England humbled in Twenty20 warm-up
South Africa A 90 for 6 (Swann 2-9) beat England XI 89 (Ontong 2-9) by four wickets
It wouldn't be an England tour without a warm-up embarrassment and on cue, after two impressive 50-over displays, the tourists capitulated for a paltry 89 on a slow pitch at Bloemfontein to a strong South Africa A side. A four-wicket defeat is hardly ideal preparation four days before the opening international of the trip, but reinforces the notion that England's 20-over game is still some way off the pace.
Andrew Strauss had hoped the good work of recent days wouldn't unravel after passing over the captaincy to Paul Collingwood for the Twenty20 matches. After batting with freedom and confidence in their first two warm-up matches, England couldn't find any momentum on a stodgy surface and weren't helped by three comical run outs. They failed to use 15 of their allocated deliveries as the last six wickets fell in 26 balls.
The day hadn't started well for the visitors when James Anderson pulled up with a sore knee and was rested as a precaution. He is expected to be fit for Friday's opening Twenty20 international, but it left England without any of their frontline quicks as Stuart Broad (shoulder) and Graham Onions (back) were still sidelined.
Alastair Cook's top-score of 22 summed up England's evening as he used up 30 balls and was given two lives in the process. In total the team managed just five fours and a six during the innings in conditions not suited to free-flowing scoring and against an eager attack.
The damage was started by CJ de Villiers - who is making a name for himself after his Super Over exploits for the Eagles against Sussex at the Champions League - when he had Joe Denly caught behind after the bowler had spilled consecutive chances off both openers. In his next over de Villiers bagged the in-form Jonathan Trott who sliced to point.
Collingwood tried to counter attack as he struck his first two balls for four and six against de Villiers, but Morne Morkel sustained the pressure with a tight spell and Collingwood was bowled by Thandi Tshabalala's first ball. England scored at a crawl as Cook and Eoin Morgan attempted to rebuild but the innings fell apart swiftly when both departed in the space of three balls. Matt Prior, Luke Wright and Tim Bresnan were all run out and when Sajid Mahmood fell for the final wicket, England had failed to reach triple figures or bat out their overs.
Having assessed the surface the new ball was thrown to Graeme Swann and he responded with another impressive spell of 2 for 9 as South Africa A were made to work. Adil Rashid also collected a couple in an encouraging display, but Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Rory Kleinveldt ended any doubts over the result with some powerful hitting.
England won't read too much into the result - they have a history of recovering from such setbacks - and conditions in the highveld will be much different. However, if they cared to flick through the TV channels they would have come across pictures of South Africa wiping the floor with Zimbabwe at Centurion Park. This was a day where they were reminded how tough this tour will be.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo