Witless England join minnows of the game

Cricket: South Africa 230 England 152 (South Africa win by 78 runs)
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Cricket

DEREK PRINGLE

reports from Rawalpindi

South Africa 230 England 152 (South Africa win by 78 runs)

It is now patently clear, after another abject batting performance, that not even England believe the flimsy propaganda they keep churning out. Their recent form suggests they are in steep decline and their meek 152 was one run less than the UAE made on this ground against the same opposition a week ago.

Chasing 230, about par for the pitch, they once again prostrated themselves at the feet of South Africa's bowlers. They are so bereft of ideas that they lost by 78 runs, a margin perhaps expected of the minnows, but not a leading nation.

At the press conference afterwards, the England captain, Michael Atherton, clearly seething after England's inept performance, blotted it still further, when he directed an ill-judged comment towards a Pakistani journalist, who had been persistently asking the same question - one Atherton appeared not to fully understand.

On a tour where England's attitude has already come under criticism over demands for practice facilities, it was a witless thing to do, even though Atherton's tone did not intend to wound or humiliate.

It is not the first time Atherton has said something he regretted. In South Africa recently, he said: "There seems to be little room for flair in the Afrikaner mentality."

Who is he trying to kid? The comment, clearly directed at his opposite number, Hansie Cronje, is one that has persistently come back to haunt him. It did so again yesterday in South Africa's seventh limited-overs victory over England in six weeks.

Yet England were convinced that the one-sided scoreline in South Africa was an aberration, and that, once they got South Africa away from their home pitches, victory would be theirs.

Yesterday was their chance and, if anything, Cronje immediately handed them a substantial advantage when he won the toss and decided to bat. Grey, damp and overcast conditions are normally everything an English seam bowler ever dreams of.

Phil DeFreitas, playing his 100th one-day international, looked as if he might run through the South Africans after twice beating the bat in his first over. But with Dominic Cork curiously going off half-cock, as well as dropping Steve Palframan when he was on seven, this was the only time England looked dangerous. In any case, Palframan's effective hitting soon forced Atherton to move his close catchers to more defensive positions.

To their credit, England came back, Palframan skying Peter Martin to the keeper. The Lancashire man was comfortably England's best bowler, consistently pitching the ball on a far more ungenerous length than his colleagues. Kirsten went next, run out to a rare direct hit. Stewart's underarm throw from mid-on found him six inches short.

For once, England's fielding looked professional, although it paled besides South Africa, for whom Jonty Rhodes putting in a vintage performance that included a springbok-like leap to catch Jack Russell at deep gully.

However, when Cronje was out edging a loose drive to Russell off Darren Gough, his side were 88 for 3 and looking vulnerable. That was until Daryll Cullinan and Jacques Kallis stabilised the innings with a partnership worth 49.

During this period, it rained long enough to wet the outfield, which made it difficult for Neil Smith to grip the ball for his off-spin, and his eight overs cost 40 runs. The rain proved crucial, for it forced Atherton to turn to Graham Thorpe, whose two overs of slow medium-pace went for 17 runs. It was an expense that England could ill afford and South Africa's coach, Bob Woolmer, thought it was the key factor.

That was presumably before he had had time to digest England's abysmal performance with the bat. With Robin Smith still unfit, this time with a calf strain, Atherton decided to join Neil Smith in opening the innings.

If it was one of the experiments Ray Illingworth often refers to explain away defeat, it was not a long-term one, lasting just four balls, as Atherton fished at a wide one from Pollock.

It was simply the start of an unrelenting bowling effort from South Africa, spectacularly backed up by their fielders, whose two run-outs had much to do with Stewart's and DeFreitas' dawdling naivete. Only Thorpe, with a studied 46, and some hearty late-order thumps pushed the score close to minnow-like respectability.

It is incredible to think that a side as poor as England have been here are still in with a chance, albeit minuscule, of winning the World Cup. If they play, as looks likely, and beat Sri Lanka in the quarter-final in Faisalabad, they will have got to the last four by winning three games, two against the Netherlands and the UAE.

