February 2, 2001

Border on top but pitch may have final say

Telford Vice - MWP

Border reached the close on the second day needing 95 more runs for victory with nine wickets standing and two full days' play left.

The home side, then, are well on top. However, the unpredictable nature of the pitch has made batting a less than perfect science and Northerns are by no means out of this match.

Border replied to Northerns' first innings of 190 with 236. The visitors then crashed to a second innings total of 150, leaving Border a victory target of 105, and the home side were 10 for one at the close.

Border resumed on 114 for five and Northerns must have smelt blood when Laden Gamiet was caught behind for 18 off the fifth ball of the day, delivered by Greg Smith.

With Pieter Strydom, Gamiet added 42 runs in the most steady partnership of the innings up to that point and the breakthrough seemed to snuff out Border's hopes of taking a first innings lead.

However, Strydom found in Vasbert Drakes a reliable partner and they frustrated the visitors until midway through the morning session when Strydom tamely succumbed to the slip cordon off the bowling of David Townsend.

The Border skipper's typically gutsy innings of 86 began with his team teetering on 47 for four, and it encompassed three hours, 126 balls and 14 fours.

Strydom's dismissal made it 188 for seven, and the tail did well to wring another 48 runs out of the innings, which ended three overs before lunch. Drakes was ninth out for 35, while Geoff Love helped him put on 31 useful runs for the eighth wicket.

Gerald Dros dismissed Love and Drakes in the space of three deliveries but Northerns' most impressive bowler was Townsend, who kept it tight and let the pitch do the rest in taking five for 49.

Northerns, then, began their second innings with a deficit of 46 runs, and slipped further into trouble when Drakes removed Johan Myburgh and Martin van Jaarsveld with consecutive deliveries in the 14th over.

The West Indian trapped opener Myburgh in front for 11 before having Van Jaarsveld caught behind by wicketkeeper Mark Boucher.

Drakes proved his immense worth to Border for the umpteenth time by also dismissing Jacques Rudolph and Neil McKenzie to claim the scalps of Northerns' entire top four in taking four for 35.

He bowled McKenzie for 24 to reduce the visitors to 83 for five, perhaps the point of no return for a team which went to tea on 69 for two and lost their last eight wickets for 81 runs.

Border bowled well, but Northerns caused most of their own misery by playing expansively when circumspection was called for.

Piet Botha was caught at short leg off Smith for eight with what became the last ball of the day's play, leaving Craig Sugden not out on one.