England see virtue in Gymkhana experience

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The Independent Online

England are out to make their experience of the Gymkhana Club conditions count when they face up to South Africa in their ICC Knockout quarter-final here on Tuesday.

England are out to make their experience of the Gymkhana Club conditions count when they face up to South Africa in their ICC Knockout quarter-final here on Tuesday.

Coach Duncan Fletcher and captain Nasser Hussain are agreed there is a significant advantage to be had in knowing exactly how to play at the home of the mini World Cup.

South Africa, who arrived yesterday, fresh out of their own domestic competition, have played at the ground before but since then a new groundsman has been shipped in to prepare fast and bouncy pitches for this competition.

England believe they learned much from Thursday's easy qualifying win over Bangladesh. "It was a good exercise for us, because we were tested to some degree," said Fletcher. "We had to go out and better 232 - and the bowlers bowled very well. We now know what is required on that wicket. It was a strange wicket for us to play on and the boys now know what line and length to bowl.

"South Africa probably play on very similar wickets but what is good is that we have had a game on there. I would have hated to go into a big match without that. If you had not played on it you would have thought we were bowling badly. But it is just a pitch where a lot of fours get hit. You will not play on a much better one-day wicket than that.

A new face will be arriving in the England camp today in the Essex all-rounder Paul Grayson. The 29-year-old's call-up as cover for the injured Ashley Giles was somewhat surprising because Robert Croft is on the official stand-by list.

The Glamorgan off-spinner spoke out petulantly when he was first omitted from the winter tour plans but Fletcher insists the decision to bring in Grayson - a county team-mate of Hussain's - had been made purely on tactical grounds in the belief that his left-arm finger spin will be more effective than the right-arm variety.

Responding to the suggestion that Croft may have talked his way out of contention, the coach said: "That has got absolutely nothing to do with it. As soon as we got out here we thought we would look for a left-armer and now we need cover for Ashley Giles."

England's quarter-final opposition are still having to deal with the aftermath of the match-fixing scandal which ended the career of their former captain Hansie Cronje.

His replacement, Shaun Pollock, dutifully faced another series of questions about the consequences of the affair for his team, especially with the King Commission charged with investigating the matter due to report again soon.

The defending champions' captain admitted: "It has been difficult for us in the last few months. But what the guys have done is put it behind them now. We are enjoying just getting out on the field to play cricket.

"Once the Commission has come to its final conclusion we can get on with restoring cricket to what it should be."

* New Zealand Cricket is to compile a report of all available research on bowler's back injuries in a move prompted by recurring problems with three of its bowlers. Daniel Vettori and Dion Nash have been hit by flare-ups of old injuries while Geoff Allot is still with the team but under close medical scrutiny. The panel will collate all research relating to risk factors for bowlers, including information on conditioning, technique, bowling loads and intensity, the recovery schedule post-game and the number of games the players take part in.