July 25, 2003

Rain offers England some respite

Close South Africa 398 for 1 (Gibbs 179, Smith 178*) v England

A fed-up Graeme Smith at a soggy Edgbaston

Heavy rain, which started in the early hours, gave England some respite from the mauling they received on the opening day of the first npower Test against South Africa at Edgbaston. The covers remained in place throughout the day, festooned with puddles, until play was officially abandoned for the day at 3.15pm. A few hardy spectators had sat huddled under umbrellas - most had heard the forecast and stayed at home.

Umpire Venkataraghavan explained that, although the rain had at last stopped, the lack of breeze in Birmingham was hampering the mopping-up operation. It would have taken at least three hours to get the outfield fit for a resumption. The time lost today, however, will be recouped over the coming days, so England need not get too excited by their change of fortune just yet.

South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, who will eventually resume on 178, told reporters that comments by Nasser Hussain that all was not well within the South African camp had galvanised his team. "It definitely does play a role in motivating you," Smith said. "We thought those comments were a lot of rubbish. We took those to heart."

Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, admitted that Thursday hadn't been a good day. "It was one of those wickets where the bowlers had to keep their lines and lengths and had to be precise," he explained. "They were probably a bit positive, coming in and thinking, 'let's bowl the batters' out'. In one-day cricket the batter comes at you and in Test cricket it's not quite the same. Our bowlers didn't realise how important it was to keep those tight lines and lengths and from now we will have to try and contain them for periods of time and create pressure that way. They're all pretty attacking bowlers and on that wicket they should probably have gone a little bit more into defensive mode."

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