December 28, 1999

South Africa pay price for omitting Rhodes

THE South African cricket selectors' decision to omit Jonty Rhodes from the team for the third Test against England at Kingsmead was exposed on Tuesday as Andy Caddick shot the home team out for just 156 and England enforced the follow-on, 210 runs ahead on the first innings.

Rhodes, the darling of Kingsmead and averaging 48.8 in his last 17 Tests, made way for an extra bowler, but South Africa were desperately in need of his uplifting presence during their two days in the field and missed his gritty batting even more as they slumped to 84 for eight on one of their blackest days since the return to international cricket.

Overnight thundershowers and a non-functional roller delayed the start of play to 10.53am, prompting Nasser Hussain, 146 not out, to declare on England's overnight total of 366 for nine. Caddick then sliced through the South African batting like the proverbial hot knife, the steep bounce he extracted inducing mass apoplexy amongst the batsmen as they careened to 32 for three by lunch and then 84 for eight.

Herschelle Gibbs (2), Gary Kirsten (11) and Jacques Kallis (0), down the leg-side, all edged the tall paceman to wicketkeeper Alec Stewart, leaving Daryll Cullinan to partner his captain, Hansie Cronje, through the six overs to lunch.

The pair extended their partnership to 33 before Darren Gough returned from two mediocre earlier spells to bowl Cullinan for 20, bringing Lance Klusener to the crease at 57 for four. The in-form left-hander slammed 15 off 10 balls and there was new hope amongst the 7500 spectators.

Left-arm spinner Phil Tufnell then joined the attack and his third ball was manna from heaven for England as the short-leg, the dimunitive Darren Maddy, plucked a sharp bat/pad catch off the ground.

Caddick, Tuesday's man with the golden arm, returned to bowl the 32nd over and immediately picked up three wickets in five balls - Cronje caught behind for 28, Mark Boucher bowled and Allan Donald caught at first slip - to all but complete an astonishing South African collapse. At 84 for eight, the home side were in danger of eclipsing their lowest score (105 v India, Ahmedabad, 1996/97) with the usual tenacity of the lower-order batting, characterised by Rhodes, notably absent.

But Shaun Pollock, whose recent batting form has hardly been bright, and Paul Adams restored the home side's hopes of reaching the follow-on target of 167.

Little Adams, back in the team after missing out in Port Elizabeth, has been a revelation in this Test. He bowled very well to pick up two for 74 in his 43 overs - England and former Western Province coach Duncan Fletcher saying "it's the best, controlled spell of bowling I've seen from him", fielded quite brilliantly in the covers and batted with great pluck as he and Pollock put on a super partnership of 70 for the ninth wicket.

While Adams, who played a crucial innings in Cape Town when England lost the 1995/96 series 1-0, irritated the visitors with his defiant 80-minute innings, Pollock's batting was brawnier. He eased to 50 off 80 balls and his 64 included seven sweetly-struck fours and a straight six off Tufnell. But, as with so many of this richly talented all-rounder's innings, it all ended in huge frustration - a rush of blood leading to a rather daft-looking swipe outside off that only diverted the ball on to his own stumps.

South Africa ended just 11 runs short of avoiding the follow-on - for the first time since 1966/67 against Australia at Newlands, a mortifying statistic for Cronje and co, and the national selectors.

The brisk Caddick, whose extra bounce caused South Africa to have "a bad day at the office", according to Cronje, was the main reason for the sad decline, continuing his triumphant return to the England team with career-best figures of seven for 46, the best by a visiting bowler in Kingsmead Tests.

South Africa had to face 6.1 overs of their follow-on before the umpires hauled the players off for bad light at 4.30pm and their second innings nearly turned sour in the second over as Chris Silverwood's confident lbw appeal against Gibbs was rejected in what turned out to be a very good decision by home umpire Dave Orchard.

Gibbs and Kirsten survived to the close at 27 without loss, but South Africa's prospects of saving the game are bleak. Cronje accepts that the going will be tough, saying "In the nine years I have been involved with this team, we have shown that we are fighters and we enjoy challenges. This is a big one and there can be no excuses. It's up to the 11 players in the changeroom."

After their dismal, ill-disciplined first-innings effort, most South African fans will be putting their hope in the heavy showers that arrived last night and will almost certainly once again delay the game's resumption on Wednesday.

The English will also be watching the weather: "We've got a long way to go, but we must be in with a good chance of winning, as long as the weather holds," Caddick said after the day's action. The rain is not the only ally of the South Africans - bad light has ended play early on all three days and the English could regret not agreeing to the use of floodlights, Cronje saying his team has "no problems" with their implementation.