Warm-up Match: Middlesex v South Africa
Mark Nicholas - 11 May 1999
Cronje and Co just bubbling
S Africa (218-4) bt Middlesex (216-6) by 6 wkts
Warm-Up indeed. If these are warm-ups, beware South Africa when the real thing kicks into gear later this week. They thundered past Middlesex's modest score here yesterday, winning by six wickets with 13.1 overs to spare. Having given an equally almighty thump to Kent over the weekend, Hansie Cronje had every reason to declare the favourites on course in their preparations for the World Cup.
Southgate has a splendid tradition in club cricket and the ground, just a hop and a skip from the raging North Circular, could barely have looked more pretty than it did throughout the day's spring-style sunshine.
The pitch was dry enough to spin and true enough to allow batsmen their fun, which is exactly what all the South Africans, Gary Kirsten excepted, who made it to the crease certainly had.
Cronje himself finished things off with a vicious assault - he hit five fours and two sixes in his own private cameo - but Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis and most particularly Mark Boucher all spent valuable time at the wicket and illustrated the general certainty of stroke which characterises the most improved aspect of South Africa's one-day cricket. We know they can bowl and field; rest assured they can bat a bit, too.
The experiment with Boucher, up the order with a free licence to play his strokes, has gone so well that South Africa will be hard pressed not to continue with it at Hove against India on Saturday. Not that India will be quite the easy touches that the Middlesex bowlers were.
The venerable old pros and now coaches to the county, Mike Gatting and Ian Gould, looked on with some sympathy as various young seamers stuck rigidly to the ``bowl one side of the wicket'' instruction only to see their off-stump and outside offerings flayed.
Boucher's runs came from just 106 balls, though he did take 17 balls to score his second single, which shows that he is more than just a hit-or-miss merchant. Most of his stroke play would have thrilled devotees of the glory days when players like Richards and Procter made the covers a place of peril for fieldsmen. He is keeping wicket tidily, too, which makes him a handy cricketer.
None of this, though, was the highlight of a most enjoyable day. That came from the last ball of the Middlesex innings, bowled by Lance Klusener, which Paul Weekes eased over extra cover to go from 98 to 102 not out.
Weekes has been on sabbatical for a couple of years -why is it so many good young county cricketers suddenly stand still? - but he is gifted and should take comfort and confidence from a fine innings. To carry your bat against this opponent is a rare and worthy achievement.
Back finally to the South Africans, who conceded 27 extras against Kent on Sunday and added 29 more yesterday. Seventeen of these were wides, which is silly. The ball did not swing much so there was no excuse. Neither was the fielding as polished as usual. No bad thing, of course, for them to have something to focus on in the days ahead.
Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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