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Saturday, 16 January 2010

Mother Nature helps out, but England's reign is nearly at an end in this series

AND so Mother Nature steps in where umpire Daryl Harper won't, with another merciful downpour for England, halting South Africa's rush to victory in the final Test at the Wanderers.
Twelve minutes earlier than yesterday, at 2.01pm local time, noon in England, the rain came down, the lightning flashed (right), this huge 30,000 crowd scurried for cover.
But unlike yesterday, the worst of it moved slowly around the ground. Instead of a flooded outfield and desperate workers with squeegees, we have a far less dramatic show of drying going on in front of us.
The covers are off and soon they will be back, these South Africans, eager to push on and get England back at the crease.
At the moment, South Africa are 382-6, 202 ahead of England's modest first innings total of 180.
Just when South African captain Graeme Smith will declare, we aren't sure. But he did say to us last night: "We'll be looking to push the lead to around 200. That's a good score if the pitch is doing things and the weather continues."
He's right. This game is over if the rain stays away. England have been easily cowed in this final showdown. Earlier in this absorbing series, they showed that iron resistance, the stiff-upper-lip we Brits love to see.
But Johannesburg has been different. England went into this Test 1-0 up in the series, but only after hanging on by a wicket to draw in Centurion and Cape Town. In between, we had the best of the conditions in Durban and won by an innings and 98 runs.
But in truth, as Smith and his men have pointed out so many times, most of the sessions have been won by South Africa in this series. They deserve to draw 1-1 and retain the Basil D'Oliviera trophy they won in England last time they visited our shores.
And they will. England made a couple of early breakthroughs this morning but they failed to capitalise, allowing Mark Boucher and AB De Villiers to shove England off the rails again.
But they needed a fair bit of luck to put on 120 in 30 overs for the sixth wicket at a rate of just over four an over.
Twice Harper, the television umpire who failed to hear Graeme Smith's snick yesterday (he was on 15 at the time, he went on to get 105, have a look at earlier posts), allowed De Villiers to bat on after being given out by New Zealander Tony Smith.
Harper also turned down Graeme Swann's plea for the wicket of Mark Boucher, LBW. Harper was right each time. But he seems to be England's bogeyman right now, with every decision going South Africa's way.
England made a good start this morning. First Hashim Amla, looking set for his second century of the series on 75, was out on the tenth ball of the day, caught behind by Matt Prior off a superb ball from Stuart Broad.
Six balls later, Jacques Kallis was gone, brilliantly taken by Jimmy Anderson on the dive off Ryan Sidebottom. Getting Kallis for 7 was a big bonus for England and at 217-4 the tails were up.
After a brief lull, Andrew Strauss turned to Swann, as he has all series, for the breakthrough. And with his first ball - it's becoming a habit - he had JP "Crash Test" Duminy caught by Collingwood and it was 235-5.
Swann then had De Villiers given out twice - on 11 and 24 - by umpire Hill. But De Villiers called for a review both times. The close catch on 11 may or may not have brushed the bat, the lbw on 24 was not out.
But given that shocker yesterday - Harper failed to hear the Smith snick which echoed around the cricket-speaking world - you might expect a bit of help from the man!
De Villiers also survived having the ball come to rest against his stumps without removing a bail (much to Paul Collingwood's chagrin) and a further clear glove behind, made it through to lunch with 43 off 99 balls, the always-dangerous Mark Boucher went to his fifty just before lunch after surviving Swann's LBW review.
At 324-5 at the break, South Africa were 144 ahead. De Villiers' luck finally ran out on 58, caught by Collingwood, and Broad had his third wicket of the innings. But Boucher carried on and passed his best-ever Test score at the "Bull Ring" - 78 - with debutant Ryan McLaren in support.
But just as the huge gathering here were really getting going, the rain came down. But now the covers are off and the final session can begin. It won't be long, I suspect, before Graeme Smith gets England out there to face their fury under heavy skies.
Meanwhile Harper - backed by the ICC this morning - has turned to Facebook to justify his position.
After yesterday's knob-twiddling sensation he posted these quotes on his site: "The truth about Smith's decision may come out eventually. The host broadcaster didn't provide the appropriate sound to match the picture. The commentator, Matthew Hoggard, told the viewers that there was no sound - so Smith would be given not out.
"Sadly when the technology fails... and that means that some engineer has failed to do his job... they must find a scapegoat, and the umpire is an easy target because we can't fight back... usually.
"Five minutes later, they found a sound and blamed me! Other networks found the sound immediately, but we didn't get their sound feed."
Good defence Daryl, but how about coming to speak to us in the press box. Just a gentle chat. If you can comment on Facebook, surely you can talk to the journalists?
England, without any reviews left, have asked the ICC to reinstate the one wasted during the Smith controversy yesterday.

