Cow Corner

Shoddy England looted by slogger

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The Twenty20 series between England and South Africa may have been tied, but Duckworth-Lewis could do little to paper over the Antigua-esque cracks in the tourists' side.

Eoin Morgan's belligerent and exhilarating 85 in the first match at the Wanderers was the solitary positive for England with a typically hefty dose of D/L responsible for their slender victory in the opener.

It is common knowledge in international cricket that South African players simply cannot crack the code devised by Messrs Duckworth and Lewis, but it should not hide the fact that England were bulldozed by a man named Lungile 'Loots' Bosman.

If Morgan played with audacious charm and outrageous confidence, it was nothing compared to the fearful hammering doled out by Mr Bosman (pictured) who, unlike his Belgian namesake, had no intention of leaving for nothing.

Indeed, the opener who does not recoil when referred to as a slogger is fast approaching 33 years of age, posing the inevitable question - why has he not been snapped up by the beady eyes of England's selectors?

England talked long and hard about their new, revolutionary approach to Twenty20: 'hit the ball and hit it ruddy hard', but their efforts paled in comparison to that of Loots and his captain Graeme Smith.

Each of the tourists' batsmen applied the strategy with varying degrees of success, but the one man who seized the opportunity like Dermot Reeve at a Mexican pharmacy was Morgan.

The 23 year old, whose former hobby was playing under the guise of an Irish cricketer, smashed the highest individual score by an Englishman in the format - but his 85 was quickly overshadowed by Bosman.

The burly Eagles batsman clubbed/bludgeoned/blitzed his way to 94 from 45 balls, including nine sixes, in an innings which would have made Shahid Afridi resemble something closer to Chris Tavare.

When England captain Alastair Cook said of his bowlers: "We had the plans, but not the skills", you have to worry about the side's selection and the lack of confidence shown by their stand-in skipper.

But before we get all Raymond Illingworth on the situation, it is worth considering that just two selections were misplaced: that of Cook himself, and of a bowler who is more concerned about 'hitting his straps' than of hitting the cut strip.

Sajid Mahmood is as enthusiastic and whole-hearted a cricketer as you could wish to have, but when you see him holding the white ball like he is at a coconut shy you begin to fear for the safety of the ground's car-park attendants.

It was a tad worrying when Kevin Pietersen was roundly applauded by his team-mates for rushing through two overs for 27, as it bore out the distinct lack of conviction shown by the front-line bowlers - Mahmood had an economy of 15.25, Tim Bresnan 12 and Adil Rashid 25.

Smith obliterated Mahmood and co in his 88 off 66 balls at Centurion and in so doing highlighted the lack of firepower at the top of England's batting line-up, something which is always a problem if you play Test-match batsmen in slog-about contests.

Cook was criticised in the wake of England's 84-run defeat for not tinkering with the batting order, but the bigger question is why the Essex nurdler was even playing in the dynamic form of the game when he is about as dynamic as David Steele in a fifth-day rearguard.

In the first Twenty20, the captain-in-waiting dropped the ball down to fine-leg before trapping the ball with his pad in front of the stumps, then proceeded to play with all the circumspection of Neil McKenzie on a Delhi dust bowl in the second.

Smith has been rightly lauded for his role, along with Bosman, of 'setting the tone' at the top of the South Africa order - Cook's stoic 26 off 37 balls set nothing but the match result.

England have a lot to ponder ahead of the five-match ODI series beginning in Johannesburg on Friday. Cook et al should worry less about being Looted by a self-proclaimed slogger, and instead focus on hitting good areas with the ball, and good areas with the bat - namely the three-story building frequented by Bosman over the back of the Corlett Drive End.

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