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Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Fourth Test special: Kallis taunts England: South Africa are the better side

JACQUES KALLIS insists South Africa are a better team than England – and will aim to prove just that when the decisive fourth Test gets underway at The Wanderers on Thursday.

Kallis picked out Graeme Swann and Paul Collingwood as the two thorns in South Africa’s side, but though his side are 1-0 down heading into the final Test of the four-match series, he said: “We feel we’ve dominated the series but we’re somehow still behind.

“But that’s in the past, we’ve got to look into the future. We’ve got to go out and win this Test match. The guys have discussed it, we have to move on now. There will be no favours given in this series.

“We like to believe we are the better team. We’ve got to believe it. There was a two day period where we didn’t play the better cricket and we lost it in Durban.

“But we’ve still got a lot of belief. I’ve had a look at the wicket, I’ve seen greener here. It’s not as bad as people think. You’re going to need a bit of skill to get through it. Our guys are used to pitches with bounce more than England are.

“Hopefully the luck will go our way this time. It’s been going England’s way so far.”

When I asked if relations between the two sides were cordial after allegations of ball tampering during last Test in Cape Town, Kallis said: “That was the only issue we really had. Nobody is holding any grudges. There have been no major blow ups in the field. It’s been in played in a good spirit.

“Obviously KP is a key player for England but they’ve done well without him playing well. We’ve had a few plans that have obviously worked. But he might be due something in the next couple of Tests. I hope it’s not this one.

“Our guys do rate him. We’ve done well to keep him quiet. But we know he’s a quality player, you don’t lose that overnight.

Kallis, the top run scorer in the series so far and the best all-rounder in the world, said: “From my point of view I’m not going to change anything I do. I dont’ feel any more pressure.

“It’s a challenge, it’s no often you play on Test wickets that do a lot. Our pitches are more lively than any in the world.

“England haven’t given up. Two games when they were totally out of it, they managed to stay there. We were in England’s situation in Durban and we crumbled.We were in the mire in Durban and we failed.

“The danger is you finish a Test match on top like we did in Cape Town and we have to guard against remembering that. Just because we dominated the last Test match doesn’t mean we’ll be on top here.

“There is a bit of weather around, the wicket does need to be a little bit greener. We need a result wicket with a bit of grass on it. But it’s dangerous going into a Test match without a spinner.

“This almost becomes a one-off Test match. Swannie’s had a good series, Colly’s been key for them. Those guys have been a thorn in our side so far this series.

“Collingwood? To get the balance in your side you need a KP but you need a Colly. He’s shown what a quality player he is. Certainly, at times, not the prettiest player in the world. But you’d take the ugly guys, the kind of gutsy guys who fight in tough situations.

“Obviously, we need to play all the cricket here. There will be pressure on us. We have to be more positive. It’s a gamble we have to take.

Labels: England in Johannesburg, , , neal collins in south africa,

Monday, 4 January 2010

Day Two: Seven South Africans fall. One Englishman. And this is a friendly track.

THERE have been very few days like this in Test cricket. Newlands echoed to the clatter of seven South African wickets before lunch and one Englishman after the break. And this, the experts assured us this morning, is a good batting track.

Day two of the third Test began with the last four South Africans dismissed for 12 runs in 17 balls. Three further South African-born Englishmen, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen, fell as the tourists attempted to make headway on a supposedly friendly 22-yard-strip which has turned fiendish overnight (but the fans love it, see lunchtime picture).

Incredible. If all Tests went the way of this morning’s first four overs (five wickets, 23 balls, 14 runs), we’d see all four innings completed by lunch-time on day one with just over 100 runs on the board.

As it is, a semblance of normality has returned to this wonderful ground, nestled beneath the cliffs of Table Mountain. Alastair Cook’s on 31 and Ian Bell has just arrived at the crease. England are 74-4, still 217 behind, after losing Johannesburg-born opener Andrew Strauss for two, Cape Town-born fiddler Jonathan Trott for 20 and Pietermaritzburg-born waster Kevin Pietersen, brilliantly caught and bowled by Dale Steyn for a duck.

Paul Collingwood, batting with the left index finger he dislocated during the triumphant second Test in Durban, became the first English-born player to fall today, plumb lbw to Morne Morkel for 19 off 44 balls just after lunch.

England captain Strauss became the fifth victim of the day off the final ball of the first over of England’s innings, bowled by the excellent Morkel. It was a dreadful, flat-footed attempt at a drive which deviated firmly into the gloves of Mark Boucher.

