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2nd Texaco ODI: South Africa v England, Old Trafford

Scyld Berry in The Electronic Telegraph

23 May 1998

Gough at his sharpest to lift England with four wickets

IN the Oval international South Africa were blessed with advantageous conditions and took full advantage. At Old Trafford, in the second match of the Texaco Trophy, it was England's turn to bowl first but they did not make the same use of them apart from Darren Gough, which left them with a fairly steep target to chase in order to level the series.

``Today has given me the confidence to believe I'm back to my best,'' Gough said after he had taken four wickets. The pace was sharp, the slower off-cutter foxed out Mark Boucher, and his second spell produced some reverse-swing; the only trouble was that the rest of England's cricket was not back to its best, apart from Alec Stewart, and Adam Hollioake in his batting, though not in his captaincy.

Twice in one weekend in St Vincent last month Hollioake had failed to grasp the basic strategy that England had to bowl their opponents out to win the game. It was much the same here: in damp and overcast conditions favouring seam bowlers, England had to cripple the South African top-order batting, rather than simply seek to contain for 50 overs.

Hollioake, in his defence, was let down by Chris Lewis, whose opening spell of five overs for 22 runs did little to support Gough in the opening assault. When Lewis pitched on and around offstump, he dropped short; whenever he pitched up, he strayed legside. Perverse stuff for the captain to command, perhaps the result of Lewis trying to cram too much into a short run-up.

England's selectors did not help Hollioake either by omitting Dougie Brown. After Gough and Lewis, England needed a third seamer with more bite than either Mark Ealham or Matthew Fleming could offer. It was the same at the Oval, too, when Hansie Cronje and Jonty Rhodes could settle in undisturbed by any pace in the middle of South Africa's innings.

Still, Hollioake did not make the most of the resources which he did have. Far from being aggressive Aussie, he has become as conventional and defensive as a host of England captains before him. Like the majority of this side, he is highly inexperienced in one-day international cricket, at home especially, but there was still too much timidity.

Gough, after his two-wicket opening spell, was kept until the end for his last three overs: a mid-innings burn of an over or two would have been worth trying to nip Rhodes in the bud. As soon as Gough was gone, the field was spread as widely as permissible for the Kent medium-pacers. By the time Croft came on, for the 22nd over, it looked as if England were completely on the defensive, the minimum of four fielders inside the semi-circles, even for new batsmen, allowing South Africa to pick up the singles throughout his allotment.

Hollioake's field-placings were equally uninspired. For too much of the innings, when he was not bowling, Croft was in the pivotal position of midwicket, where he was shown up as the slowest of England's fieldsmen. So conventional were the placings that Hollioake had the same field for Cronje, who was looking to drive, as for Gerry Liebenberg, whose one offside shot was a dab through gully rendering a deep cover superfluous.

Still, England reduced South Africa to 143 for six, with the aid of a leg-before decision against Daryll Cullinan. Liebenberg, whose job had been to keep one end going while his partners played positively, had gone; so too Cronje after a pugnacious effort. But first Rhodes and finally Klusener tended the flame zealously and refused to let it die until the final over, when it was fanned into three consecutive fours off Fleming and what even Gough admitted later was a ``par'' total.

But if 15 runs were scored off the last over of South Africa's innings, England managed the same off Klusener's third, only it included a no-ball and Ali Brown cut the seventh ball to cover. Again, as in Sharjah, Brown did not come to terms with the extra weight of international opening bowling: if he has a World Cup place, it is more likely to be in England's middle order against the stronger countries.

Trying to hit boundaries off Allan Donald's first couple of overs to dent his confidence has become a standard ploy. Nick Knight risked his own safety by jumping down the pitch at him to do so, but retribution came as swiftly as could be when Knight dabbed to the keeper's left. There was no stopping Donald now.

Nasser Hussain twitched the faintest of catches off Donald, Adams made another leg-before victim for Ray Julian. Again, for the sixth international running, England's middle order had disintegrated in the absence of Graham Thorpe. Where he used to be, before his back trouble, is now a vacuum.

Again the selectors did not help by trying out Darren Maddy at No 5 at the Oval. He may be a leading candidate for the opening position in the Edgbaston Test, but he is not for England's World Cup party. In their enthusiasm for Maddy's cricket, the selectors confused their objectives: the 20 runs which an established one-day middle-order batsman could have been expected to make at the Oval could have made all the difference.

England reached the 100 mark in the same over as South Africa had done, the 24th. It was neck and neck as well in the individual rivalry beween Donald and Gough. The question was whether Stewart would stand out as the batsman of the day, largely at the expense of Klusener, and whether Hollioake could redeem a situation that was partly of his own making by his batting.