Labels: andrew strauss controversy, , decisive final test, , huge crowd, , lightning, , rain, , umpire

Monday, 11 January 2010

From the highest press box in cricket, Matt Prior insists he won't be a 'nearly man' against the country of his birth

ENGLAND are in Johannesburg. I am writing from the highest cricket press box in the world at The Wanderers, the impressive "Bull Ring" south of South Africa's crime and commerce capital.
Johannesburg is 5,000 feet above sea level. This press box (see picture) is another couple of hundred feet above that.

And today we have Matt Prior insisting England won’t end up being “the nearly men” when they take on the land of his birth this week.

Before the decisive fourth and final Test at The Wanderers starts on Thursday, Prior growls: “We are here to win this Test, not hold on and hope to scrape through, going for a draw.

“We want to go to the airport with a 2-0 in this series. That would be a dream come true. We would have beaten two of the best sides in the world in back-to-back Test series. We aren’t here to be the nearly men.

“We don’t want to go home saying we nearly did it. That we drew the series. We will compete hard. Look for winning situations.”

But a draw is all England need to wrap up a 1-0 win, having taken the second Test in Durban by an innings and drawn – by a nerve-jangling single wicket – in Centurion and Cape Town.

But first Prior and his team mates must get used to coming back up to Johannesburg, where he was born 27 years ago.

Aged eight, the Wanderers, Africa’s biggest cricket venue with a capacity of 34,000, was where he watched his first big cricket game. He recalls: “Yup, it was right here. And I was so excited. I went rushing up to Kepler Wessels and Hansie Cronje for their autographs. They walked straight past me. Blanked me.

“That’s why I always vowed every since never to turn down a young kid who wants my autograph.”

But that doesn’t mean the man educated at Brighton College – he left South Africa soon after the anecdote above – is naturally acclimatised to the altitude and heat of the Highveld.

After an extended session with wicketkeeping coach Bruce French, Prior said: “It’s unbelievable, there’s no oxygen for a start. We could feel our lungs burning in the warm-up. We’ve been at sea level for a long time in Durban and Cape Town.

“But the physical fitness we’ve done should put is in good stead. We should be fine.

“The ball flies up here. The odd one comes through and hits the gloves harder than normal because the air is thin. You have to adapt to it. I had a long session with Frenchy, I have to get used to it.

“It would obviously be a fabulous achievement to beat Australia and South Africa in successive series but it’s important not to look too far ahead.

“What we have done well is break the game down, ball by ball, session by session on this tour. Sometimes, before you ball a bowl in anger, you look too far ahead.

“We start with the first ball, 0-0, making sure we don’t get too far head of ourselves. We want to go home saying we won the one-day series and the Test series.”

England look set to field an unchanged side for the entire epic showdown – the first time the selectors haven’t fiddled in a four Test series since 1884. Prior admits: “It does play a part having a settled team. Guys feel comfortable in their roles. You go out with the same eleven for a few games in a row and you do have that camaraderie.

“But I would emphasise this is a very tight squad from 1 to 16. The guys who haven’t played have been working even harder than us. They have added to the team, it shows the environment we are working in now.

“Those guys are working very hard to get into the team and it adds to this effort.

“The South Africans have come hard all series. That won’t change here. They’re going to be fighting to win this Test. That’s something we will be ready for.

