February 19, 2003

England still in contention after 55-run win

England hearts were made to flutter a little before they completed their expected victory over Namibia in the World Cup Group A match at Port Elizabeth. Set 273 to win, Namibia looked as though they might get there at the halfway stage, thanks to an innings of power and substance from Jan-Berry Burger. Once he had gone England's attack reasserted itself to complete a 55-run win.

James Anderson made England's first breakthrough in the fourth over as Stephan Swanepoel pushed a full-length delivery on his leg stump straight to Michael Vaughan at mid-wicket. It heralded a double Burger partnership for Namibia, as Louis joined Jan-Berry (JB).

Andrew Caddick, out of sorts to begin with, gradually settled, but the gathering clouds posed an additional threat to England in the early overs. He had JB missed by Matthew Hoggard at square leg before being carted through cover after the let-off. But the replacement of Anderson with Andrew Flintoff undid Louis, who returned a high, looping catch to the bowler as he essayed an ugly, not to say agricultural heave.

JB Burger took a fortuitous boundary over Stewart's head shortly before England lost Ian Blackwell, who had to go off with a back spasm. Burger reached an excellent 50 with another resounding square cut, and treated Craig White with the utmost severity in the Yorkshireman's first over, pummelling four more through extra cover. Another straight drive went through Flintoff, White was hoisted over long-on and there was a jitter or two in the England camp at the halfway mark.

White made a vital breakthrough to end Burger's innings, which had graduated from the spirited to the downright ominous. Burger had made 85 at a run a ball (10 fours, one six) when he got the top of the bat on to a square cut for Collingwood to take a fine catch running round from backward point.

The third-wicket partnership between Burger and Keulder ended just three short of three figures, and England could breathe again. Keulder's valuable supporting knock ended when he was run out, beaten by Marcus Trescothick's throw as he attempted a second. Snyman went first ball, bowled off stump by a White inswinger.

The clatter of wickets virtually becalmed Namibia, and Ronnie Irani struck when Gavin Murgatroyd, straight after piercing the off-side boundary, was comprehensively bowled making room for another. Deon Kotze fell likewise, having an unsightly smear at Flintoff.

Sarel Burger was taken by Collingwood, again at backward point. Irani was on a hat-trick after Bjorn Kotze, almost creasebound, fell lbw, and although Rudi Van Vuuren denied Irani, the writing was on the wall. Melt Van Schoor kept him company as they batted out their innings, and it ended with a straight six from Van Vuuren, emphasising Namibia's spirit.

Half centuries from Alec Stewart and Trescothick at the outset formed the basis for England's total of 272. Stewart was standing in as captain after Nasser Hussain was forced to pull out of the game with a stiff neck.

After a shaky start - he was almost caught behind off a long hop from Van Vuuren in the second over - Trescothick tucked into Gerrie Snyman with relish, taking four and six through mid-off and square leg,

Nick Knight took his first boundary with a pull through mid-wicket, but was dismissed trying to repeat the shot in the next over, pulling a ball of indifferent length to Louis Burger, who held a fine catch tumbling to his right.

Michael Vaughan had barely tuned up, with consecutive boundaries through extra cover and deep backward square off Snyman, before he departed as tamely as Knight, pulling Van Vuuren to the same fielder at mid-wicket.

Stewart's first boundary was emphatic, clubbed wide of mid-on, and the second no less so, straight in the same over, and Kotze had gone for 24 off three, and duly made way for his captain, Deon, who was more economical.

England's hundred came up off 133 balls, but the introduction of JB Burger proved too tempting a meal for Trescothick, who after successive boundaries down the ground looped a catch to another Burger, Louis, at backward square leg attempting another. Stewart also was eventually consumed by over-confidence. Shortly after reaching his fifty with a disdainful, flat six over wide mid-on off Deon Kotze, he holed out to Bjorn Kotze as he tried to hoist him over square leg.

Flintoff drove Sarel Burger with characteristic aplomb for a crushing straight six, and hoisted England's 200 with another before Collingwood, after a steady 38, drove Snyman low to Daniel Keulder in the covers. Flintoff followed in the same over, again taken in the covers as an attempted push to leg took the leading edge.

White was within a cat's whisker of being run out attempting a second run, and then almost caught as England sailed close to the wind in the closing stages. Another full toss appeared to have accounted for Blackwell, but umpire Simon Taufel had called a no ball with only three fielders (rather than the minimum four) inside the circle.

Blackwell had made 16 by the time he fell to a legitimate delivery from Snyman, caught behind trying to force through the covers. With little time to make an impression Irani swung lustily to the boards at mid-wicket, before JB Burger missed a steepler off White at long-off.

White was eventually taken at long-on in the final over for a robust 35 off 29 balls, and Irani, another long-on boundary to the good, hit another high catch to cover. Van Vuuren ended England's innings with his fifth wicket, castling Caddick with a solitary boundary to his name.

England now have eight points, with their three toughest matches - against Pakistan, India and Australia - still to come.