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Sunday, November 19, 2006

England not disgraced or embarrassed, despite struggling to take wickets in second innings

As I predicted, the SA -England match fizzled out in a draw after England batted on this morning to reach 415 all out and were unable to make many inroads into the SA batting.

The scorecard is here.

On a hot yet overcast morning (the temperature reached almost 35 degrees but didn't seem like it if you were sitting under cover) the England batting advanced steadily against a mostly spin attack. Geraint Jones and Andrew Flintoff got useful centre wicket practice, without building big innings, while Sajjad Mahmood demonstrated his hitting prowess. One of his sixes cleared the long boundary and landed near the back of the lower deck of the Bradman stand, which is as long a distance as I can ever recall a ball being hit on the ground.

When SA batted Matthew Elliott and Daniel Harris, both of whom needed runs to prove points, faced the England attack without too many qualms. Elliott was the more aggressive of the pair and reached 50 after being dropped by Pietersen at backward point from a difficult chance. Elliott's boldness brought about his downfall as James Anderson (who in this game belied his reputation as an average fielder) jumped and held on to one handed drive at mid wicket. This gave Monty Panesar his only wicket of the innings. The pitch was taking a little spin but maybe he tried too hard: he began by flighting the ball well but later pushed the ball through more and produced the occasional (or more than occasional) short one for the batsmen to hit to the short square boundaries.

Harris was becalmed for some time but eventually bestirred himself and finished on 71 not out, which should keep him in the SA four day team for a while. The only other wicket fell to Pietersen who had Borgas caught on the midwicket boundary by substitute Ashley Giles, which would probably have reminded his supporters and perhaps others that he is a better fielder than his teammate rival Panesar. As Pietersen bowled in both SA innings I wonder whether he might get some bowling in the tests as the second spinner.

I must also say that Jones belied his butterfingers reputation which had preceded him (and with which I, having watched much of the 2005 Ashes on TV, concurred). His keeping was tidy throughout and he did a good job of mobilising support in the field.

Speaking of mobilising support, the Barmy Army was represented by a small advance guard which as the day wore on both encouraged England and entertained the spectators with some spirited and quite harmonious renditions of a selection of their repertoire. You can see their flags in two of the photos above: in the one showing Flintoff bowling their conductor can be seen in the background.

The game ended an hour before the scheduled finish by mutual agreement between the captains. A fourth day (or a few extra overs a day over three days) might have produced a result or at least kept spectator interest alive for longer. Pre-test, or warm up, first class matches against state sides appear to be seen in official quarters as anachronistic but this game showed that they still have much to offer players and spectators, including contributing to players' career records and providing a truer cricket contest than last week's 14 a side hit out against NSW.

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