Some cricketers have turned up in South Africa claiming to be the England one-day side. This would fool only the credulous considering the clinically efficient and crisp way this bunch are playing, as opposed to the fitful methods usually betrayed by the team bearing their name. But perhaps this new leaf will stay turned.
Their victory by eight wickets yesterday against the Chevrolet Warriors was as straightforward as that in the opening match on Friday, this time batting second. The indications are growing that the tourists are capable of giving South Africa a run for their money when the serious limited-overs stuff begins later this week.
It is premature to be confident. While England were cruising to victory in the old diamond town, South Africa were crushing Zimbabwe in a one-day international 300 miles west in Benoni. England will spot the difference in opposition immediately.
But if the win was straightforward, it also provided proper practice. The Warriors made 254 for 5 against an attack in which not every member has found his rhythm. The target was surpassed with 9.1 overs to spare after Andrew Strauss and Joe Denly assembled a first-wicket partnership of 175.
Strauss was in especially good order, finding his range from the start of his innings. He clearly intends to remain rigorously faithful to the declaration of boldness announced almost with the fanfare of a declaration of independence when they left home, and his hundred was predictable from a long way out. He struck a straight six as early as the ninth over which was not the Strauss in his first incarnation as a one-day opener for England. Like his team, he has changed: his unbeaten 117 took 119 balls.
Denly took a little longer to discover his timing but his 82 was eventually full of front-foot biffing. The competition for places in the one-day side – Kevin Pietersen arrives tomorrow – has been truly joined. There has been something about Denly since he came into the side at the fag end of the last English season, but it has been mildly irritating to see him give away solid starts. Yesterday, despite a few swishes at air, he embraced the task.
England were without both Stuart Broad and Graham Onions whose soreness in shoulder and back respectively precluded their selection. There had been a genuine old-fashioned injury scare about Broad the previous day when his arm was in a sling after having fallen on his right shoulder during Friday's victory. The mood in the squad was initially downcast and it was feared he had incurred long-term damage. A scan showed otherwise and Broad was able to carry the drinks yesterday without undue grimacing.
The Warriors are one of the provincial sides, now labelled as franchises and given names which make it impossible to know their location. In their case they are a combination of the old Eastern Province and Border sides and play their games at Port Elizabeth and East London. The warm-up match yesterday was a chance to give Kimberley, one of the Diamond Eagles' homes, a sight of England on this tour.
Warriors were indebted to their captain, Davy Jacobs, and the tall left-hander Arno Jacobs. They accumulated wisely in a fourth-wicket stand of 130, never seeming to rush but scoring at almost a run a ball. Davy played a handful of matches for Northamptonshire in 2007 and that same summer, Arno represented both Scotland in the Friends Provident Trophy and Leicestershire in the County Championship. He might have given Andrew Flintoff the idea of "have bat, will travel".
England's most outstanding bowler was Graeme Swann who found some turn and drift in the breeze. Tim Bresnan shrugged off some of his rustiness, Sajid Mahmood and Adil Rashid did not. But after their brief visit to this outpost, which is still dominated by the Big Hole where precious stones were first dug here, England could consider themselves diamond geezers.
Bollinger the toast of Australia after five-wicket haul
Doug Bollinger claimed a five-wicket haul and Shane Watson chipped in with a breezy innings as Australia defeated India by six wickets in the sixth one-day international in Guwahati yesterday to take an unassailable 4-2 lead in the seven-match series.
Bollinger (5 for 25) and Mitchell Johnson (3 for 39) left India reeling at 27 for five with a dazzling burst with the new ball, but the home side recovered through half-centuries from Ravindra Jadeja (57) and Praveen Kumar (54 not out) to reach 170 all out.
The target hardly troubled Australia as Watson smashed a run-a-ball 49 and Michael Hussey made a steady unbeaten 35 as they overhauled the target with 8.1 overs to spare.