Cricket World Cup: Wide-eyed, but no innocent abroad

Stephen Fay watches an all-round talent become a spectacular success
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The Independent Online
LANCE KLUSENER holds an odd sort of record. He has remained not out in one-day cricket while scoring 396 runs. The record breaker was the winning run, when Saeed Anwar dropped a steepling hit to mid-wicket. When he heard about this, Klusener laughed as though it was ridiculous. Was he proud? "Yeah, thanks man," he said - in English, having already spoken to radio in Zulu and to his captain Hansie Cronje in Afrikaans. He is a real all-rounder.

Klusener is wide-eyed with a small mouth, short ginger hair, a bull neck, and an innocent look. He could play Just William, although his opponents in this World Cup would not see the joke. He was named man of the match for the fourth time in four games.

Cronje said after the match: "We're making it harder and harder for Lance. We've got to see how far we can push him." This was the third game South Africa might well have lost without his comforting presence at No 8 or 9. The persistent failure of the top of the batting order is a real concern to Cronje. Klusener came in with the score at 135 for 6, but it had been 58 for 5 and the Pakistanis looked and behaved as though they were cruising to victory.

There is evidence, too, that Klusener has a cricketing brain. When he and Jacques Kallis were building a match-winning stand they needed a run a ball. Klusener suggested they should get the runs with an over to go in case of emergencies. They hit their target perfectly. "I thought we could bide our time," he said. "Yeah, it was a feather in my cap." That was as close as we got to his ego.

Whether it would have made any difference we shall never know, but Wasim Akram, who is an insulin-dependent diabetic, suffered a severe drop in his sugar levels after practice on Friday. This was apparently caused by the falling temperature, and at the end of the game he was said by the Pakistan manager to be in no condition to attend the press conference. He will, however, be fit to play on Tuesday against India.

Pakistan's greatest self-inflicted wound, however, is runs outs. Of the seven wickets they lost yesterday, three were run out, and those were their 10th, 11th and 12th run outs in this World Cup, an average of no less than two a game.

The piece de resistance yesterday came, as you would expect, from the world's greatest exponent of the run out, Inzamam- ul-Haq.This was his second of this World Cup. His first, against Australia was a beauty: felled by a blow to the foot, Inzamam collapsed, groping helplessly for the crease while Wasim completed the run from the bowler's end.

Yesterday's was no less of a classic. Yousuf Youhana had driven the ball into the covers and called for a run, which might have been rash since the fileder was Jonty Rhodes. But, as he collected the ball, Inzamam was running - not streaking but moving sharpl y for him - for home. As Rhodes' throw hit the stumps it looked as though Inzamam had won the struggle - except that he had failed to ground his bat. This is such an elementary error that no schoolboy would make it, but Inzamam is unique.

When I mentioned his running to him recently, Inzamam responded defiantly: "Definitely I am bad, but I am not very bad." Do not believe a word of it. He is definitely very very bad.

As for his side, there is, sadly, no known cure for their addiction. But with bowlers like theirs, how much does it matter? Inzamam himself is able to put his own failings in perspective. He says that the bowlers tell the batsmen that if they give them a total of 220 to 230 to bowl at, they feel confident that they can win.

Yesterday they were proved badly wrong.