miffed about what had been dished out to his bowlers, drove his fourth ball for six over long-on. It was the second consecutive innings that he had got off the mark with the maximum. When Butcher was then acrobatically caught at cover by Ahmed Amla, the 19-year-old brother of KZN's 16-year-old schoolboy batsman, Hashim, the weary observers might have predicted a mini-collapse by England. Hussain and Michael Vaughan ensured that this did not ensue.

Hussain survived three insistent appeals on the way to his first first- class half-century of the tour and will not have been at all bothered that the majority of the fielders pointedly did not applaud his fifty. England finished 147 runs behind with eight wickets left. A country remained unstirred.