“What their team will be won’t concern us. We’ll concentrate on putting ourselves in winning positions throughout this Test match.”

Prior himself is in good form with the gloves and after a quiet start at Centurion he’s scored valuable fifties in Durban (61) and Cape Town (78).

He said: “It’s been a weird series for me individually with the bat. I managed to get a few important scores at vital times. That’s always a great feeling to help the teaem.

“But if I’m honest I haven’t gone into this in great form. Any player goes through peaks and troughs, it’s as important to make runs when you’re not feeling in good nick. Sometimes you have to get ugly runs. You have to stick in and get those runs when they’re needed.

“The keeping? Touch wood, fingers crossed. I’ve worked very hard, I’ll continue to do so. Frenchy has been absolutely fantastic. Always right there, even if it’s only by text. He watches every ball.”

Quite how England managed to get to this point 1-0 up in the series is hard to explain. In the history of Test cricket only 19 Tests have gone to the last wicket partnership surviving, and England have done that twice in three games – not to mention in the opening Ashes Test against Australia in Cardiff last summer.

England’s incredible rearguard actions have frustrated the South Africans here and the under-pressure hosts must also cope with serious injury to seamer Friedel de Wet, who so nearly bowled them to victory in the first Test in Centurion in a devastating new ball spell which ripped out three England wickets in the final session.

De Wet, who needed injections to get through the New Year Test in Cape Town, has gone down with a stress fracture of his back and he also has a damaged disc. Their coach Mickey Arthur says he’s out for the rest of the season and admits he “fears for Friedel’s future”.

The South African selectors have also been embarrassed by the selection of Pakistan-born Imran Tahir – they called him up to the squad last week but have now been told he doesn’t qualify to play for his adopted nation despite marrying a girl from Pretoria and living here for four years.

And then of course they have the Makhaya Ntini situation – Ntini was dropped after winning his 101st cap in Durban – but took five wickets in a domestic game yesterday. Curiously though, he isn’t even in the squad for Thursday.

Labels: bull ring, friedel de wet, , matt prior england in south africa, the wanderers

Sunday, 10 January 2010

African Nations Cup kicks-off, Togo called home, I get run out

SO the African Cup of Nations finally gets underway in Luanda, with hosts Angola drawing 4-4 with Mali in an attempt to encourage the watching world to concentrate on the football after the tragic shooting of Togo's team bus a 1,000 miles north in Cabinda.
They made quite a spectacle of it, lots of dancing, lots of goals, lots of atmosphere. Angola threw away a 4-0 lead in a quite astonishing opener. But it will take more than this to dispel the pall hanging over the tournament.
Togo's players bravely tried to stay and play their part despite the shooting which left four dead in the northern enclave which has been seeking independence for 50 years. But the Togo government has summoned them home.
Manchester City's former Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor, who emerged unhurt but tearful after the incident on Friday, said: "We all decided to do something good for the country and play to honour those who died. Unfortunately, the head of state and the country's authorities have decided otherwise. We will pack up and go home. The head of state knows what is good for our careers and our lives.
"As captain and spokesman of Togo, I spoke with the captain and the Ivory Coast delegation and with the Ghanaians. They expressed their support by saying they were ready to leave the competition if we did. At the end of the day, we realised that they were ready to continue. It is still a continent where a World Cup will take place in South Africa.
"If we speak of the dead, the competition should have been cancelled. But CAF have decided otherwise. We're going back and we wish good luck to those who will remain, especially to Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Ghana.
"What I have told their leaders is that they may be attacked at any time in Cabinda. I hope they will be cautious."
Meanwhile the world will continue to link the atrocity in Cabinda with this year's World Cup in South Africa. It's 1,700 miles from there to where I am in Johannesburg awaiting the decisive fourth cricket Test between South Africa and England.
This is a different country, at peace since 1993 when democracy arrived with Nelson Mandela. The Mail on Sunday has carried a piece today about a tourist being shot at on New Year's eve and others are suggesting the whole of Africa is dangerous after the Togo incident.
It isn't, as I tried to explain yesterday here and on Sky News. I got a mention in the Independent on Sunday today for my efforts. Danny Jordaan, head of the World Cup organising committee here, has issued his plea. I still fear the Americans and even the English will feel it is dangerous here.
The crime rates are high, many people carry guns, but I stand by my stance on this. Come to South Africa in June. See for yourself. The place is a miracle.
But enough of that. The England cricket team arrive in Johannesburg tonight and will train at The Wanderers, which I can see from my hotel window, tomorrow. South Africa have to win this one to level the series but they've had their country's best spinner, Imran Tahir, ruled out of their squad.
Born in Pakistan, Tahir married a Pretorian and has been here four years. Apparently he fits in with ICC regulations but somebody high up in the government here objected as he has not got permanent residence... wonder if it's something to do with local hereo Makhaya Ntini being axed from the squad?
Ntini took five wickets in the local one-day series for his province today, makes you wonder why they didn't keep him in the shake up.
Me? I went off and played cricket myself, with a local club at Marks Park near here. Great day, see the picture above. Thanks guys for a great game. Not sure who won, know I got run out, took a good catch and bowled like a drain but... hey, it's good to get out of the hotel and meet local people.
And the braai (barbecue) was good. Let's do it again when I'm back for the World Cup.

