Illingworth rains on the parade

Martin Johnson in Pretoria finds England's chairman unmoved by the emotion of a historic Test
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The Independent Online
The historic aspect of the cricket match about to get under way here today has, to no one's great surprise, made scarcely a dent in the emotional armour of two of English cricket's more earthy souls.

Raymond Illingworth spent most of yesterday engaged in the not unfamiliar pursuit of having a grumble - largely about the groundsman's use of a watering can - while Michael Ath erton, invited to wax lyrical about the significance of England's first Test match in South Africa since 1965, could barely suppress a yawn.

Illingworth has rarely been more animated of late than when relaying Mrs Illingworth's messages about the water shortage back home in Yorkshire, and when he saw the Test pitch being liberally sprinkled yesterday, he moved in as though he had just spotted the bloke next door hosing the lawn and was making a public-spirited citizen's arrest.

The fact that he was politely told to mind his own business did not improve his mood, and Illingworth, who regards most things practised outside England - or Yorkshire, come to that - in fact, make that Farsley - as more than a little suspect, made it perfectly clear that, in his considered view, johnny foreigner was up to no good.

"What sort of pitch are you expecting?" Illingworth was asked. "I can't tell, can I? Not 'till they give up watering it," he replied. "It was already slightly damp first thing in the morning, and then they started watering it again in the afternoon. Pretty unusual if you ask me."

The underlying suspicion in Illingworth's mind was that the groundsman had been instructed to make sure the pitch favoured a South African attack top-heavy in pace-bowling, and that England would retaliate by adding Mark Illott to the 12 originally selected.

"When I first saw this pitch I thought it would definitely turn," Illingworth said, "and that it would have been a straightforward bat-first decision. But I don't know now. It could be an interesting first couple of hours."

However, while England were clearly leaving themselves the option of playing four seamers, Atherton not only did not quite share Illingworth's view of what was happening to the pitch, but also intimated that he thought his chairman might have been suffering from a touch of water on the brain.

"Raymond said it was unusual for a pitch to be watered the day before a Test," Atherton was asked. "Do you think so as well?" "No I don't," he said. "Have you played in a Test when the pitch was watered the day before?" Atherton replied: "Plenty."

The England captain also ventured the view (not shared by Illy) that the groundsman might actually know what he was doing. "He knows better than anyone how to prepare his pitch, and one of the great things about cricket is that you have to play in different conditions wherever you go. We are expecting to win whatever the pitch does, but I very rarely feel comfortable going into a Test match without a specialist spinner."

What Illingworth feels uncomfortable about, thrifty soul that he is, is the prospect of Devon Malcolm as one of only three pace bowlers. With England having decided on six batsmen, Richard Illingworth's inclusion would therefore place a serious question mark about Malcolm making the final XI. As far as Raymond is concerned, he is only slightly more concerned about whether the pitch is covered in puddles, than whether Malcolm will be able to land the ball in one of them.

Atherton also has reservations about Malcolm, having more than once sent him to Coventry (or at least to long leg) after a profligate couple of overs, and neither does it bother him that this historic occasion would be even more historic were a black cricketer be seen on the field for the first time in a South Africa v England Test match.

"What about the occasion, Mike?" came the inevitable question. "I'm not really bothered about that," he said. "It's just another Test match. The real importance of this game is that we win it." Atherton, in short, is not much bothered that the South Africans are planning to mark the occasion with marching bands, mobile discos, fly-pasts, parachutists and crowd- banner competitions, but if any of his batsmen gets out trying to win the few thousand rand on offer for bouncing a six off a giant can of lager, you get the feeling he may not be best pleased.

As for the South Africans, their reliance on fast bowling is reflected by the fact that David Richardson is within one catch of becoming the first wicketkeeper in Test history to record 100 victims without a stumping.

England are more than happy that Fanie de Villiers is likely to miss the entire series through injury, but they still have Allan Donald, Brett Schultz, Shaun Pollock and Brian McMillan to negotiate, and the whole series may hinge on whether England can avoid their customary habit of springing from the starting stalls like a greyhound with two broken legs.

