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Anorak | Captain Hook

Captain Hook

by | 1st, August 2003

‘MICHAEL Vaughan’s captaincy could have got off to a worse start, although it’s hard to imagine how as England were played off the park by South Africa yesterday.

You’d never catch an Englishman dancing like that

But this time it was the batting that let England down, as the team was tamely dismissed for 173 on what looks to be a decent batting track.

By the close of play, South Africa were only 22 runs behind with nine wickets in hand.

And to make it worse, the visitors’ captain Graeme Smith is still there on 80 not out, having been dropped by Vaughan’s predecessor Nasser Hussain on eight.

In recent Tests, England’s batting has been pretty solid – in their previous 15 Tests, they have failed to pass 300 in at least one innings on only one occasion.

In that time, their average first innings score is actually over 400 – which makes yesterday’s performance that much worse.

The Telegraph is quick to blame the batsmen, accusing them of throwing away their wickets ”in a flurry of ill-conceived shots”.

”If the only demon was the occasional two-paced nature of some of the short balls, several of England’s batsmen, Alec Stewart and Andrew Flintoff among them, seemed intent on exorcising them by hook or by hook.”

Chief beneficiary was Makhaya Ntini, who took five wickets on what he described as the best day of his career.

”If my grandfather was alive, he would have slaughtered a cow,” he said.

New captain Vaughan was another England player out hooking, but he manages to escape the blame, his 33 runs being the side’s top score until surpassed at the very end by Darren Gough’s 34.

The Guardian says the fragile optimism surrounding England after Test success against Zimbabwe and one-day success against South Africa belies the horrors of last winter.

”The summer has belonged to the masters of spin,” it says, ”and not of the Ashley Giles variety.”

With Chelsea taking a 24-hour breather from the transfer market, there is little to report from the world of football apart from the fact that Manchester United have been accused of running scared from the top club teams in the United States.

And so to darts, where the Times reports that Phil ”The Power” Taylor was on half wattage as he cruised through his World Matchplay quarter-final against Dennis Smith.

”It was conclusive but hardly convincing,” it says, ”and Taylor will almost certainly have to play better than this if he is to prevail against Peter Manley tonight.”

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