Welcome back to South Africa, where my England team are enjoying the best run of form possibly in my entire life. A drawn test series was good but our opening victory in the ODI Triangular tournament felt extra special. Can we back that up in our second clash with the South Africans?
Firstly, it’s team picking time. Looking at the conditions, there’s no point in Tufnell.
He’s out and Alan Mullally is in. Bicknell and Gough are both short of form so Uncle Phil DeFreitas is back in the mix. Otherwise I’ve shuffled the batting order a bit but same again, please.
Lots of changes for South Africa. Kallis and Kullinan are out for Schulz and Craven. Bit of a strange look to their lineup but they win the toss and put us in to bat, which can’t be good news with that cloud cover.
South Africa used this tactic in the first game too – the medium pacer opens up with the new ball and his little dibbly dobblies cause us some problems. Pollock however is getting hoiked all over but Craven bowls Lathwell for 30 and Klusener cuts Atherton short on 32; he was going very well indeed. 57/2 is a worry but Stewart, promoted to 3, is joined by Adam Hollioake and poor old Pryke and Donald get carted all over the place.
Craven returns to bowl Stewart for 63 but we’re in a brilliant position at 179/3! Habib joins him in getting a shift on and scores 26 off just 25 balls before he edges behind to leave us 230/4 with just over 5 overs to go. Hollioake continues to go mad but on 99 he is bowled – a huge shame. That 99 came off 106 balls and threatened to take the game away from South Africa. Wells and Ramps add 15 at more or less a run a ball to finish and we’ll try and defend 260.
I’m sticking with Daffy and Headley for the new ball and seeing as we have runs in the bank I’m happy with the attacking nature. DeFreitas bowls Kirsten for 1 but the real battle is Liebenberg against Headley. The first over from Deano goes for 16 and that sets the tone. We’re really struggling to make inroads but on 94 Bulbeck bowls Cronje. 94/2 but the run rate is just under 5. Liebenberg passes 50 but on 68 lovely Vince tempts him into an edge and Ramps catches it. 155/3 and the game is well poised. Or it should be. Benks and Klusener go mad and start peppering the boundary. Mullally is particularly useless and it all gets a bit academic. South Africa win with 3 overs to spare. What a let down!
Benkenstein’s 86 came from 87 balls whilst Klusener clubbed at a similar rate, 51 off 50. Poor from us but at least it’s a tournament, eh?
Two days later it’s our first look at Zimbabwe. The conditions are similar.
I don’t really have another medium pacer so I’ve opted to bring in Thorpe for Mullally and give us an extra batsman. If we win the toss, I think I’ll bowl.
We lose the toss and it’s Zimbabwe who decide to bat. A pickle.
Zimbabwe have a mix of exceptional players and some… not so much. They set off in a steady manner before DeFreitas removes Flower and Bulkbeck soon snares Goodwin to leave them 58/2. Carlisle keeps them going though as future England coach Andy Flower departs for just 14. Carlisle’s 80 is the only real score of the innings and a good all round bowling performance sees all of the bowlers take a wicket and I’m pleased to limit them from 140/3 to 215 all out. That is gettable, though the pitch is showing signs of taking spin…
Atherton and Lathwell face up to Strang and Streak and it’s soon apparent we have too much for them. The 50 partnership is chanceless and it’s a shame for Atherton to fall 4 short of his 50 after edging behind. Stewart comes in and manages just 10 but Lathwell is smashing it to all parts and passes 50. When Lathwell departs for 69, we’re 150/3 and well ahead of the run rates. Hollioake and Thorpe should be set fair to take us towards victory but Strang’s spin is stifling us and he gets Hollioake for 22 and Habib 2 balls later to reduce us to 164/5.
Ramprakash is next to go for just 2 and the run rate has crawled to a halt. Hollioake and Wells try to steady the ship but the run rate is still getting away from us. Eventually we find some fluidity and with 21 needed from the last 3 overs, Wells guides us home like the hero he is. One ball to spare. Too close for comfort.
Honestly, we were coasting and just stopped batting for about 10 overs. The burst at the end was very necessary.
That leaves the table looking favourable for us, with Zimbabwe to place twice and South Africa once. Oh and by the looks of things a final, no doubt against South Africa. I’m a bit tired of Liebenberg and friends.
Join me next time for the penultimate chapter in this ODI series, it might be limited overs but we’re managing to hide my limited ability so far.