But the real fireworks had already come and gone with the real South Africans.

Jacques Kallis? Gone to his first ball of the day on his overnight 108. Dale Steyn? He shuffled off cricket's mortal coil at the start of the next over. Morne Morkel lasted three balls, Friedel De Wet four. South Africa were all out for 291, 17 balls after resuming with their overnight 279-6. Incredible stuff.

South Africans were talking about their side getting to 350 with chanceless centurion Kallis and promoted paceman Steyn looking solid for 17 overs and 64 runs last night.

But this morning they were confounded on a day which, surprisingly, dawned bright and clear, without the usual 'table-cloth' of cloud rolling over Table Mountain.

After Steyn's opening leg bye off Graham Onions' first ball of the day, Kallis, the 34-year-old man mountain of South African batting who averages nearly 70 at his old home ground, may have been hoping to move close to a double century here.

But he received an unplayable snorter from the Durham seamer, got the edge to one that nipped away off a length, and Matt Prior took the catch amid much jubilation - 280-7. Big, big wicket.

Then came Jimmy Anderson's first ball of the morning from the other end. Kerpow! Steyn was gone, brilliantly caught in the slips by Jonathan Trott, playing on his old home ground.

The eighth ball of the day saw the demise of Morne Morkel, who was supposed to be able to bat a bit, again sensationally caught, this time at second slip by Graeme Swann, who dropped South African captain Graeme Smith so badly yesterday.

And we only had a wasteful Onions over to wait before last man Friedel De Wet went lbw to complete Anderson's five-wicket haul - even a last-gasp review couldn't save him.

Anderson ended with 5-63 after a fairy-tale morning which offered a return of seven balls, three wickets for one run. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Labels: , , , , neal collins at Newlands, second Test

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Closing overs, Day Five: Why the Trott/KP partnership hurt so much for South Africa

STRANGE isn’t it? Two men playing against the country of their birth are so determined to resist in front of their former compatriots. And the two Englishmen we saw early today, James Anderson and Alastair Cook, produced a couple of airy-fairy shots to go and sit comfortably in the shade of the dressing-room while the heat is on.

At tea Jonathan Trott (53 off 148 balls) and Kevin Pietersen (80 off 136) had pushed England from 27-3 to 169-3, an unbroken partnership of 142. Safety looms, though Pietersen ran himself out for 81 an over after the second interval and Trott was brilliantly caught by, one-handed by AB De Villiers at first slip off Friedel De Wet for 61 - and went of nursing a bruised thumb from a superb, rising delivery, the 212th Trott received.

That leaves two lilly-white Englishmen, Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, who left a straight one in the first innings, to see out the last 13 overs of the fifth day to ensure a drawn first Test with the score 209-5.

But what British stiff-upper-lip Trott and Pietersen displayed! What true English blitz spirit! And of course, they're both South African reared.

Nightwatchman Anderson, judging by his twitter this morning, was more intent on getting back to find a television by lunch-time. He said: “Huge day today. Wolves v Burnley 1.30pm.”

After Andrew Strauss’s departure last night, Anderson and Cook were out in the first hour with just 27 on the board, 336 still needed. All looked lost, a growing Sunday crowd were having their time in the sun. Then Cape Town-born Trott got his head down and was joined by Pietermaritzburg-born Kevin Pietersen and the resistance grew. And grew.

As I wandered around this magnificent ground, all grass banks, paddling pools and beer, the South Africans were getting remarkably uptight. About 10,000 of them have disturbed their traditional pre-Christmas Sunday braai (or barbecue) to witness England, the old enemy around these parts, crushed.

Instead they were forced to witness two of their own, batting proudly for queen and country, soaking up the pressure and pushing England towards a draw. In their charming double-storey executive boxes, which look like Victorian houses, and on their picnic blankets, I recognise the words from the bearded men as they see yet another appeal turned down. Bitter words. Angry phrases from a near-forgotten childhood.

It’s not hard to understand their discomfort. The Afrikaans curses shouted loudly across the ground are understandable. In short: Centurion, once known as Verwoerdburg, lies next to Pretoria, the heart of Afrikanerdom. They were never too keen on the “rooineks” (red necks) here. Not since we built a concentration camp in nearby Irene, about a mile away, during the Boer War 110 years ago and left the local populace in small-pox infected misery. Okay, it's ancient history to most, but the vast graveyard and memorial, next to Irene Primary School, is barely a six-hit away. It holds the graves of the 1,149 mostly women and children who died there.

