Malcolm fires more blanks for England

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reports from Bloemfontein

England 316-4 dec and 121-1 Orange Free State 245-9 dec

Bloemfontein is just the kind of town where you would expect to find a Last Chance Saloon, but in terms of next week's second Test, Devon Malcolm and John Crawley appear to have walked through the door just in time to see the towels on the pumps and the barman stacking the chairs.

Crawley's classy, unbeaten 69 yesterday has been rendered largely irrelevant by Raymond Illingworth's decision not to tamper with the top six. "It would be unfair to chop and change after just one innings of the series," he said. However, as the chairman unilaterally changed a team after it had been selected on one occasion last summer, perhaps Crawley has not entirely given up hope.

The same cannot be said of Malcolm, who is bowling like a man dispossessed. Illingworth tried his best to be kind yesterday, when he said that Malcolm's "body language was a little bit better", but Raymond's own body language suggested that if he thought Malcolm was just about capable of bowling a hoop downhill, it would have to be a particularly steep gradient.

Malcolm's team-mates also tried the sympathy treatment yesterday, or at least that was the only logical assumption for several choruses of "well bowled, Dev" as another innocuous delivery wandered down well wide of the stumps, and the captain's real faith in him could be more accurately gauged by five men in the covers and none in the slips.

Sadly, Malcolm's own body language involves that familiar falling away in the delivery stride, and an arm too low to extract any genuine bounce. Furthermore, any lingering prospect of a Test place in Johannesburg disappeared when he was spanked around Springbok Park by an 18-year-old schoolboy.

Hendrik Dippenaar, a South African Under-19 tourist to England last summer, attends the same local college that produced Allan Donald, Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje, and the fact that this was his first-class debut did not inhibit him from dispatching a Malcolm bouncer over square leg for six.

England's best bowler yesterday, if only by a short head from Peter Martin, was Dominic Cork, who managed to find a good deal more pace and bounce than Malcolm. Cork is no economy model, though, and while most people would not have to think too long for an answer if asked whether Cork or Malcolm had conceded more runs per over in Test cricket, most people would get it wrong.

Where Cork does score over bowlers of his relatively modest pace, however, is in aggression. Cronje, the South African captain, is considered to be a bit on the windy side when it comes to the short stuff, and after Cork had persuaded Cronje that the back foot was a safer option than the front one, he plucked out his off stump with a ball of much fuller length.

Up until then, the combination of watching England's bowlers struggle, and the news that Shaun Pollock had taken five wickets for his State side, did not greatly augur well for next week, but the two sessions after lunch were a significant improvement, and Crawley's increased agility in the field also brought him two fine catches.

Richard Illingworth picked up three late wickets - including Dippenaar's to a thin-edged cut - and although England will undoubtedly be tempted to pick four seamers next week if, as they suspect, the Test pitch turns out to be a little greener and juicier than the last one, Illingworth will probably keep his place in an unchanged side.

The one batsman England did not need to make runs here duly failed to do so, Michael Atherton confirming his reputation of failing to rise to the small occasion with scores of 0 and 13. His hoik to short midwicket yesterday was particularly ghastly, but Crawley and Mark Ramprakash handsomely extended England's first-innings lead of 71.

Interestingly, given that Crawley and Ramprakash are effectively competing for the same Test match batting position on this tour, there were two decidedly hairy run-out calls.

(Second day of three; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First innings 316 for 4 (G P Thorpe 131no, A J Stewart 110).

ORANGE FREE STATE - First innings

(Overnight: 36 for 0)

D Jordaan c Stewart b Malcolm 52

G F J Liebenberg c Crawley b Martin 30

*W J Cronje b Cork 30

L J Wilkinson c Stewart b Ilott 19

J F Venter lbw b Cork 4

H H Dippenaar c Stewart b Illingworth 46

C F Craven c Crawley b Martin 5

N Boje lbw b Illingworth 45

H C Bakkes not out 3

P J L Radley lbw b Illingworth 0

Extras (lb7 w1 nb3) 11

Total (for 9 dec, 72 overs) 245

Fall: 1-74, 2-112, 3-122, 4-129, 5-159, 6-176, 7-232, 8-245, 9-245.

Did not bat: N W Pretorius.

Bowling: Malcolm 15-2-59-1; Ilott 10-1-37-1; Cork 13-2-40-2; Illingworth 19-6-50-3; Martin 12-3-45-2; Ramprakash 3-1-7-0.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

J P Crawley not out 69

*M A Atherton c Cronje b Craven 13

M R Ramprakash not out 37

Extras (b1 nb1) 2

Total (for 1, 38 overs) 121

Fall: 1-44.

To bat: A J Stewart, G P Thorpe, R A Smith, D G Cork, M C Ilott, R K Illingworth, P J Martin, D E Malcolm.

Bowling: Pretorius 6-0-22-0; Bakkes 6-2-12-0; Craven 6-3-10-1; Cronje 2-0-14-0; Boje 10-3-41-0; Venter 7-1-16-0; Jordaan 1-0-5-0.