Smith in lonely vigil for England

FIFTH TEST: Paceman exploits lively Newlands pitch as Atherton's new-look side surrender initiative
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The Independent Online
DEREK PRINGLE

reports from Cape Town

England 153 South Africa 44-2

A fearsome spell of fast bowling by Allan Donald, who took 5 for 46, sent England tumbling to 153 all out on the first day of this final Test. Only Robin Smith, with a defiant 66, came to terms with South Africa's bowling on an unpredictable pitch. With the home team's reply foundering at 44 for 2, a total of 12 wickets had fallen by the close.

On a day when the bowlers dominated, it was a stolid effort by Smith, who had to conquer not only his own long-suffered demons with wrist spin, but also the pitch and the hoodoo of batting at No 3, England's problem position. Although Smith, who batted for four hours on it, thought the surface would deteriorate rapidly and the side batting last would not want to chase many more than 170 for victory, it is South Africa who look favourites .

Mind you if Donald bowls like he did yesterday, England are unlikely to be setting anything much of a target, if any at all. So far in this series, Donald has not been the force many thought he might be. A combination of slow pitches and excessive use of the short ball have negated his potency.The latter was not a problem yesterday. Bowling a much fuller length than usual, he tore into the England batting, having Michael Atherton caught at third slip before a run had been scored.

Apart from Brian Lara, the England captain is the only player to have topped 1,000 Test runs in 1995. It is the second year running he has achieved this remarkable feat, but if it is too early to tell whether that milestone has become a millstone, carrying the England batting around like Hercules has begun to take its toll.

It took until the 43rd ball of the innings for England to open their account, Alec Stewart clipping Shaun Pollock to leg for a single. It was in his previous innings in Port Elizabeth that Stewart revealed a more cautious, measured approach to batting, and he was at it again yesterday. He took few risks until he made a misjudgement of length that saw him play on to Brian McMillan's outswing, playing back when he should have been forward.

Graham Thorpe, his Surrey team-mate, fared little better, though his off-the-mark hook from Pollock's bouncer hit the boundary fence before fine leg had even twitched. In the second over after lunch, Donald who had switched to the Kelvin Grove End, tempted Thorpe to into an injudicious drive at a ball that was well wide of the off-stump. He edged it to McMillan at second slip.

That was the first of three slip catches for McMillan. The second came only three balls later when Graeme Hick pushed hard at a ball that bounced and England were 60 for 4. It was a poor stroke considering the length of the ball and it demanded a defensive bat held by soft hands. His third catch came 20 overs later when Jack Russell failed to get on top of a rising ball that Pollock angled across him.

By this time Smith was fighting a lone battle and none of the tail was able to stay with him for long. Once Pollock had removed Mike Watkinson, Donald returned to bowl his quickest spell of the day, ripping out Dominic Cork's middle stump with a perfect yorker before forcing Peter Martin to fend off a throat ball to Andrew Hudson at third slip.

On the day, England were undone by the steep bounce, coming as it did from just short of a length. But if the quicker bowlers dominated from the bouncier Kelvin Grove End - where nine of the 12 wickets fell - it was left to Paul Adams to fiddle away at the other.

Once again, his brief experience at this level was not apparent and he bowled over 20 overs, taking the wickets of Smith, who was ninth out after chopping on the chinaman, and Malcolm, who was bowled heaving at a googly. As several of his deliveries have already gone through the top, this pitch will deteriorate and he could come into his own during England's second innings.

This is a new pitch laid only last May, making it probably the youngest Test pitch ever used. Yesterday it behaved like a delinquent with multiple personality disorder might, being slow in the middle, bouncy from just short of a length, and unpredictable from just about anywhere else. That was hardly unexpected considering the groundsman is Andy Atkinson, who moved here from Warwickshire two years ago having planted the Edgbaston track that brought so much terror to England's batsmen last summer.

Still it did not look the kind of strip to put the opposition in on, and Atherton did not hesitate over having first use of it with the bat. However, South Africa must have been suspicious of its mischief potential when they brought in Jacques Kallis for Craig Matthews (a bowler) to strengthen the batting.

When it was England's turn to bowl, their gamble of batting Russell at No 6 in order to play the extra bowler looked sage when Cork rolled over in agony clasping his left hand after colliding with Watkinson in the covers. Luckily he had only sprained his ring finger and he was soon back on his feet screaming for lbws, one of which, against Hudson, was upheld in the third over.

Eight overs later he struck again when he had Hansie Cronje caught by Russell to a an outswinger that left the South African captain groping down a different line. It was another failure for the South African captain with the bat, but unless England can find someone to support Cork today, it is not something that will concern Cronje.

Cape Town scoreboard

(First day; England won toss)

ENGLAND - First innings

*M A Atherton c Hudson b Donald 0

(24 min, 21 balls)

A J Stewart b McMillan 13

(75 min, 51 balls)

R A Smith b Adams 66

(243 min, 179 balls, 8 fours)

G P Thorpe c McMillan b Donald 20

(47 min, 43 balls, 3 fours)

G A Hick c McMillan b Donald 2

(4 min, 3 balls)

R C Russell c McMillan b Pollock 9

(80 min, 57 balls, 1 four)

M Watkinson lbw b Pollock 11

(8 min, 9 balls, 2 fours)

D G Cork b Donald 16

(34 min, 33 balls, 2 fours)

P J Martin c Hudson b Donald 0

(8 min, 6 balls)

A R C Fraser not out 5

(14 min, 8 balls, 1 four)

D E Malcolm b Adams 1

(8 min, 3 balls)

Extras (b4, lb1, w1, nb4) 10

Total (277 min, 68.1 overs) 153

Fall: 1-0 (Atherton), 2-24 (Stewart), 3-58 (Thorpe), 4-60 (Hick), 5-103 (Russell), 6-115 (Watkinson), 7-141 (Cork), 8-147 (Martin), 9-151 (Smith).

Bowling: Donald 16-5-46-5 (nb1,w1) (6-4-10-1, 6-1-17-2, 4-0-19-2); Pollock 14-6-26-2 (nb1) (5-4-5-0, 4-1-9-0, 5-1-12-2); McMillan 10-2-22-1 (nb2) (6-2-11-1, 4-0-11-0); Adams 20.1-5-52-2 (11-3-29-0, 9.1-2-23-2); Kallis 4-2-2-0 (one spell); Cronje 4-4-0-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 110 min, 27 overs. Lunch: 54-2 (Smith 18, Thorpe 20) 30 overs. 100: 208 min, 51.4 overs. Tea: 125-6 (Smith 56, Cork 4) 60 overs. 150: 266 min, 66 overs. Innings closed: 4.09pm.

Smith's 50: 212 min, 142 balls, 7 fours.

SOUTH AFRICA - First innings

G Kirsten not out 15

(88 min, 60 balls, 2 fours)

A C Hudson lbw b Cork 0

(12 min, 5 balls)

*W J Cronje c Russell b Cork 12

(35 min, 33 balls, 2 fours)

D J Cullinan not out 7

(39 min, 22 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb10) 10

Total (2 wkts, 88 min, 20 overs) 44

Fall: 1-1 (Hudson), 2-19 (Cronje).

To bat: J N Rhodes, J H Kallis, B M McMillan, D J Richardson, S M Pollock, A A Donald, P R Adams.

Bowling: Cork 8-3-11-2; Malcolm 6-3-11-0; Martin 3-2-2-0; Fraser 2-0- 9-0; Watkinson 1-0-1-0 (one spell each).

Umpires: D L Orchard and S G Randell.

TV replay umpire: K E Liebenberg.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

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