Gough's Test place in danger

Cricket DEREK PRINGLE reports from Paarl England 402-8 dec Boland 129-4
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reports from Paarl England 402-8 dec Boland 129-4

Raymond Illingworth is not a man known for his indecision. True, he occasionally toys between having a bit of steak instead of the usual piece of haddock to go with his chips, but generally he is as unwavering in his cricketing decisions as he is with his diet.

One of these, since his appointment as selector in chief, has been to get some gritty Yorkshiremen involved, at almost any cost. Which in Craig White's case was quite high with the ball and extremely low with the bat. However, Darren Gough's inclusion, was broadly hailed as a master stroke, particularly after the Yorkshireman's gutsy performances on the last Ashes tour.

As ever, Illingworth was not slow to lap up the credit, but Gough's performances on this tour have lacked both last winter's spirit and conviction. Without his chirpy confidence, he is a brook without babble, and when he hobbled off yesterday, shaking his head after pulling up in his fourth over - having apparently strained "something behind his knee" - his tour looked in danger of drying up.

Gough had needed wickets here, even before injury struck, if he was not to test Chairman Ray's parochialism too far and keep his place in the Test side. No easy task on a strip offering little more than a double hernia to seam bowlers, and the audible grunts of effort, easily outweighed the appeals, despite a Surrey presence at the helm.

Unsurprisingly, given the sluggish absorbent nature of the pitch, his closest rival, Mark Ilott, failed to take advantage of Gough's indisposition by remaining wicketless, and his claim for a place in the third Test may have to be placed on hold.

Not so Peter Martin, who is playing only his third first-class game of the tour. Tipped as one of the potential Lord Lucan figures when the party left London, he was the pick of the seam bowlers and he may well have become a late challenger for a place in the next Test.

Bowling from the Stables end, Martin got consistent bounce from short of a length, and his 10.2 overs deserved better than his 1 for 21. His persistence was rewarded when Bryan Baguley was caught at third slip, as he opened the bat face on one that climbed.

Otherwise it was an afternoon for spin after Jack Russell and Richard Illingworth added 169 to take England's first innings score to 402 for 8 when Alec Stewart declared just after lunch. Russell scoring an undefeated career-best 129, with seven fours and one six in a 346-minute vigil. Eight more minutes and he would have completed 24 hours at the crease on tour. Illingworth weighed in with an unbeaten 57, his best score for his country, as the pair went about repairing the England total.

During the last Test Russell batted like someone being zapped by a cattle prod. But when he plays his shots, with a bat that is closer to horizontal than vertical, he can reach almost any part of the ground irrespective of where the bowler lands the ball. As anyone who can recall his previous career-best score of 128 against Australia at Old Trafford in 1989 will know, his method is a triumph of heart over art.

He even managed a neat stumping, off Richard Illingworth, or so the umpire thought, though the television replay confirmed otherwise. Unless the law has changed under new EU guidelines to protect downtrodden minorities (i.e. left- arm spinners) the batsmen, Terry Lazard, had at least three inches of footwear behind the line, when the bails were eventually removed.

With the ball spinning, Illingworth and Watkinson bowled a lengthy spell in tandem. Illingworth, the chairman that is, is desperate to play a balanced attack in a Test match. But while Jack Russell's promotion to No 6 may make the gambit possible, Mike Watkinson's profligacy with the ball makes it unlikely.

Despite performing the perfect off-spinner's dismissal, by having Kenny Jackson caught by Crawley off bat and pad at short leg, he is cut away far too often from balls too short and wide of the off-stump. Far better to be abstemious and let the pressure build, like his left-arm foil Illingworth, than seek extravagant turn and give away too many runs.

Once again the Worcester spinner showed he has no challengers on this tour. Even South Africa's coach, Bob Woolmer, was spotted watching him wheel away for 22 overs, which suggests the next pitch in Durban may take some spin. If it does, South Africa's batsmen will not have much to go on. The trickiest delivery, which accounted for Lloyd Ferreira, was one that did not turn, though by the time Boland ended the day at 129 for 4, the pitch had begun to stir.

More cricket, page 31

Paarl Scoreboard

(Second day of three; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First Innings

(Overnight: 263 for 8)

R C Russell not out 129

R K Illingworth not out 57

Extras (lb8, w3, nb3) 14

Total (for 8 dec, 152.5 overs) 402

Did not bat: M C Ilott.

Bowling: DeFreitas 18-10-21-1; Willoughby 21-2-78-1; Stelling 19-5-47- 2; Henderson 49-17-88-2; Drew 39-4-128-2; Jackson 6-0-25-0; Kuiper 0.5-0-7-0.

BOLAND - First Innings

B C Baguley c Watkinson b Martin 21

L D Ferreira b Illingworth 35

T Lazard st Russell b Illingworth 37

K C Jackson c Crawley b Watkinson 29

*A P Kuiper not out 2

W F Stelling not out 0

Extras (b4, lb1) 5

Total (for 4, 56 overs) 129

Fall: 1-46, 2-78, 3-127, 4-129.

To bat: L-M Germishuys, P A J DeFreitas, C W Henderson, C M Willoughby, B J Drew.

Bowling: Gough 3.4-1-14-0; Ilott 10-3-24-0; Martin 10.2-4-21-1; Illingworth 22-6-41-2; Watkinson 10-5-24-1.

Umpires: M Bagus and R Brooks.