So this is no fun for the folks gathered here, large people, large appetites, large opinions. And not all of them modern, democratic thinkers. Things have changed, the nation is rainbow-coloured, but the last thing they need is for two turncoats from the coastal regions to push this game beyond South Africa’s reach. I’m amazed they’ve been so gentle on this pair, considering.

The South Africans on the field are little happier. Even Jacques Kallis, supposedly not allowed to bowl because of the rib he fractured in October, demanded a go at this pair. And he got nowhere. At tea he had figures of 3-1-5-0. And the misery goes on for the locals.

Early on, things were unpleasant for England and their tiny Barmy Army after the first overnight rain of this sun-soaked Test. The ball was flying around, it was pleasantly cool for the fielding side. But Anderson, who gloved Friedel de Wet to Mark Boucher 13 balls into day five, produced an avoidable dismissal.

The gormless Cook followed soon afterwards, caught by South African captain Graeme Smith at gully off Paul Harris. What is the point of Cook? He's earmarked to captain the side in Bangladesh on their next tour but hasn't got to 50 since Lord's against the Australians. He looks good, sounds good... but he's no Test opener at the moment. He looked terrified coming out to bat last night.

The irrepressible Graeme Swann, whose five wickets and Test-best 85 carried his side through the first three days of this Test, twittered a more positive: “Three things I want to see today. Jimmy get a fifty, Cookie a hundred and the Toon smash the Smoggies.”

Only the last of those is now a realistic option. For our foreign readers the words “Toon smash the Smoggies” constitute a Geordie phrase roughly equivalent to “the once-great Newcastle beat never-great Middlesbrough in the second tier of English football which nobody cares about”.

Of far more importance to lovers of real football was Arsenal’s 3-0 win over those niggling, nasty men from the fires of Hull. It closes the gap on Manchester United – smashed by Fulham, 3-0 (yes, that's 3-0) – and extends the lead over Liverpool – beaten 2-0 by bottom club Portsmouth (yes, that's 2-0).

Which just leaves Chelsea to lose to West Ham today, just after this absorbing Test draws to a close this afternoon. And yes, it’s all true. Mark Hughes is gone despite yesterday’s goal-happy 4-3 win over Sunderland which left Manchester City handily placed in sixth. His replacement? Roberto Mancini. So that means City are are in trouble.

And is my precious book, A GAME APART. It was published two days ago. Sales have reached a feverish 14 in two days despite emails to all my mates, constant blogging and attempts to bring people into my web-site with pathetic twittering. My wife threatens to cut people's hair badly in her salon if they won't buy.

But it isn't working. Please help. Behind me, the Johannesburg Star's Kevin McCallum sold 40,000 copies of his sports trivia book. I need 39,986 of you to help. It's the book you must read before the World Cup. If you want. It's not expensive. My wife liked it. Just go to

Labels: , first test, friedel de wet, , , jimmy anderson, , , master plan, ,

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

KP will make massive impact... despite the boos

THE hostile hordes of Centurion won’t stop Kevin Pietersen making “a massive impact” when the first Test gets underway against South Africa tomorrow.

Just before I snapped the pre-Test team picture above - and got it on the net before anybody else! - England captain Andrew Strauss said this morning: “It really isn’t an issue for us where our players are born. We’ve got the best 11 players in England out on the field. And knowing KP, he will have a massive impact on this series.”

But there is no question Pietersen, born in Pietermartizburg, will get it in the neck from a public holiday crowd of around 16,000 tomorrow – not just because he is playing for England but because he is an English-speaking public school boy born in KwaZulu Natal.

This particularly Afrikaans part of South Africa has no love for the English or the English-speaking. And as their English-speaking captain Graeme Smith, from Johannesburg 35 miles south, reiterated this morning: “I wouldn’t say it’s a priority of mine to have Kevin as a friend.

“He’s very different to me. He comes across as a loner - I’ve noticed that about him. There’s some mutual respect now but I don’t think we’ll ever be friends. He can expect a hostile reception.”

That shouldn’t worry Pietersen, and it certainly doesn’t worry Strauss, born in Johannesburg himself. He said: “This tour has been unfamiliar territory for KP. He’s had his first real break from cricket for God knows how long because of his operation and he’s had to find his feet on this trip.

