Darren Gough has bowled at some of the most destructive batsmen the game has seen during his one-day career but nobody, not even Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar, has taken him apart in the manner Andrew Hall managed on Saturday. Bowling the last over of the South African innings the England fast bowler was smashed for 21 runs by Hall. After watching the first five balls race away to the boundary for four, the single taken off the last ball would have been greeted with relief by England's leading one-day wicket-taker.
The Yorkshireman should have had an idea of what was to come when the last ball of his previous over was struck high into The Oval pavilion for six by Shaun Pollock. It all added up to Gough going for 27 runs off his last seven balls. Fortunately for England, Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki ensured it did not cost their side a much-needed victory.
"I can't ever remember being hit like that," said Gough. "I'm not too worried about it. I'd bowled really well up until then, I'd only gone for 34 in 8.5 overs but somebody has to do it and this is the first time it has happened to me. It is my job, my responsibility to bowl at this stage of the innings."
There is a skill to bowling successfully at the end of an innings in one-day cricket but it is also something of a lottery. On some days a bowler can get every ball where he wants and still go around the park. On others he can bowl a pile of rubbish and get away with it. The only thing a bowler knows is that sooner or later he will get whacked.
"He [Hall] did pretty well," said a philosophical Gough. "I stuffed him out of sight with one but he hit me back over my head for four. I saw him coming down the wicket and dragged it wider but he somehow got it right between long-on and long-off. That was probably his best shot of the lot. I bowled one poor ball in the over, a full bunger but you have to take your hat off to him. He had a bit of luck with two inside edges that went for four but it just happened. It could have happened to anyone."
Coming up with a plan to combat South Africa's tactics in the last few overs needs looking into, but it is not something England have to worry about until Thursday. Today at Headingley, weather permitting, the focus of England will be aimed towards gaining revenge over Zimbabwe, who surprisingly defeated Michael Vaughan's side at Trent Bridge five days ago. Vaughan, who missed Saturday's victory over South Africa with a lower back strain, is expected to be fit after batting for an hour in the indoor nets yesterday but will wait until this morning before he makes a final decision. Should Vaughan return, Jim Troughton looks set to miss out after the England captain suggested he was about drop down the order from three to four. This move should allow Robert Key, who is in desperate need of a score himself, to keep his place in the side. Zimbabwe are expected to select the same team that lost to South Africa on Sunday.
In the first NatWest Series match against Zimbabwe England rested James Anderson, but, following the defeat, it is unlikely they will again underestimate their opponents. England's bowling has been impressive throughout the first half of the season and picking the extra fast bowler at The Oval worked. Gough and Anderson are proving to be an excellent opening combination.
Having the choice of ends is a luxury every fast bowler wants because it is given to the man the captain sees as his strike bowler. It is something Gough has had to begrudgingly hand over to a younger man. "It is not a problem," said Gough, who now faces the prospect of bowling into the wind. "Jimmy has bowled well with the new ball and deserves it.I have got a strong action and Jimmy is still a young lad who needs all the help he can get."
It appears unlikely that Andrew Caddick will take the new ball for England again this season after somehow aggravating an old back injury during his rehabilitation from a stress fracture in his right foot.
ENGLAND (from): M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, capt), M E Trescothick (Somerset), V S Solanki (Worcestershire), R W T Key (Kent), A Flintoff (Lancashire), A McGrath (Yorkshire), C M W Read (Nottinghamshire, wkt), R Clarke (Surrey), A F Giles (Warwickshire), D Gough (Yorkshire), R L Johnson (Somerset), J M Anderson (Lancashire), J O Troughton (Warwickshire), Kabir Ali (Worcestershire), S J Harmison (Durham).
ZIMBABWE (from): H H Streak (capt), D A Marillier, D D Ebrahim, T J Friend, G W Flower, T Taibu (wkt), S Matsikenyeri, S M Ervine, A M Blignaut, R W Price, D Hondo, G B Brent.Reuse content