Monday, November 16, 2009

Allan Donald: taunts by South Africa disguise worries

Andy Flower has given a short, sharp riposte to South Africa’s attempts to unsettle England with undisguised psychological traps before the one-day and Test series.

Mickey Arthur, the South Africa coach, mischievously described England as “predictable” and called “criminal” the manner in which Adil Rashid was used in the second Twenty20 international on Sunday, won comprehensively by the home side.

If Arthur is playing Sir Alex Ferguson, Flower resembles Arsène Wenger, staying aloof while getting across his point. “I have gone through my career as a player and will continue to do so as a coach in as modest a fashion as possible,” Flower said. “Perhaps South Africa’s status as No 1 is encouraging them to react differently. I am very clear in my own mind about how I want to approach things, and about the balance between being confident and modest.”

Of Rashid, whose one over cost 25 runs in Centurion two days ago, Flower said: “Comments from the opposition we do not really care about. Adil will not become a world-beater overnight, nor will he be permanently damaged overnight.”

Allan Donald, the former South Africa bowler, believes that Arthur’s bullish words hide worries. “He is concerned that they will not take 20 wickets in the Tests,” Donald said. “You can see that [Graeme] Smith [the South Africa captain] is concerned as well. I pick up from interviews and articles that all is not what it should be in confidence.”

James Anderson (back), Graeme Swann (side) and Stuart Broad (shoulder) have been ruled out of the 50-over warm-up against South Africa A here today, and Paul Collingwood (back) is doubtful. While Flower believes that they may all recover for the one-day international on Friday in Johannesburg, he is concerned at the number of niggles surfacing so soon.

Graham Onions is due to make his first appearance of the tour, but England will discuss today whether to draft an extra bowler into the party. Liam Plunkett, now in South Africa with the Performance Programme squad, is the most likely addition.

The experience has further convinced Flower that bowlers need longer rest periods. “We had a heavy summer and three weeks off is not an ideal length of time,” he said. “In future we are going to have periods for strength and conditioning and players will miss the odd international.”

A strong South Africa A, led by Hashim Amla, will also include Herschelle Gibbs and Morné Morkel, the fast bowler, whom Donald, a one-time England bowling coach, believes could prove the difference between the senior side overpowering England and falling short in the Test series.

Flower praised Alastair Cook after his first game as captain on Sunday, but admitted being unsure whether the Essex batsman will emerge as a force as a Twenty20 opener. As if the defeat was not bad enough, Cook was fined 20 per cent of his match fee (about £800) yesterday because of England’s slow over-rate. The rest of the team were fined 10 per cent of their fees.

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