Labels: ab de villiers, , frican cup of nations, , togo shooting

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The World Cup venues: what the players, WAGs and fans can expect

THE World Cup venues in South Africa are so diverse, they could just be the key to England’s success next summer. Before tomorrow’s draw in Cape Town, players, WAGS and fans might be interested in a quick guide to the nine towns on offer.

From Cape Town in the south to Polokwane in the north, the grounds for next year’s tournament are stretched over 1,000 miles, the equivalent of travelling the length of England - and back.

The climate ranges from tropical to Mediterranean, the altitude from sea level in Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth to a breathless 5,000 feet in Johannesburg, with Pretoria, Rustenburg, Nelspruit. Bloemfontein and Polokwane also high on the escarpment which rises in the centre of the country.

Next June will be winter in South Africa, but that doesn’t guarantee rain. The inland cities (Johannesburg, Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, Polokwane and Rustenburg) are basically parched from April to September, with rainfall in the summer only. Though the World Cup pitches will be watered, generally amateur football is played on concrete-like surfaces with dead grass in the winter. Overnight frosts are not uncommon.

On the coast, Cape Town has winter rain, much like Britain, while steamy Durban can be wet all year round – though it has also suffered years of drought in the past. Port Elizabeth lies somewhere between the two, geographically and climatically.

Then there’s the development to consider. Cape Town is essentially a European city plonked on the end of the continent, with a rich history and nearby wine lands. Port Elizabeth and Durban are pleasant seaside resorts, though tropical Durban can get extremely humid in the summer, our winter.

Downtown Johannesburg has improved but Sandton, to the north, is where the cricket and rugby teams generally reside and offers just about everything a British town could offer. Similarly, the middle of Pretoria is not as welcoming as you’d hope, but Centurion to the south is stockbroker belt as far as shops and restaurants go.

England won’t want to go to the outlying areas though. Polokwane is remote and too far north to be a tourist trap, though it is surrounded by game parks. Nelspruit offers great hiking trails and forests but is by no means a metropolis. And Rustenburg, though close to the casinos and golf courses of Sun City, is hardly where you’d want to spend a holiday.

And then there’s Bloemfontein. It’s a big city but no paradise for English tourists. Though Bloemfontein Celtic, the local professional side, offer perhaps the most demonstrative fans in the South African Premier Division, Bloemfontein is generally considered, like Pretoria, a bastion of rugby and Afrikanerdom. Though things are changing since the outbreak of democracy in 1993, English accents are not always greeted with welcoming smiles.

Fabio Capello, though tempted to ban the wives and girlfriends, knows the WAGS will come out for the World Cup. But if the side are drawn to play in Nelspruit, Rustenburg, Bloemfontein or Polokwane, God help them. Let’s get this straight, these are not holiday resorts, they are remote African towns unsuitable for wandering the shops and going out at night. During the World Cup, there will be a livelier atmosphere, but visit those town centres tomorrow and you’d find it pretty inhospitable. It’s hard to imagine 20,000 England fans happily spending a few days in any of them.

