Jones given new opening as England canter to win

<preform>South Africa 175-9<BR> England 103-3<BR> England win by 26 runs on Duckworth-Lewis method</preform>
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England have frequently been derided for their lack of innovation and imagination in one-day cricket. They swept such criticism aside yesterday in one audacious move.

England have frequently been derided for their lack of innovation and imagination in one-day cricket. They swept such criticism aside yesterday in one audacious move.

This had little to do with their 26-run victory - under Duckworth Lewis - over South Africa in the first match of the Standard Bank Series. It was the announcement afterwards that demonstrated that this time the England one-day team really means business.

They intend to turn the wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones, into the new Adam Gilchrist. The first step was taken yesterday when Jones opened the batting in a one-day international for the first time. He made eight before edging to the keeper.

"We used Geraint up the order a bit last year," Michael Vaughan said afterwards. "It didn't work out too well but we didn't give him a run of games then. We will be doing so this time to give him the chance to establish himself up the order and come off like Adam Gilchrist does for Australia."

This is ambitious talk. Gilchrist, the Australian wicketkeeper, is a phenomenon who opens their batting in one-day games and has scored more than 7,000 runs, including 10 centuries, with an average of 36 and a strike rate of 95. Less bold comparisons have been made and Jones may like to start trying to emulate somebody such as the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper, Kumar Sangakkara who averages a mere 33 and has so far scored only three hundreds.

Jones is Marcus Trescothick's sixth opening partner since 2000. Considering that the present side has two other more orthodox openers in Vaughan and Andrew Strauss he may be the most improbable. The dividend on this gamble will be known by the time the teams return to this part of the country for the final match at Centurion in 13 days.

The new opener and the old one were part of an uncertain English beginning yesterday and when Andrew Strauss joined them in the pavilion the tourists were 44 for 3. This was hardly ideal, but they were chasing a modest target of 176, made possible by a soft, sporting pitch and seam bowlers who did their work properly.

This at least permitted the eagerly awaited entry of England's number five, Kevin Pietersen. Considering Strauss, who was born in Johannesburg but left at the age of six, was roundly booed to the wicket, it was possible to think the lynch mobs might be out for Pietersen, who defected to his adopted country at 19.

Pietersen might be a confident type but his nervous start was permissible. He almost nicked the first ball, managed a shapeless inside edge to the third, employed a grotesque bottom handed pull in a desperate attempt to score, and was eventually off the mark to his 12th ball.

He and Vaughan, noticing that Duckworth Lewis could play some tricks, increased the pace and their partnership had reached 59 from 78 balls when a monsoon swept over. As England had received more than 20 overs - 25.1 to be exact - Duckworth Lewis decided it.

It is an unsatisfactory way to end a match but England deserved their win. After Vaughan won the toss, the seamers built a stranglehold. Darren Gough answered any critics concerning his longevity, Kabir Ali was accurate and South Africa's top order played some dreadfully loose shots. Jones should have been taking note.