“But I’m very happy with him. His has trained extremely hard and his preparation has been good.”

Pietersen, who made 29 in his only previous appearance at Centurion on the current tour, feels the boos have diminished since his debut for England in South Africa five years ago.

He says: : "I find it funny in a way. I have had it since the start - the baptism of fire I had at the Wanderers that day, nothing will ever be as bad as that, and I just draw confidence from the way I played in that series. I scored three centuries.

"A few people booing me or abusing me on the boundary, well, I am sure they have better things to do. I don't take it as a personal thing. The crowd want to try to rile you so you don't stay too long at the crease.

"I have not had one confrontational moment with anybody since I have been in South Africa. The public have been fantastic off the field, even in bars where people have been intoxicated I have never had a problem here."

Perhaps more worrying if KP’s form. In all the hoopla surrounding England’s shock 2-1 win in the one-day series last month, Pietersen scored just 52 runs at 17.33.

But Strauss, happy to report he is able to pick from a full squad after the early spate of injuries, insists: “Kevin was looking better and better in the warm-ups. I have no doubts about him”.

South Africa, caught up in the hype over Makhaya Ntini’s 100th cap, will only be able to use Jacques Kallis as a batsman but asked if this will make the world’s greatest all-rounder “mentally vulnerable”, Strauss laughed: “Jacques and vulnerability aren’t two words I’d put together. I’m sure if he can only do his talking with the bat, he’ll be keen to do it.

“But this England squad is boisterous, happy, excited. The first session of the first Test match can’t decide the series but it can be important for momentum. And we’re all eager to get into this contest.”

Labels: , , , first test, ,

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Two great events, one nation. And England expects...

A DISTANCE of 1,715km lies between two great sporting events tomorrow. In Cape Town, England's footballers will be unable to influence the World Cup draw but up the coast in Durban, our cricketers will do all they can to inflict an unexpected defeat on South Africa at Kingsmead.

The footballers will be happy to draw Slovenia, New Zealand and Algeria. They'll be devastated if they come out of the hat with France, Ivory Coast and the USA. Those are the two ends of the scale for Fabio Capello in Cape Town, where the sun is shining. Ultimately though, England have to be able to play anyone, anywhere to win the World Cup. They need to be unbeatable.

In tropical Durban, where it's been a little soggy of late, Andrew Strauss knows his side are already unbeatable, given they're 2-1 up in the One-Day International series with one to play. And they are within touching distance of being the only country apart from Australia to beat South Africa in an ODI series on home soil.

Strauss fully appreciates the significance of all this, going into his 100th ODI. In true Tiger Woods style he's trying to play it all down, pretend it's nothing major. He says: "We have to put them under pressure again, make sure we're at the races. It would be a bit naive to talk about series victories. We really want to come and win this series 3-1 but we have to expect another South African backlash."

This Jekyll and Hyde series has been all about backlashes. After the rained off opening game, England won by seven wickets in a crushing triumph in Centurion. Then South Africa broke all sorts of records as they got their revenge in Cape Town last Friday. But England produced another emphatic seven-wicket win in Port Elizabeth last Sunday to turn it all around again.

Given the roller-coaster that has gone before, you'd expect a massive South African win and the two sides will go into the four Test series having drawn both the Twenty20 series and the ODI contest. And that's a worst-case scenario for England. Which is confusing because South Africa have often looked a much better side, particularly with the bat.

But Strauss says: "It doesn't matter how good a side is, if you keep putting them under pressure then you are going to have success against them. We have been able to do that a couple of times this series and let's hope we do it one more.

"I think we've progressed quite a way but I am the last person to say we are the finished article. We still have a long way to go."

With South African born trio Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Strauss threatening to ruin his summer, Proteas' captain Graeme Smith isn't too concerned about the reception awaiting the "English imports" from infamous Castle Corner.

Smith growls: "It happens round the world these days, I think a couple of England fans booed me on Sunday, so it's just something you become used to as an international cricketer.

"Fans are biased towards their teams. You have to learn to have a little bit of a thick skin. What we need to do is push England to perform under pressure. Disappointingly we haven't done that so far."

Dale Steyn's hamstring makes him a doubt for South Africa, who are also without key all-rounder Jacques Kallis, who has had an injection in his injured rib and is rated only 50-50 to be fit for the opening Test at Centurion 16 December. England are now injury free after their initial problems with Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Graeme Swann and, crucially, Jimmy Anderson, who took a career-best 5-23 last Sunday.

