S Africans put Adams on agenda

Cricket DEREK PRINGLE reports from Durban South Africa 225 England 152-5 Match drawn
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Cricket

DEREK PRINGLE

reports from Durban

South Africa 225 England 152-5 Match drawn

Nothing much stirred here yesterday, as further torrential rain brought a sodden and premature end to the third Test. With more rain forecast over the next few days, farmers have already moved their cattle to higher ground, a position that might save England's next three-day game inland at Pietermaritzburg, scheduled to start tomorrow.

After two years of drought, the non-stop rain is causing havoc. With widespread flooding making major roads impassable, this mecca for holidaymakers has, ironically, become as isolated as a desert island.

It wouldn't have come as much of a surprise had South Africa's selectors decided that the quickest way to inform Paul Adams of his selection for the last two Tests was to pop a message into a corked bottle, toss it from Durban pier, and let the tides take it round to Cape Town.

Holding a Test series in the rainy season is bound to cause disenchantment, especially from those overseas fans not over in time for the five days of good weather in Johannesburg. Bad luck perhaps, but have the organisers not also been negligent to some extent in arranging the bulk of the Test series for this time of year?

As most climatologists will tell you, South Africa - bar the Cape - receives most of its rainfall in summer. is therefore at risk, though much of the rain comes in the form of thundery showers, which rarely last long. The widespread frontal rain, which obliterated the first Test at Centurion Park as well as the match here, can last for days and is quite unusual.

For some reason, given the distances involved, experts believe it is due to a weakening of the "El Nino" effect, which occurs in the Pacific Ocean. "The Child", as it is also known, owing to its five to seven-year cycles, is a series of warm currents that can apparently have widespread effect on the world's weather.

But if local experts blame it for causing recent drought over here, Raymond Illingworth has no such grudge. As news filters through that water is being tankered in to Farsley to ease shortages, he was placing the blame firmly on Yorkshire Water. There are few things as precious to the England chairman as his beloved lawn which, deprived of months of water, now bears little resemblance to the photographs he has of it in his wallet.

However, with two Tests to go, and only one win needed for either side to gain an infallible position, England, if not fearing the departure of "The Child", would do well to heed the arrival of the teenager. Paul Adams's rightful inclusion is what this series and this country have been crying out for since their return to the international fold.

Despite being a fillip for all those involved in development programmes throughout South Africa, it is a timely affirmation to those doubters outside the white community, still pessimistic about the prospects and pace of real change.

If he plays in the fourth Test he will be, at 18, South Africa's youngest ever Test player, beating A E Ochse who had just turned 19 when he played two matches against England in 1888-89. South Africa have also picked the slow left-armer Nicky Boje, but all indications are that Adams will be the front-line spinner, the convener of selectors, Peter Pollock, indicating as much when he said: "It wasn't a gamble. We picked him because he fits into our plans at Port Elizabeth. We feel he'll get the ball past the bat."

Responding to the South Africans' bold move, England announced that Phillip DeFreitas, now almost 30, would be joining the team in the new year for the seven-match series of one-dayers that begin after the Cape Town Test. It is a sensible move and one that should have been made far earlier. DeFreitas may have lost a bit of nip in his bowling but he is a brilliant fielder and useful lower-order striker in limited overs cricket.

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