October 5, 2000

England win comfortably - but sterner tests await.

England will have been well satisfied with their eight-wicket trouncing of Bangladesh on Thursday. The real measure of their progress, however, will come when they meet South Africa in the quarter-finals of the ICC KnockOut 2000 tournament next Tuesday.

South Africa, who arrived in Nairobi on Tuesday evening, are the reigning mini-World Cup champions, having triumphed in Bangladesh two years ago. It has been a torrid year for South Africa off the field, but the team's record under new captain Shaun Pollock has been impressive.

South Africa beat and drew with Australia in home-and-away three-game series; they reached the Singer Cup final in Sri Lanka in July and they won a triangular tournament in Singapore in August.

South Africa, though, started slowly in all these competitions, while England have the Bangladesh game under their belts. Tuesday's quarter-final could prove to be one of the contests of the tournament.

Certainly, England will be delighted with the form of captain Nasser Hussain who started cautiously but looked better and better the longer he played for his 95. He seemed well set for the second century of the tournament until he misread the flight and offered up the tamest of return catches.

Alex Stewart, too, was in thumping good nick for his unbeaten 86, seldom disturbed by an admittedly toothless attack and there was just enough time before England reached their 233 victory target for Graeme Hick to weigh in with a few hefty blows.

On the other side of the coin, though, England might wonder whether Bangladesh should have been allowed to reach 232 for nine. Andy Caddick and Darren Gough both bowled too short with the new ball, with Gough particularly guilty during his opening spell.

And after the Bangladeshis had laboured to 149 for four of their first 40 overs, England became increasingly ragged in the field as Javed Omar Belim led a charge which yielded 83 off the last 10 overs.

The scorecard will suggest that Javed carried his bat for his unbeaten 63, but he was off the field for 15 overs receiving treatment for an injured hand after being struck by Caddick. The knock didn't seem to bother him all that much as, for the first time, the Bangladeshi batting caught fire in the closing stages of the innings.

To begin with, though, the Bangladeshi batsmen had looked a little overawed by the occasion and, in all honesty, they simply do not possess the artillery to bother decent batsmen on good pitches.

England might bear these thoughts in mind as they prepare for their meeting with South Africa.