I never thought I'd say this but England look like they've got the momentum to beat South Africa in their own backyard, their first ODI series defeat since 2002. Let's hope they don't waste it.

Labels: , , , , , south africa one day series

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Babies, boos and belligerence: now Kevin Pietersen needs runs

IT'S all happening for Kevin Pietersen in South Africa. Boos, babies and a boisterous homecoming at Kingsmead on Friday. All he needs now is a few runs.
With his wife Jessica Taylor, the Libertx singer and Ice Dancer (with KP, right), three months pregnant, the baby will wait until Bangladesh next year. Good tour to miss that.
The boos? He can do nothing about that. The Pietermaritzburg-born batsman will get plenty of stick when the final one-day international kicks off in Durban, 56km from his birthplace, on Friday with England an unbeatable 2-1 up with one to play. What do you expect? He played in KwaZulu Natal for the first 19 years of his life. Ask Paul Ince what it was like going back to West Ham for God's sake!
And anyway, the well-stacked Jessica has joined up with the squad this week, so he'll have comfort at hand. Not that he doesn't thrive on the boos anyway.
It's the runs he has to sort out. Otherwise, the way Jonathan Trott is playing, Pietersen won't be the most important ex-South African in the Test series when it gets underway at Centurion on 16 December.
So far, since arriving late following his infection-ridden mid-Ashes Achilles surgery, KP has managed five innings. His scores so far: 29, four, four, 45 and three. That last knock, during England emphatic win at Port Elizabeth on Sunday, came after he was badly dropped off his first ball. Not too impressive.
Coach Andy Flower concedes: "He is impatient because he's a high achiever and an outstanding sportsman. Four months is a long time off when you're used to playing cricket all the time, so we have to be patient with him. I expected him to be a bit rusty.
"I am sure he will score heavy runs at some stage on this tour."
And the boos? Flower said: "He's used to that. I don't think it affects him. It's really disappointing. I didn't like hearing boos when Ricky Ponting walked out to bat in England in the summer, I don't like hearing boos when someone is taking a conversion in rugby and I think it's sad to hear the booing of a great cricketer walking out to compete for his country."
Can't see Kingsmead's notorious Castle Corner changing that on Friday. Especially if KP comes good for Jessica and delivers a quick 50 to clinch the series, which would mark South Africa's first home ODI defeat since 2002.

Labels: , baby, , jessica, , , , libertyx, pregnancy,

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Fancy glasses, flashy cars and England's South Africans

GRAEME SMITH came perilously close to accusing England's four South African-born players of being too keen on "fancy glasses and flashy cars" before tomorrow's massive third One-Day International at Newlands.
The no-nonsense Proteas captain (pictured), possibly in shock at finding himself 1-0 down in the series with three to play, said: "Look, for me I always had a dream of playing for South Africa and it has worked out. I think it's a good job now, being a cricketer for your country. I feel playing for South Africa has brought a nation together, it's carried the nation.
"The only thing we need to work on is the value of the Rand!"
And turning to those like Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott who were born in South Africa but chose to pursue a career with England, he said: "There are some players not ready to just do the work, to wait for it to happen like I did.
"It's more about the financial rewards. Some players want the fancy glasses, the fancy cars."
But he insisted the drain of talent is coming to an end, adding: "What's really encouraging is we've seen lately a lot of players are coming back into our system from the County game where they were Kolpak players, it's encouraging from out perspective."
Though Smith's comments were not directly aimed at the quartet of expats, there's no doubt the South Africans will be keeping an extra-close eye on their former countrymen over the next two months.
With the four-Test series starting on December 16, this One-Day war is seen as vital for momentum after England were highly fortunate to grab a 1-1 draw in the Twenty20 showdowns. South Africa have a great record in Cape Town, but the side batting first has won 20 of the last 25 ODIs in the shadow of Table Mountain.
The good news for England is that injured Nottinghamshire pair Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann may both be back for Newlands tomorrow.
Last Sunday at Centurion, rampant England might have had just two weak links - inconsistent seamer Sajit Mahmood and woefully out-of-form spinner Adil Rashid. Broad and Swann will slot in easily to strengthen the attack - and both can bat a bit too.
A stronger, fitter England will worry the South Africas with captain Andrew Strauss saying: "Broadie looks 100 percent now after the shoulder injury and it will be great to have him back.
"Swannie bowled for the first time in the nets, so he may be ready too. To be honest he's been a pain in the dressing-room. Too much energy! It would be great to have him back too.
"There is a long-term plan in improving our one-day cricket - and these sorts of games are the ones that can really take us forward
"We've said in the past we've always responded well to defeat, but we have not been quite so great on building on a good performance. We're going to try to put ourselves under a bit of pressure this game to make sure we build on that."
The only bad news on the England front? Former coach and Sky commentator David "Bumble" Lloyd, clearly a Lancastrian as opposed to archetypal Yorkshireman Geoffrey Boycott, complains on Twitter: "Mortified..bloke just come up and said ,“ Hi, Geoffrey." Ouch.