Though plush game reserves surround the three northern cities there are no obvious places for WAGs or fans to amuse themselves. Bloemfontein offers more but a London orbital town like Watford would be far more vibrant. Though the FA has looked at Rustenburg’s soccer academy as a possible pre-tournament camp venue, those four cities are not quite what England will be after.

Johannesburg and Pretoria, though also at altitude, which presents its own problems, can offer reasonable facilities for fans and WAGs... as long as they do as they’re told. There are areas around both cities which will suit English travellers and Loftus Versveld, the World Cup ground in Pretoria, is a reasonable venue for fans to prepare for a match.

Ellis Park in central Johannesburg and Soccer City, near Soweto, are less welcoming but should be well marshalled during matches. Again, fans would be advised not to wander too far afield at either venue.

But if it’s a quality World Cup England and their fans are after, the coastal cities should provide it.

Durban’s brand new Moses Mobhida Stadium (pictured) is a monumental effort, complete with a Wembley-style arch and a walkway to the nearby North Beach, which is really what the biggest city in KwaZulu Natal is all about. Though the centre of Durban shows signs of decay, new developments around the once-feared harbour end of town have improved matters. North of Durban, England fans might find plush beach resorts like Umhlanga and Ballito worth exploring. Durban also offers some of the largest shopping malls in the country, with Gateway near Umhlanga the largest in the southern hemisphere. It’s WAG paradise with every designer outlet and for fans, there are rooftop go-karts, 10-pin bowling, cinemas, a theatre and plenty of restaurants.

Port Elizabeth is smaller than Durban and again, the centre shows signs of decay. But south of the city offers similar beachside facilities to Durban, with casinos and safe night-time venues. Not renowned as a football hub, Bayi, as it is now known, boasts the country’s loudest cricket fans and a good match-day atmosphere. Hopefully they’ll turn up for the football too.

And finally, saving the best to last, we travel down the beautiful Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town and the new Green Point Stadium. The oldest city in South Africa has it all. The cable car up Table Mountain, the cruise out to Robben Island, the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, the nearby winelands. Paradise. England’s cricket and rugby fans will confirm that Cape Town is the place to be for players, fans and hangers-on. There are dozens of top-of-the-range shopping malls and, unlike the rest of South Africa, the houses are not fenced in. Cape Town has a less paranoid approach to crime.

In summary:

Where England want to be:

Green Point Stadium, Cape Town (70,000)

Perfect draw for England. No altitude to worry about, winter’s much like England but slightly warmer. Fine new stadium.

Moses Mobhida Stadium, Durban (68,000)
Winter will ease the tropical problems of heat and humidity, great beaches even in winter...and another brand new stadium.

Nelson Mandela Stadium, Port Elizabeth (50,000)

Stay south of the city for the best of Bayi, plenty of English settler history inland, beautiful coastline north and south

Where England will struggle with altitude but might be okay:

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg (60,000)

Situated close to the centre of the golden city, it still feels a bit intimidating in the streets but a ground with a big history.
Soccer City, Johannesburg (95,000)

Close to Soweto, great stadium with an African design, but needs further development around the ground

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria (45,000)
Home of the rugby gods the Blue Bulls, pleasant area near centre of Pretoria, shouldn’t be a problem

Where England won’t want to be:

Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit (40,000)

It’s a small town, good for game reserves and hiking but not football fans. Trouble over the new stadium appears to be over.
Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein (40,000)

It’s not a town you instantly fall in love with but it’s big and bustling and the stadium is an established rugby venue
Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg (40,000)

Sun City, half-an-hour away, is worth a visit. Rustenburg isn’t, though it has been pushed as a big footballing venue of late

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane (40,000)

Once known as Pietersburg, Polokwane is a remote northern town, a long way from the centre of the action