England may moan about the practice facilities, but they have been thrown more lifelines than the RNLI. It is about time they stopped squandering them.

(South Africa won toss)

SOUTH AFRICA

G Kirsten run out (Stewart) 38

(87 min, 60 balls, 4 fours)

S J Palframan c Russell b Martin 28

(51 min, 36 balls, 3 fours)

*W J Cronje c Russell b Gough 15

(42 min, 31 balls, 1 four, 1 five)

D J Cullinan b DeFreitas 34

(48 min, 42 balls, 2 fours)

J H Kallis c Russell b Cork 26

(59 min, 42 balls, 2 fours)

J N Rhodes b Martin 37

(37 min, 32 balls, 3 fours)

B M McMillan b Smith 11

(24 min, 17 balls)

S M Pollock c Fairbrother b Cork 12

(16 min, 13 balls)

P L Symcox c Thorpe b Martin 1

(4 min, 4 balls)

C R Matthews not out 9

(20 min, 13 balls)

P S de Villiers c Smith b Gough 12

(13 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb1, w5, nb1) 7

Total (205 min, 50 overs) 230

Fall: 1-56 (Martin), 2-85 (Kirsten), 3-88 (Cronje), 4-137 (Cullinan), 5-163 (Kallis), 6-195 (Rhodes), 7-199 (McMillan), 8-202 (Symcox), 9-213 (Pollock).

Bowling: Cork 10-0-36-2 (w1) (6-0-19-0, 2-0-7-1, 2-0-10-1); DeFreitas 10-0-55-1 (nb1, w1) (5-0-33-0, 5-0-22-1); Gough 10-0-48-2 (6-0-20-1, 2-0-15-0, 2-0-13-1); Martin 10-0-33-3 (w3) (6-0-18-1, 2-0-9-0, 2-0-6-2); Smith 8-0-40-1 (5-0-25-0, 3-0-15-1); Thorpe 2-0-17-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 42 min, 63 balls. 100: 113 min, 161 balls. Rain stopped play: 11.11-11.28 at 133-3 (Cullinan 31, Kallis 15) 31.5 overs. 150: 146 min, 213 balls. 200: 180 min, 266 balls.

ENGLAND

*M A Atherton c Palframan b Pollock 0

(2 min, 4 balls)

N M K Smith b De Villiers 11

(46 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

G A Hick c McMillan b De Villiers 14

(25 min, 27 balls, 1 four)

G P Thorpe c Palframan b Symcox 46

(101 min, 69 balls, 3 fours)

A J Stewart run out 7

(42 min, 29 balls)

N H Fairbrother c Palframan b Symcox 3

(14 min, 10 balls)

R C Russell c Rhodes b Pollock 12

(31 min, 32 balls)

D G Cork b Matthews 17

(46 min, 32 balls, 1 four)

P A J DeFreitas run out 22

(33 min, 24 balls, 1 four, 1 six)

D Gough b Matthews 11

(13 min, 13 balls, 2 fours)

P J Martin not out 1

(7 min, 3 balls)

Extras (lb7, w1) 8

Total (185 min, 44.3 overs) 152

Fall: 1-0 (Atherton), 2-22 (Hick), 3-33 (Smith), 4-52 (Stewart), 5-62 (Fairbrother), 6-97 (Thorpe), 7-97 (Russell), 8-139 (DeFreitas), 9-141 (Cork).

Bowling: Pollock 8-1-16-2 (6-1-13-1, 2-0-3-1); De Villiers 7-1-27-2 (w1) (6-1-20-2, 1-0-7-0); Matthews 9.3-0-30-2 (6-0-16-0, 2-0-8-0, 1.3-0-6-2); McMillan 6-0-17-0 (5-0-10-0, 1-0-7-0); Symcox 10-0-38-2, Cronje 4-0-17-0 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 82 balls, 113 balls. 100: 145 min, 207 balls. 150: 184 min, 265 balls.

Umpires: S G Randell (Aus) and I D Robinson (Zimb).

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