Labels: , david lloyd, england world, geoffrey boycott, , , , ,

Sunday, 15 November 2009

England's heaviest Twenty20 defeat... but it's South Africa 1, England 1

ON the very day the new world rankings have come out showing South Africa at No1 ahead of Sri Lanka and India (Australia fourth, England fifth), here we are witnessing England and their big-hitting hosts draw the Twenty20 series 1-1 at Centurion.
Quite how we managed that, nobody really knows. The gulf between these two sides is huge... and we've still got five one-dayers and four Tests to play in South Africa before January 18, when the tour concludes in Johannesburg next year.
Still, a draw in the shortest form of the game is a welcome bonus. When the rain came down at The Wanderers on Friday, South Africa were going well but they were a run short of the required rate on the Duckworth Lewis method chasing a best-ever 202-6 from England.
Today there was only one side in it. The South African openers, Loots Bosman and captain Graeme Smith were simply magnificent. Bosman, the 32-year-old who has emerged out of nowhere (otherwise known as Kimberley, home of the Big Hole, see google)struck a magnificent 94 off 81 to add to his 58 off 42 in the opening clash.
Smith raced to 88 off 66 after his 41 off 38 in game one... and the South Africans had registered the highest Twenty20 score in history (unless you count games against Kenya), a mammoth 241-6. Smith and Bosman (let's hope they aren't stupidly tempted to give Loots a Test debut next month) put on 170 in 13 overs. With captain Paul Collingwood, spinner Graeme Swann and paceman Stuart Broad all injured, Adil Rashid's six balls went for 25 before he was removed from action, Sajid Mahmood was punished again and only Jimmy Anderson looked competent with the ball.
England's reply was always going to be difficult. But Joe Denly played on early and Alistair Cook's brave efforts to transform himself from Test opener to swashbuckling Twenty20 slogger were, frankly, laughable. Kevin Pietersen, making his comeback after his mid-Ashes Achilles operation, and Jonathan Trott, both with accents closer to Johannesburg than London, hit a few sixes. We had to wait until the arrival of Luke Wright from Grantham for our first British manafactured six on a day of incredible boundaries. Still, he did do it off his first ball, with some gusto.
It began to rain in mid-innnings, with England 54 runs behind the required D-L rate. It was that sort of day. Out-played, out-thought, out-muscled, England looked like they were playing for a draw in a very one-sided Saturday afternoon club game at one point.
They needed 96 off the last two overs, so you can't blame them. And at 93 off the final over, we were a laughing stock, with three wickets standing.
In the end, the winning margin was a record 84 runs.
In truth, this Twenty20 series was a humbling experience, it's just fortunate the tour opened with these two short, sharp, shocking chapters. And the fact we got away with a drawn series is little less than miraculous. As the games get long, the pain may become excruciating. But for now, we can proudly say, South Africa 1, England 1.
Elsewhere, the weekend of sport was hardly sparkling for England fans. The Brazilians had a comfortable afternoon against our injury-stricken footballers in atmosphere-free Doha and our rugby team hardly sparkled in a laboured 16-9 win over Argentina at Twickenham.
And Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka gave France a vital 1-0 win over the Republic of Ireland in their final game at Croke Park before the return to Lansdowne Road. The Irish will need a miracle in the return leg at Paris on Wednesday to get to the World Cup in South Africa next June.
The good news? South Africa's rugby Springboks, having already lost to Leicester on tour, were outclassed by France. The great sadness? Martin Johnson's final Autumn International next Saturday is against the All Blacks, not the World Cup-winning, TriNations-dominating Boks. Darn.

Labels: , emirates football neal collins world cup, , , loots bosman

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

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