Trott and Prior seal uplifting win
England XI 281 for 6 (Trott 78) beat South Africa A 279 for 9 (Puttick 62, Onions 2-46) by four wickets
England were taken to the wire in a tense victory over South Africa A in their warm-up match at Potchefstroom. In a fluctuating contest, fifties from Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior ensured a depleted England took the spoils against a strong South African opposition.
Strauss, returning after sitting out the Twenty20 series, led England's chase, dominating a 68-run opening stand with Joe Denly. Denly is short of runs after failing in the Twenty20 series and despite being dropped on 12 by Morne Morkel, could only manage 24 today. His place at the top of the order could be under threat from Trott, who has done the job for Warwickshire.
In his short international career Trott has demonstrated a calmness rarely seen in England's one-day cricket. He shared productive partnerships, first with Strauss and then Matt Prior, as his 89-ball 78 gave England a great chance. However, when Trott fell to Morkel in 44th over, England were still 49 runs short and it took a decisive 46-run stand between Prior and Luke Wright to secure the result.
The day didn't start well for the tourists as Alastair Cook joined the lengthening injury list with a bad back. It left England short of five senior players and South Africa A captain Hashim Amla, keen to test England's inexperienced bowlers, batted first after winning the toss.
Having lost their lengths, lines and heads in the second Twenty20, England needed to demonstrate better resolve today. If they needed assistance, Ottis Gibson, England's bowling coach was on field as 12th man at one point. But he was powerless as Sajid Mahmood, Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid proved expensive again.
In windy conditions reminiscent of Chester-le-Street, Amla and Andrew Puttick put on 77 in 14.4 overs as Graham Onions and Bresnan were frequently punished for over-pitching. It took Wright to finally make the breakthrough when he had Amla brilliantly caught by Strauss at mid-wicket for 37. Seven overs later, Wright was again at the centre of the next dismissal when his sharp throw beat Rilee Rossouw's dive.
Puttick, who played a single one-day international for South Africa in 2005, passed his fifty from 57 balls before mis-timing a slog off Denly when he had made 62. It was a needless dismissal that characterised the innings. Every one of the South African A top five reached at least 24 but none could hammer home their advantage.
Herschelle Gibbs, pressing for an international recall, struggled for fluency and his dismissal sparked a good period for England in which they took four wickets for 27 runs in 7.1 overs. Gibbs played on trying to run Wright to third man and Onions returned for an improved second spell in which he claimed the impressive Vaughn van Jaarsveld and Dean Elgar in quick succession.
Just as England looked to control the innings, Morkel joined Heino Kuhn, the wicketkeeper who made his international debut in Sunday's Twenty20, to put on 40 runs in their 5.4 over stand. Morkel unveiled an extra string to his bow with an array of strokes through the off-side in a 22-ball 29. Kuhn batted smartly with the tail and pushed South Africa A to 279 for 9, but in the final analysis, it wasn't quite enough.
Sahil Dutta is assistant editor of Cricinfo