Limited technique again exposed by limited overs

Robert Winder examines the odd tactics brought about by the special demands of the one-day game and the tourists' inability to master them

One-day tournaments are usually served up like a glass of fizz before the main meal, but the present round of limited-overs games between England and South Africa has been offered, instead, as an after-dinner treat.

Before the tour there were worries that the local audience, which during the years of isolation had lost the five-day habit, might not turn out for the Tests if it was already gorged on one-day thrills. So these were saved for afters. It has worked out well: the Test series was well supported, and the one-day games remain a crowd pleaser. Yesterday's attendance at Centurion Park was a record - 2,000 more than the capacity.

Both teams are using the games as practice sessions for the World Cup, so these contests have not been as highly charged as they might have been. Batting orders have been scrambled: at Bloemfontein and Johannesburg both teams sent out a bowler to get the ball airborne. Both sides were packed with ''all-rounders'', and non- throwers such as Robin Smith were left out.

Nothing, perhaps, exposed the peculiar nature of the game more clearly than the fact that Allan Donald did not take the South African new ball. Slower bowlers are what this type of cricket demands. Hansie Conje rarely turns his arm over in Tests, but is a leading bowler in one-day internationals.

Purists complain that it's just not cricket - and it isn't. As coaches search for a winning formula, the games become increasingly formulaic. A single over in the first contest at Newlands revealed the gulf between slogfests and the real thing.

Donald came on first change. Stewart dropped his first ball to short leg and scampered a quick single. Atherton edged the next ball low to slip, where McMillan almost caught it diving to his left. Then Donald found the edge again, at such pace that the ball flashed between keeper and slip before either moved.

Atherton sliced one through where gully would have been for another four, and that was that: nought for nine off the over - a disaster in one-day terms. But it was brilliant bowling: with Test match field- placings it might well have been a double wicket maiden.

One-day cricket, especially in its day-night disguise, is quite something. And the crowds in South Africa love it. They turn up three or four hours before play is due to start, eager to bag a good seat, set up the barbeque and paint flags on their faces.

On the field, it is starting to look as if coaches are monkeying around too much with the conventions of ordinary cricket. At Newlands, South Africa's attempt to begin in the grand manner was a near catastrophe: they lost three early wickets and were saved only by Pollock in the last half-dozen overs. England's desire for all-rounders led them, on the day, to pick the wrong Smith: Neil bowled just two overs, and England were left looking a batsman short.

It was noticeable that England's solitary success, on Thursday, had its roots in an expert innings by Atherton - sensible, well judged and free of wild gambles. Not long ago, Atherton was executed from England's one- day side out of a misplaced belief that the game required mere sloggers. Yesterday, Gary Kirsten did the same for South Africa.

Having twice failed down the order, he reverted to a familiar role and scored an excellent, match-winning 116. There is no substitute, even in a form of cricket that the players think of as a lottery, for good batting.

It is the same with bowling. In Cape Town, Donald rescued a game that was almost lost by taking three quick wickets. In Bloemfontein, he could not repeat the trick: Hick took 14 off his first over, and South Africa's chief gun had been effectively spiked.

In the modern one-day scene, bowlers concentrate on variety. They are supposed to bowl lots of slower balls and pitch on a full length to avoid getting whacked. In practice, they send down batches of full tosses and lose their rhythm entirely. A bowler who has given up any hope of taking wickets isn't really playing cricket: he is just the pull knob in a game of pinball.

As both sides use this series to experiment, there will be the odd faux pas, but so far as England are concerned, the most useful experiment would have been to find out what it is like to win. All-rounders are worth their weight in gold, but the English definition of an all-rounder at present, alas, is someone who is not quite a batsman and not quite a bowler.

Everyone knows the one-day game can get desperate - that's the fun of it - but the pantomime grows ever more freakish. One day, a losing team will look back and wish that they hadn't taken the bats and balls away from their best players.

Sport
Brazilian fans watch the match for third place between Brazil and Netherlands
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: Dutch pile on the misery in third place playoff
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?