Cricket: Wessels suffers arm injury: South African captain still determined to play in Test

Click to follow
The Independent Online
South Africa 270-8 dec and 163-5 dec

Leicestershire 167 and 216-7

Match drawn

JUST about the worst fears of Kepler Wessels, South Africa's captain, came to pass yesterday when he was taken to hospital with a suspected broken arm.

Wessels was struck on the same right forearm which he hurt in the Lord's Test by the first ball he faced from Alan Mullally. Wessels said: 'The radiographer thought there might be a break but the doctor did not and I am taking the doctor's word for it. My arm is sore but I shall play against England unless there is serious deterioration.'

Wessels' assertion that he would play in the Headingley Test came through gritted teeth, without the consolation of a second successive win in the Tetley Bitter Challenge series.

He had X-rays on the right forearm, a much photographed part of his anatomy, after being hit. It was only an inch away from the injury he sustained when he was hit by Darren Gough at Lord's less than a fortnight ago. That also required an X-ray, and the previous bruising was still apparent when he removed his forearm protector to receive treatment yesterday.

Wessels implied that the Leicester pitch was dangerous. He had said on Sunday night: 'The pitch is sub-standard and one we could do without before the Test. We don't want any broken fingers.' Those words returned to haunt him as he admitted that leaving the field immediately would have been more prudent. 'It's lucky that no one else was more seriously injured,' he said.

Instead, he batted on for half an hour, making a painful advance to 18 before shuffling across his stumps and being leg before to David Millns, who richly deserved his wicket.

The South Africans challenged Leicestershire to score 267 from a minimum of 64 overs, a meaningful test for the tourists' attack. Buoyancy and spirit have been South African traits, and they were needed to split an opening partnership of 64 between Nigel Briers and Tim Boon and to expel James Whitaker, who made a half-century with seven fours from 86 balls.

Whitaker's strokeplay worked Leicestershire into a position from which they needed 100 off 16 overs. But his dismissal to a reflex return catch by Tim Shaw highlighted the improbability of victory.

Briers had played Allan Donald firmly and admirably off the front foot to signal Leicestershire's strengthening will after their first-innings dismissal. It was altogether better the second time around as the tourists' new- ball attack lacked their customary rhythm after Gary Kirsten and Hansie Cronje had worked them into a declaration position with half- centuries.

Donald, already frustrated by his unremarkable second- day figures of 1 for 40 despite some venomous deliveries, turned to the hands-on-hips pose.

Ultimately, Donald and the tourists were condemned to a draw, despite eight overs being available when the seventh wicket fell. The removal of Donald from the attack because of deteriorating light did not help their cause.

When stumps were drawn Leciestershire were 51 short of victory, with Millns studiously blocking the final ball from Shaw, having swept the previous delivery for six.

Whatever Wessels' views about the pitch, Leicestershire could not have been expected to produce a surface to suit the tourists. Indirectly, it was better tailored for the talent of Donald and Fanie de Villiers, who took 6 for 67 in the first innings and with it the man of the match award.

Pitches with pace in England have been such a rarity that this one, prepared by Steve Wright, the assistant groundsman, was a delight. He had applied a monsoon via the hosepipe a fortnight before the match, applied the roller for eight hours and then kept the surface totally dry.

Whitaker's cover drive off Donald was one of the memories of the match. Quick surfaces produced attacking cricket and this one will have a celebrated place in the annals.

Scoreboard, page 30