South Africa v England

November

16 First Test, Pretoria

30 Second Test, Johannesburg

December

14 Third Test, Durban

26 Fourth Test, Port Elizabeth

January

2 Fifth Test, Cape Town

9 First one-day international, Cape Town (day/night)

11 Second one-day int, Bloemfontein (d/n)

13 Third one-day int, Johannesburg

14 Fourth one-day int, Pretoria

17 Fifth one-day int, Durban (d/n)

19 Sixth one-day int, East London (d/n)

21 Seventh one-day int, Port Elizabeth

ENGLAND v SOUTH AFRICA TEST AVERAGES

ENGLAND

BATTING

M I NO Runs HS 50 100 Ave

R A Smith 57 105 15 3982 175 9 26 44.24

G P Thorpe 21 41 3 1658 123 2 14 43.63

M A Atherton 51 96 1 3812 151 8 25 40.12

A J Stewart 48 87 6 3168 190 7 15 39.11

G A Hick 37 66 4 2336 178 3 14 37.67

R C Russell 39 63 12 1454 128* 1 5 28.50

D G Cork 5 8 1 197 56* 0 1 28.14

D Gough 10 16 3 317 65 0 2 24.38

R K Illingworth 6 12 7 100 17* 0 0 20.00

M R Ramprakash 17 30 1 520 72 0 2 17.93

A R C Fraser 29 42 8 255 29 0 0 7.50

M C Ilott 3 5 1 28 15 0 0 7.00

D E Malcolm 34 50 16 223 29 0 0 6.55

BOWLING

O M R W 5w 10w BB Ave

D G Cork 184.2 30 661 26 1 0 7-43 25.42

A R C Fraser 1261.5 302 3322 115 8 0 8-75 28.88

D Gough 393.1 67 1246 43 1 0 6-49 28.97

D E Malcolm 1263.2 221 4246 116 5 2 9-57 36.60

R K Illingworth 156.4 50 428 10 0 0 4-96 42.80

M C Ilott 129.0 28 412 8 0 0 3-108 51.50

G A Hick 417.5 114 1037 20 0 0 4-126 51.85

M A Atherton 61.0 11 282 1 0 0 1-60 282.00

M R Ramprakash 40.1 4 130 0 0 0 0-0 -

R A Smith 4.0 2 6 0 0 0 0-0 -

A J Stewart 3.2 0 13 0 0 0 0-0 -

G P Thorpe 8.0 2 15 0 0 0 0-0 -

SOUTH AFRICA

BATTING

M I NO Runs HS 50 100 Ave

B M McMillan 18 29 5 1002 113 1 7 41.75

W J Cronje 22 40 5 1403 135 5 4 40.08

A C Hudson 20 37 1 1320 163 3 10 36.66

G Kirsten 15 28 1 962 76 0 7 35.62

D J Cullinan 14 25 2 788 102 1 5 34.26

J N Rhodes 22 37 5 1058 101* 1 6 33.06

D J Richardson 23 35 3 838 109 1 5 26.18

C R Matthews 15 22 6 328 62* 0 1 20.50

A A Donald 20 26 14 165 33 0 0 13.75

C E Eksteen 5 8 2 72 22 0 0 12.00

B N Schultz 6 6 2 6 6 0 0 1.50

BOWLING

O M R W 5w 10w BB Ave

B N Schultz 220.5 65 553 29 2 0 5-48 19.06

A A Donald 789.4 181 2339 95 5 2 8-71 24.62

C R Matthews 582.2 196 1337 48 2 0 5-42 27.85

B M McMillan 595.2 153 1542 52 0 0 4-65 29.65

W J Cronje 257.1 96 496 8 0 0 2-17 62.00

G Kirsten 48.1 13 133 2 0 0 1-0 66.50

C E Eksteen 180.0 69 359 5 0 0 2-34 71.80

J N Rhodes 2.0 1 5 0 0 0 0-0 -

(* denotes not out)

S Pollock has yet to play Test cricket

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