CricInfo at World Cup 1999
[The ICC Cricket World Cup - England 1999]

Boucher an extra batting option for RSA
Trevor Chesterfield - 9 April 1999

CANTERBURY (England) - South Africa's willingness to experiment has suddenly launched Mark Boucher's international limited-overs career as a possible alternative No 3 batsman in this year's World Cup.

Which is an interesting twist for the young man from East London who scored a limited-overs maiden century at the St Lawrence Road Ground yesterday and gives the South African World Cup selection panel the sort of option they would be quite happy to have in their side as the third warm-up match looms at Southgate in north London tomorrow.

Whether he will be pushed in at three in the final warm-up match, against Middlesex, is another matter. With Lance Klusener and Nicky Boje also a possibility in the selectors thinking, the Boucher option looms as a realistic possibility in one of the opening games.

The way Boucher and Klusener put their century partnership together against a Kent bowling attack which was of the pop-gun variety yesterday showed that South Africa's plans are coming together. It had several Indian journalists, who decided watching the pre-tournament favourites was a much better idea than going to Harrogate, where the game against India was abandoned anyway, worried about the opening Group A game at Hove on Saturday.

There was plenty of purpose and style in Boucher's innings, making the most of anything short and wide: the 50 was off only 38 balls and the tempo continued much the same in his second half century scored off 56 balls. All very statistically correct in terms of the job he was sent in to do as he arrived when Gary Kirsten departed for 24 with South Africa 56 runs on the board.

When Klusener joined him at 211 in the 37th over of the innings, the possibility of a 300 plus score loomed as large as it was ever going to be under such perfect conditions. In the end the South Africans put together 320 for six off their 50 overs on a mild, balmy day for this time of year. But the hard-hitting displayed in the fifth-wicket partnership of 104 off only 12 overs.

The rotation of the run-scoring rate between the two did not lag and Klusener showed his contempt for anything over-pitched or good for the drive. He picked off three successive fours off Min Patel, an off-spinner of sorts who no doubt which he had stayed in bed with a stubbed toe.

While Klusener's innings of 58 off 35 balls was as cultured as it was hard-hitting, the South Africans went looking for the big score. It was a clever tactic as the Kent bowling and fielding was not the sort you would expect from one of England's leading limited-overs counties. In what is often called the garden of England the rubbish they served up was not much better than fodder for the compost.

The value of Boucher's innings may materialise within the first week as the South Africa meet either India at Hove or Sri Lanka in the second.

Boucher paced his performance well throughout his innings: making the Kent bowlers suffer for their waywardness. So dominant was his innings that the class of Jacques Kallis was often overlooked when the pair added 118 for the third wicket, partnership which allowed South Africa to go in search of their mammoth total.

Little wonder Kent, apart from Australian Andy Symonds who flashed 34 of 35 balls, folded as would any cardboard cut out. Some 59 years ago the skies of Kent hummed with Spitfires and Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain, but the Spitfire the Kent players wore on their shirts had no stomach for a fight as they went down by 170 runs in the 35th over.

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