Test could be 'one hell of a shock', warns Vaughan

England 225 &190
South Africa A 281 & 135-3
South Africa A won by 7 wkts

Michael Vaughan lambasted his England side for their inept display in the final warm-up match before Friday's first Test against South Africa. England were totally outplayed by an impressive South Africa A side and lost the three-day game by seven wickets here yesterday. This was England's first first-class defeat in 2004, but losing this record was nowhere near as disappointing as the performance of the team.

Michael Vaughan lambasted his England side for their inept display in the final warm-up match before Friday's first Test against South Africa. England were totally outplayed by an impressive South Africa A side and lost the three-day game by seven wickets here yesterday. This was England's first first-class defeat in 2004, but losing this record was nowhere near as disappointing as the performance of the team.

The Port Elizabeth Test is now just three days away and England have only four players - Vaughan, Andrew Strauss, Geraint Jones and Ashley Giles - in the sort of form which allowed them to win seven consecutive Test matches during the summer. The un-magnificent seven are either batsman, who are desperately short of match practice, or bowlers, who are struggling to land two consecutive balls on the same tablecloth. And it was these players, along with those not selected for this match, who could be seen practising on the same pitch they had just been beaten on 30 minutes earlier.

"If we play like this over the next few weeks we are going to get one hell of a surprise," warned Vaughan. "We may have been a little complacent and underestimated the opposition, but we should certainly not be losing games in two and a half days to South Africa A. This may yet give us the kick up the arse we need and remind us that we have not yet reached the standard that everyone thinks we have."

Vaughan continued: "There were spells when we were very quiet in the field and that should not be the case in a side that has won 10 out of its last 11 matches. In the game we probably had only one decent session and that was on Sunday morning when we bowled well as a unit. But other than that we did very little in this match."

If England showed complacency it was in their batting. Only Vaughan, who completed an excellent century yesterday, showed the aptitude required and England twice failed to occupy the crease for more than 60 overs.

Mark Butcher, Graham Thorpe and Marcus Trescothick are three of England's most experienced players and Vaughan will be hoping that the presence of television cameras and a big crowd will bring the best out of them. All three have been in this position before and Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, will be hoping that there are plenty of bowlers to bowl at them in the nets at St George's Park on tomorrow morning.

"In the first innings our shot selection was poor," admitted Vaughan. "Six of us got out playing flamboyant drives in conditions when it was a difficult shot to play. They dangled a carrot outside off stump and six of us had a go at it. The second innings was different, but it was a very good deck and we should have scored a lot more runs on it."

Vaughan had few problems on it and completed his hundred with a scampered two to wide mid-off. The England captain had already seen Matthew Hoggard, his overnight partner, edge a catch to third slip, and having reached three figures he then perished having a wild swipe at Charl Willoughby.

This dismissal ended any hope of England posting a winning total and by the time Simon Jones chipped a simple catch to extra cover the lead had been extended to only 134.

Hoggard dismissed Martin van Jaarsveld in his first over to give the tourists hope of an unexpected victory, but the bowling was too wayward and by lunch South Africa A were on 63 for 1. During the interval thunder could be heard and within five minutes of the restart a bolt of lightning hit the ground within half a mile of stadium. The flash was immediately followed by a deafening clap of thunder and several outfield players threw themselves to the ground.

Giles, the nearest player to the bolt, made a dash for the dressing-room and everyone else quickly followed. After 15 minutes the players returned and England took two quick wickets as the South Africans looked for quick runs.

The rain duly arrived but it only delayed the inevitable. Ashwell Prince and Jean Pierre Duminy the proceeded to set about Stephen Harmison and Simon Jones and the 34 runs South Africa A needed for victory came off just 29 balls.

If anything, the form of England's bowlers is more of a concern than the batsmen. Andrew Flintoff appears to be finding a rhythm and Jones bowled a few quick balls, but Harmison and Hoggard looked innocuous.

Harmison was all over the place and Troy Cooley, the England bowling coach, will be working as frantically as Fletcher over the next three days.

Vaughan, like Fletcher, refused to blame an itinerary which gave England only one first-class match before the first Test. "We are continually being asked about our preparations and on each of the last few occasions we have got it right," he said "It was the same in the West Indies and New Zealand but we beat them both 3-0. There are technical aspects to people's games, and time in the middle is important, but a lot of it is mental. We have a lot of experience in the team and these players will need to do some talking and help us rally round each other."

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