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January 13, 2005
South Africa's coach, Ray Jennings, believes that England have squandered a golden opportunity to take control of the fourth Test at the Wanderers, after losing two key wickets to the new ball late on the first day. "The day started off in favour of the English," he admitted, after Andrew Strauss and Robert Key had added 182 for the second wicket, "but towards the end, I was happy with how we now are."
In the build-up to the Test, much had been made of the anticipated extra bounce in the Wanderers wicket, but that failed to materialise, much to Jennings's annoyance. "It was a strange wicket," he said. "It didn't seem to bounce as much as usual. We don't often use the middle strip, and it was clear from the amount of time the batsmen had, that it wasn't as bouncy as should be."
Even so, it took another sublime innings from Strauss to give England the upper hand, and Jennings admitted that he was getting sick of the sight of him. "I thought I was sick of [Virender] Sehwag in India," he said, "but Strauss beats that. He stands tall at the crease with his eyes level, and he's a good leaver of ball. But maybe, if the bowler comes round the wicket, there's something to be looked at there. But he's played so well, that it's very difficult to see a player out of form. He's set the world alight in the last few months."
Jennings was full of praise for the way Mark Boucher had returned to the side, particularly in terms of the energy he brought to their fielding performance. "He was lively and kept well, and I aim to make him the best keeper-batsman in the world." But, Jennings added, it had taken some special tea-time treatment to bring out the best in their strike bowler, Makhaya Ntini.
"Makhaya had been dull and out of it all day," explained Jennings, "so at tea, the captain and I put him in an ice bath, and that made him mad! He abused me, and I said you'd better perform after tea or you'll be back in there." Sure enough, Ntini bounded in with the new ball and blasted out Graham Thorpe for a duck, as England stumbled to 263 for 4 at the close.
"But we didn't bowl particularly well," said Jennings. "There wasn't much play-and-missing, and there was no trouble given to the batsmen. They dominated, but then they lost their way, dug themselves a hole, lost momentum and gave us the game back. I think they'll walk away very disappointed with what took place today."
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Cricinfo.
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