TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
JUST when you thought cricket’s suits wouldn’t know a sense of humour if it tied their pinstripes in knots, a look at England’s itinerary in SA suggests otherwise.
This week, the visitors played a tour match against a SA Invitation XI in Potchefstroom. On Sunday, they begin another three-day dress rehearsal for the test series with a game against SA A in Pietermaritzburg.
Poms, Potch, Pietermaritzburg … Put perfect, pathetic, perchance perfunctory, perhaps punctilious, or any pair of them, in there somewhere and you can see how particularly perceptive headline writers will be purple with properly poetic passion.
And the jokes don’t end there.
Stephen Cook is SA’s unluckiest opening batsman. Having scored six centuries and a half-century and averaged 67.00 in 19 first-class innings last season, he should be in the mix for the first two tests. Instead, he is in the SA A side.
That, you would think, gives Cook the right to pout in Pietermaritzburg. Not a bit of it.
“Obviously I’m not blind to what gets said in the media,” Cook said on Friday. “It’s an honour, but it doesn’t change the way I approach my cricket.
“I’m going to play the way I’ve played for the past 15 years. If I get some runs and I get the call-up, good. If I don’t, well, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
Ah, “Cookie”, good to know that the slings and arrows of selection sagas have not darkened your disposition.
Cook isn’t the only member of the home team who would have hoped for bigger things. The side boasts 13 test caps thanks to the inclusion of Dane Vilas – the captain – Quinton de Kock and Marchant de Lange.
That would have been 17 caps had Wayne Parnell not pulled out with an injury. He has been replaced by the deserving Dane Paterson.
Rilee Rossouw is not in that club, but he is the only SA A player who is also in the test squad.
All of which points to England facing a stiffer test than the one they neither passed nor failed against a game but green SA Invitation XI in Potch.
Lightning, rain and hail allowed only 24.4 overs to be bowled on the last day, and there was more fire and brimstone from the locals – despite their limited opportunity they took five wickets for 18 runs to dismiss England for 190. Zambian fast bowler Junior Dala claimed 5/34.
That had the Poms pondering perceived proneness to batting collapses.
“It’s definitely a habit we need to get out of,” James Taylor said. “You don’t want to get into those habits of losing clumps of wickets and in the past that has happened.
“We’re disappointed with how many wickets we lost in that first session but that happens, especially early in a tour. But it’s a good thing for us to learn from – as long as we don’t keep making those mistakes.”
Taylor, who retired on 114 in the first innings in Potch, will probably bat at No. 5 in England’s test line-up. That would give him the responsibility of stopping the rot.
“I want to be that person to kind of hold things together and kick on,” he said. “Hopefully we don’t get in those situations and I don’t have to do that too often, but I would be like to be that man to keep things together and it’s a spot I enjoy batting in.”
SA A: Stephen Cook, Reeza Hendricks, Rilee Rossouw, Quinton de Kock, Omphile Ramela, Khaya Zondo, Dane Vilas (captain), Dane Paterson, Keshav Maharaj, Chris Morris, Marchant de Lange.