January 5, 2000

Donald fitness scare as selectors delay fifth Test side

Cape Town - Niggling injuries, including another fitness scare involving Allan Donald, have delayed the announcement of the South African team for the fifth Test in Centurion now eight days away.

Just how serious though is Donald's injury is cause for speculation. Although he came back to bowl a second spell at Newlands after lunch yesterday, the fourth Test of the series had already been won by that stage to give South Africa a 2-0 lead with the game at Centurion remaining.

All Rushdi Magiet, the convener of national selectors, was prepared to say yesterday after South Africa had convincingly won the fourth game of the five-match series by an innings and 37 runs was that the side would be announced next week, possibly Monday or Tuesday suggest sources close to the side.

After that it is a matter of the team's physio, Craig Smith, checking the fitness, especially of Donald. It is known that Donald's "slight groin twinge", which kept him off the field for about 30 minutes after breaking down when bowling the fourth ball of his fifth over. He did some stretching exercises after the second ball and continued to bowl but was clearly unhappy.

Although South Africa's captain, Hansie Cronje, agreed it had been Donald's bowling after lunch on the first day which had "done so much to turn the game around" he was concerned about the fast bowler's fitness and that of Jonty Rhodes, nursing a hamstring niggle.

"We had to put him (Rhodes) in a catching position instead of his normal place in the field while Allan's (groin) injury and Daryll (Cullinan), also having a slight strain makes, it hard to assess the fitness of the side," said Cronje when ticking off the walking wounded.

"We will just have to wait and see how they are when they come through next week," Cronje admitted. "It is a matter of being patient."

Should Donald miss the Centurion Test at SuperSport Park it would rob him of the chance of bridging the gap to reach his 300th Test wicket. He is now 11 short of the target and it has\ been suggest he is only likely to play in the two Tests in India next month and not stay on for the limited-overs series.

Chances are Donald is not going to play in the triangular series starting on January 21,or if he does his appearances are likely to be limited. There were times yesterday though when Donald let the ball fly around, pinning Andrew Caddick a couple of times while Shaun Pollock, earlier in the day, had struck Nasser Hussain, the England captain, on the side of the helmet. It became quite heated at one stage with an exchange of words between Michael Atherton and Cullinan when an appeal for a catch off the bowling of left-arm wrist spinner was turned down by the Sri Lanka umpire B C Cooray.

"It was just one of those things," said Cullinan, named man of the match for his innings of 120 on Tuesday in South Africa's first innings score of 421. "Nothing serious at all, just something said in the heat of the moment ... It gets like that."

There are unlikely to be any changes made, however, to the side when it is named, unless Donald is ruled out as a precautionary measure. It would give the selectors a chance to share the new ball between Pollock and Mornantau Hayward on the surface regarded as the fastest in the country.