Friendly fire shoots down controversy

Cricket: South Africa 428 & 162-9 dec England 263 & 189-3 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
England and South Africa shooks hands on another draw and insisted: "We're the best of friends." The fourth Test at St George's Park ended in stalemate and with the series deadlocked, the final match of the series in Cape Town, starting tomorrow, is certain to be a tense affair.

Clive Lloyd, the South Africa manager, has already warned both sides to cut out sarcastic gestures following incidents involving Dominic Cork and Brian McMillan. England were also accused of using negative bowling tactics as they tried to prevent South Africa from scoring quickly. Mike Atherton was so upset to be given out caught behind during the first innings of the match that he broke a chair in his team's dressing-room.

But both sides insisted that the spirit between them is good. "It's a tense Test series and on the field the cricket is hard, as it should be, but off the pitch the teams get on well," Atherton said.

Ray Illingworth, the England team manager, added: "Neither side have a problem. There have been isolated incidents which personally I feel are quite funny. It's not the end of the world if McMillan tries to wind somebody in or Cork pretends to take a photograph.

"If you don't have a bit of fun in Test cricket it would be a dull business. But if the referee says cut it out then you have to cut it out. I'm not saying you can shake your fist or tell someone to piss off, but you need a bit of comic relief. And I think I care as much about cricket as anyone."

Hansie Cronje, the South Africa captain, agreed: "I think it's fantastic to have a bit of needle and then share a beer and laugh about it afterwards." Cronje was also unconcerned about England's leg-side tactics during his team's second innings which ended with Cork being signalled for a wide. Atherton insisted: "I don't think it was an unfair tactic. We reduced South Africa to 162 for 9 - what more do you want?"

England have not won an overseas series since beating New Zealand 2-0 nearly four years ago. They now head to Cape Town knowing that just one victory will be enough to end that barren run. "I believe we can beat them," Atherton said. "But I'd like to win a toss for once and be in a position where we are not chasing the game."

England comfortably held out for a draw on Saturday, finishing on 189 for 3 with Alec Stewart scoring 81 - his first Test half-century since August last year.

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