England and KwaZulu-Natal draw tour match
NATAL'S match against England did eventually peter out in a draw at Kingsmead on Monday, but in terms of preparation for the vital second Test starting in Port Elizabeth on Thursday, home captain Dale Benkenstein feels the tourists got little out of the match.
Natal finished an abbreviated day on 152 for two in their second innings, Doug Watson and Ahmed Amla stroking half-centuries. Resuming on 401 for eight at 10.45am after heavy overnight rain, England were dismissed for 421, Andrew Flintoff, on his 22nd birthday, being stranded on a powerful 89 not out as Alex Tudor and Phil Tufnell did not come to the party.
Flintoff and Tudor extended their ninth-wicket partnership to 105, before the fast bowler was caught behind off Ross Veenstra for 45, the left-armer promptly snaffling Tufnell next ball, caught in the gully.
Benkenstein, who also captains the SA A team, was quite outspoken in his belief that England were fooling themselves if they thought they had solved their problems at Kingsmead.
"I think we (Natal) gave them the worse preparation they could have got. I wasn't very impressed with their batting because, apart from when Flintoff and Tudor batted in the last hour on Sunday, I never felt they were on top of our bowling. They played against three spinners here on a good pitch and they think they're batting well, but it would be silly to expect anything but a fast pitch in Port Elizabeth. They will struggle to dominate the South African attack, but they need to go after them as a draw won't help England in Port Elizabeth.
"We had a few chances to actually get a first-innings lead, but we were unlucky the decisions just didn't go our way. But overall I thought it was a good game for us and the guys did well," Benkenstein said after the game.
England coach Duncan Fletcher was not exactly bragging about his team's brilliance after the game either, but then his feet are normally firmly on the ground, if not buried a couple of inches deep. "I think there were a few positives," he said. "We got runs - over 400 - and after telling the guys we wanted to get a hundred in this game, Nasser Hussain went and ground one out himself.
"Andy Caddick (rested on Monday) again bowled well, Tudor got better and better the more he bowled and Flintoff got some of his zip back today."
Fletcher was also happy to report that the injuries which kept pacemen Chris Silverwood, flown in from the England A tour of New Zealand as a replacement for Dean Headley, and Alan Mullaly out of this game were progressing.
Benkenstein was also able to appreciate the bowling efforts of Caddick and Tudor, saying the opening pair made life tricky for the batsmen, their steep bounce being a very effective weapon.