Hollioake's limited vision hands series to South Africa

AFTER England's loss of the Texaco Trophy, which they had won in their last six home series, and their sixth consecutive defeat in one-day internationals, it could be argued that England's World Cup strategy has to go back to the drawing board. But it would not be safe to assume the existence of one, so motley has England's one-day cricket become in the last six months.

England's selectors and captain have been equally at fault. While the South Africans, as ever, have made the most of themselves, England have stuck to the formula which won them the Champions' Trophy in Sharjah last December, and in doing so they have gone backwards.

Their Sharjah success was achieved by packing the side with all-rounders whose medium-pace did not come on to the bat, and whose batting could scratch enough runs on a slow, benign surface. Most of these all-rounders should have subsequently been replaced, by specialist batsmen, preferably not novices, of whom England selected two at the Oval; and by seamers with enough pace and bite to take wickets in such damp and cloudy conditions as those which reigned over Old Trafford. Whereas South Africa took full advantage of bowling first at the Oval, England did not yesterday.

Even so, Adam Hollioake did not make good use of the resources which were left to him. Far from being the aggressive Aussie of tabloid myth, he has become as dull, defensive and conventional as any of his predecessors as England captain, which is saying not a little. A large part of the justification for having a separate one-day captain is gone if Hollioake cannot be more inspired and imaginative than Alec Stewart.

Twice in one weekend in St Vincent last month Hollioake did not grasp the basic strategy that England had to bowl their opponents out to win the game. It was much the same mistake here, after Darren Gough's fine opening assault, when England sat back and sought to do no more than contain for 50 overs.

Hollioake, in his defence, was let down by Chris Lewis, who was far from matching Gough as he either pitched too short on off stump or too full on leg stump; and let down too by his selectors again. As at the Oval, England needed a third seamer who could stick it up Hansie Cronje and attack Jonty Rhodes when he came in, even if Dougie Brown is not quite comparable to Allan Donald for a mid-innings burn.

As it was, England - not South Africa - were on the defensive after Gough's first salvo, and their field spread to the limit for the Kent medium-pacers and Robert Croft. Even when new batsmen came in, the minimum of four fielders in the semi-circles was not increased, allowing the South Africans space to breathe and pick up singles. They in their turn were not so generous.

Hollioake's field-placing for Gerry Liebenberg was perhaps the most extraordinary of all the errors. The tourists' dogged but limited opener displayed one off-side shot, a dab through gully, yet Hollioake packed the off side in front of the wicket, including a sweeper at deep cover. In this case England's coach David Lloyd has to be answerable too for a poor analysis in his briefings on the opposition.

The flame which Jonty Rhodes zealously tended in mid-innings was fanned into life by Lance Klusener, who clubbed the highest score of the match off 49 balls and was declared the man of it. He took three consecutive fours off the last over by Matthew Fleming, possibly, at any rate, his last for some time.

Klusener's first four overs of his own cost 35, but he dismissed Ali Brown who, as in Sharjah, could not come to terms with the extra weight of international opening bowling. If he has a World Cup place, it should be in England's middle order where, in Graham Thorpe's absence, there is nothing but a painful vacuum.

If it was predictable that Donald should be as penetrative as Gough, who justifiably believed he was back to his best yesterday, it was a startling rabbit which Cronje plucked from his hat in the form of Daryll Cullinan's off-breaks. Pat Symcox had turned the ball abnormally, escaping punishment though he began before the first 15 overs were gone, and Cullinan did a fair imitation of the specialist off-spinner, though he had bowled only 84 balls in all of his 92 previous internationals.

Stewart's self-judged dismissal might have been crucial, or might not have been, so restrictive was South Africa's fielding, especially that of Rhodes. Rhodes's throw to Mark Boucher was so sharp that the ball went through his gloves and was lodged in his elbows when Boucher's hands took off the bails: Law 28 insists that the ball should be held in the hand which removes the bails. ``The only thing I'm prepared to say is that I was out of my ground,'' said Stewart afterwards.

Hollioake's batting started to redeem a situation that was in large part of his making: he deserves to remain in the one-day party even if the captaincy passes to Stewart, or conceivably to Hussain or Mark Ramprakash, neither of them automatic choices hitherto, or else to Matthew Maynard. But once Hollioake had become the sixth lbw of the day, England were sunk.

At least one other necessity is the addition of Dermot Reeve to the think-tank, perhaps as the one-day coach under the overall direction of Lloyd. England's one-day cricket has become too feeble too suddenly for any personal antipathies to come in the way of its resuscitation.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 24 May1998 - 06:21