England openers get off to ideal start

Marcus Trescothick and Robert Key gave England a comfortable start to their tour of South Africa yesterday, setting up an eight-wicket victory against the Nicky Oppenheimer XI with a 167-run stand for the first wicket.

Marcus Trescothick and Robert Key gave England a comfortable start to their tour of South Africa yesterday, setting up an eight-wicket victory against the Nicky Oppenheimer XI with a 167-run stand for the first wicket.

The Oppenheimer side had made 172 for 4 in 39 overs after their innings was interrupted by rain, and under the Duck-worth/Lewis formula, England's target was increased to 185 from 39 overs.

Most of the Oppenheimer batsmen struggled against the tourists' disciplined attack, except for the Zimbabwe international Neil Johnson, who hit four sixes in his 58-ball innings of 74. Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison were the most impressive bowlers for England, with spells of 2 for 29 in eight overs and 1 for 8 in seven overs respectively.

Trescothick and Key began their stint slowly but were in total command as they made 167 off 180 balls. Trescothick, the stand-in captain, finished on 85 not out off 107 balls, while Key lashed 87 off 85 balls, with seven fours and five sixes, to lead England to the easy victory.

For all his efforts, Key knows that his Test place is by no means guaranteed, with the selectors having a tough call to make in deciding between him and Mark Butcher.

Butcher had only a limited opportunity to impress yesterday, coming out to bat in fading light against the Test bowler Charl Willoughby and edging him low to first slip. Key was sympathetic to his rival's plight, saying: "It was a shambles going out to bat at that stage. It would have helped probably if we'd have got out a lot earlier."

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