South Africa ready to meet fire with fire

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The Independent Online

South Africa are anticipating a long, hot summer series dominated by fast bowling after analysing England's selection for the five-Test tour, which starts next month.

The country's cricket coach, the former England Test player and Warwickshire coach Bob Woolmer, said: "They haven't picked many spinners so they obviously think they can blast us out with their quick bowlers.

"Now we are aware of their tactics we will prepare for them. Our strengths traditionally lie with our fast bowlers, and obviously still do.

"Our groundsmen aren't likely to prepare slow, turning wickets with Allan Donald, Fanie de Villiers and Brett Schultz as our main weapons."

Woolmer expressed slight surprise that spinner Richard Illingworth was chosen ahead of Phil Tufnell by England. "Perhaps the fact that Illingworth has experience of South African conditions after coaching in Natal counted in his favour," he said.

Although Woolmer recognises England's fast bowling talent, he feels his own troops are much stronger in that department. "Devon Malcolm might have a slight psychological advantage after what he did to South Africa at The Oval last year, although I believe we will be much better prepared for him. Dominic Cork had a terrific summer against the West Indies and, like Darren Gough, he has a good competitive spirit and is capable of lower-order runs. And both of them came here with the A squad, along with Mark Ilott, so they won't be under-prepared."

Woolmer acknowledged that England should have a strong batting line-up when he added: "They are established and five of them have proven records. Mark Ramprakash forced his way in as the seventh batsman through sheer weight of runs. The batting is a strong unit."

Woolmer believes his knowledge of the England players will count in South Africa's favour. "I hope it will give us an edge," he said. "Obviously I'll know more about the opposition than is usually the case with a coach and I'll try my utmost to use every last bit of that knowledge.

"But one thing is definite - I will have no emotional problems. I still support England when they play Australia or the West Indies, but South Africa is my home and I'll be giving my everything to beat them.

"I am expecting a very, very tough series. All the South African players are," he said.

On the domestic front, Simon Kellett is one of four players released by Yorkshire. The other three are seamer Stuart Milburn, middle order batsman Bradley Parker and all-rounder Paul Grayson. Kellett, capped in 1992, has lost his place as Martyn Moxon's opening partner to Michael Vaughan and has also been overtaken in the ratings by the England A party member Anthony McGrath.

Ashley Metcalfe, who was offered his release two years ago but decided to stay, has now been offered a further contract.

Chris Penn, the Kent seamer, has retired after a three-year battle to beat a shoulder injury. The 32-year-old, who has spent 14 years with the county, retired on medical advice after failing to shake off the injury he sustained during a one-day match against Pakistan in 1992. He has been awarded a testimonial next summer.

Somerset have reappointed Andy Hayhurst, 32, for a third season as captain.