Labels: bloemfontein, , , grounds, guide, , nelspruit, polokwane, , pretoria, , World Cup venues

Friday, 13 November 2009

Grim Smith 1, Strauss 0... and Swannie's moustache

GRIM SMITH won the opening battle of the Boer War in Johannesburg yesterday, blasting England captain Andrew Strauss for not wanting to play in tonight’s Twenty20clash at the Wanderers.
Grim, spelt Graeme, may just have done his rivals a favour by calling Strauss’s non-playing role into question yesterday — England’s Johannesburg-born captain Strauss is now considering playing after opening bat Alistair Cook succumbed to a virus overnight.
Smith will no doubt take the credit for that. He’s that sort of bloke.
He has been in charge of the Proteas since the departure of the disgraced and now-departed Hansie Cronje five years ago. And he has come a long way since his first clash with England at the tender age of 22, when his record-breaking batting spoke louder than his clumsy words.
As the two nations go into a torrid schedule of 11 showdowns in 10 weeks, Smith — who has taken his team to No1 in the world rankings in both forms of the game — saw fit yesterday to have a go at Strauss’s decision to miss the two Twenty20 internationals this weekend and give the captain’s armband (if only cricketers had them) to Paul Collingwood.
Having scored 72 and 117 not out in England’s opening two tour wins, there are those who feel Strauss might have made the difference when England were all out for 89 and crushed by four wickets in a Twenty20 warm-up against South Africa A on Tuesday night.
Smith, who averages over 50 in Tests, said when asked about Strauss’s reluctance to play in the shortest form of the game: “It does surprise me. It’s very difficult to keep chopping and changing and I think it will be difficult for your coach Andy Flower to be working with a different captain with a different outlook.
“Who handles team meetings, who runs the show? Those are questions it’s difficult for me to answer but it must be an interesting dynamic within the side.
“He’s scoring runs, he has been successful in one-day cricket over a period of time, maybe it’s something he is reassessing in his own mind but it does surprise me that on a tour like this having started so well that he’s not playing a part.”
Smith won’t have it all his own way on this tour though. The last time the pair met, Strauss was the runaway winner.
It was a Champions Trophy qualifier at Centurion last month, an injured Smith needed a runner and the England captain said no.
Despite a Grim ton, South Africa were comperhensively beaten and the hosts crashed out of the competition.
Smith insists: “There are no personal hard feelings. It is going to be competitive. I guess we’re trying to work out at the moment how Andrew is going to go about things. He has been a very quiet individual whenever we have played against him, almost stuck in the background, a clean and tidy type of character.
“I think he is trying to be a lot sterner and tougher in his ways and maybe he thinks the England environment needs that. He is much more outspoken now, I guess the captaincy does that to you so it will be interesting to see how he goes this summer.”
On a less serious note comes news of Graeme Swann’s moustache, another stunning exclusive. You may need a magnifying glass and spectacles, but it IS there, stubbornly clinging on just above the top lip as England warmed up for tonight’s Twenty20 clash against South Africa in Johannesburg. Swann himself twittered last night: “Oh dear, my so-called ’tache is a disgrace. A semi-ginger, patchy disgrace! Still I must stick with it... at least until ordered to shave!” A less light-hearted twitter from Swannie this week reads: “‘This part of Joburg is safe as houses,’ said our liaison officer. Round the next corner? Bullet-ridden car, news crews, body bags!” Paceman Jimmy Anderson echoed that sentiment: “Just seen the aftermath of a shooting near the hotel. Cars full of bullet holes. Very scary.”

Labels: andy flower, england cricket, , , james anderson, , ,

Thursday, 12 November 2009

KP won't look Bok in anger

KEVIN PIETERSEN’S first task on arriving in South Africa? Offering a little advice to the other bloke in the England squad with that dodgy aksent, Jonathan Trott.
KP, off the crutches he used for weeks after the mid-Ashes operation on his right ankle, flew in late to join the tour in Johannesburg and said: “I’ve just caught up with Trottie and asked how everything’s been so far — he said it had been great.
“I had a long chat with Jonathan in the dressing room after the Ashes, talking about the little things I didn’t do when I first came into the England side that perhaps he could do — to try to stop him making the mistakes I made.”
Pietersen, 29, doesn’t like to be reminded of his attitude when he first appeared for England against his former homeland in a stormy series in 2005.
The unrepentant manner and the multi-coloured “skunk” hairstyle didn’t go down to well with the old guard at the ECB — and South African fans were only too happy to jump on the bandwagon, heckling the Pietermaritzburg-born batsman with some relish.
Both the hair and the mood are much quieter now as Pietersen recalls: “Don’t remind me. I was 24, still growing up and I was having a great time, fresh and buzzing. I hadn’t had many knocks along the way. In the last few years I’ve grown up, got married and am a lot more mature. This year has been like never before but it’s all part of development and learning.
“It’s been a fantastic ride and I want to jump back on now. I have identified the next four or five years to get back on that treadmill again.
“It’s been a horrible year but I can turn that around by playing some great cricket against South Africa. I love playing here. The wickets are good and it’s a fantastic country. It’s a recipe to make runs.”
And old foe Trott? “I’ve heard he’s been fantastic in the dressing room and there will be no problems between us.
“Yes, we were opponents growing up in South Africa but that’s because he played for Western Province and I played for Natal — they were big rivals.”
That rivalry will pale into insignificance at the Wanderers’ bull-ring on Friday night, venue of the first Twenty-20 international — and the opening clash of a battle between England and South Africa which will run until the end of the fourth Test, back in Johannesburg, in mid-January next year.
Pietersen won’t play on Friday “unless the injuries pile up” but he adds: “It was pretty hostile five years ago, but I’ve been back for the Twenty20 World Cup and the IPL and had fantastic receptions. Hopefully they respect the cricket I’ve played in the last five years.
“What happened to me at the Wanderers in 2005 will come up over the next couple of days and if Trotty wants to talk about it I’ll help in any way I can.
“But I won’t force myself on him. I’ve thought about how the crowds will be this time over here.
“All our efforts have to go on beating South Africa, not worrying what anyone else says. It doesn’t bother me how the South African crowds react.”
What might bother him is mischievous spinner Graeme Swann’s suggestion earlier in the week that Pietersen may struggle to break into a side which blasted through their opening games in some style.
But after the crashing defeat against South Africa A in Bloemfontein on Tuesday night, Pietersen grins: “I think the team looks like they’re really on fire out here.
“I’m very encouraged.”
NEAL COLLINS will be joining the England tour next month. Read his daily blog from South Africa and express your views on the tour simply by logging on to

Labels: , , , , , tour, world cup

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Just put this on page 51 of today's Lite

LITESPORT would like to apologise to any readers of yesterday’s cricket story on page 35 headlined: “Swann warns SA this is NOT same old England side”.
This newspaper was taken in by two early wins on the tour of South Africa which encouraged us to accept Graeme Swann’s argument which ran along the lines of: “What we’ve been trying for the last five years hasn’t really worked and we’ve done something about it.”
Last night’s humiliating Twenty20 defeat against South Africa A in Bloemfontein suggests this England team ARE, in fact, just as bad as all the other touring teams we send around the world for a good hammering at the hands of our former colonies. For that we apologise unreservedly.
England, without captain Andrew Strauss who avoids the shortest form of the game, were skittled for 89 in an innings that featured three comical run-outs. The second-string South Africans got there with four wickets to spare.
With the first of two Twenty20 internationals looming at the much more intimidating Wanderers Bull Ring in Johannesburg, stand-in captain Paul Collingwood said: “I’m hoping this was just a blip. I never like losing, but I think sometimes it is going to be a little bit of a reality check as well.
“We’ve started so well, it’s a really great atmosphere and there’s a lot of hard work going into it. I guess it’s just our decision-making in this form of the game that tonight has let us down.”
England’s injury list is worrying too. Swann left the field with a slight thigh problem, joining James Anderson (knee), Graham Onions (back) and Stuart Broad (shoulder) in the casualty department.
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