Warm-up Match: Middlesex v South Africa
Trevor Chesterfield - 11 May 1999

CricInfo report

Another Easy Win for South Africa

There had been rumours that South Africa had a function at Buckingham Palace last night which is why they wrapped up their last World Cup preliminary game with a touch of indecent haste against Middlesex on the back of yet another impressive Mark Boucher innings a little.

After all there was still 13.1 overs of the South African innings remaining when Jonty Rhodes scored the winning runs. And instead of the team dashing for the bus, the early conclusion allowed Rhodes an impromptu net with assistant coach Graham Ford. Naturally there was far more interest in Rhodes' fielding form than the bowling efforts in a game which was as equally lopsided as Sunday's game against Kent.

His fielding at backward point was tidy, clean and crisp with quick returns to Boucher while Herschelle Gibbs, Derek Crookes and Dale Benkenstein were also given a chance to show off their talents.

Rhodes, now confident that he has fully recovered from the injury which has held up his World Cup progress since he injured the forearm while rowing in Cape Town before the team left for London. But if there was any message in this facile victory by six wickets yesterday it was that the World Cup favourites are in the sort of awesome form.

It is a view supported by former England captain Mike Gatting better known for leading the last rebel tour almost 10 years ago. His view is that South Africa should reach the semi-finals along with hosts England, Pakistan and second favourites Australia.

``We all knew they are a good side and I think this game has proved this view. They bowled well and their fielding is as we have come to know from a South African side,'' he said. ``On the evidence of this form South Africa are going to be hard to beat,'' said the rotund Gatting still sporting his Henry VIII style beard.

Whether South Africa are to continue with the Boucher experiment at three is another matter. He pulled together a second impressive display as they went in search of the 217 needed for victory, his innings of 93 coming off 106 balls with 11 fours.

What is in Boucher's favour is that he has been a regular member of the side it is not as if he is being brought into for someone else to fill the ``pinch hitter'' role. Knowing the South African selectors the thinking could change, upsetting the Indian plans for the game at Hove. From the moment he arrived he was rotating the strike with Gibbs and at one stage had overtaken the opener who looked solid in his inning of 41 as South Africa did indeed seem as if they had a function to attend in London.

One area of concern for coach Bob Woolmer and the captain Hansie Cronje, is the 22 extra balls bowled by the attack against a Middlesex batting line up which was propped up by a Paul Weekes century, reached off the last ball of the innings. The remainder was largely uninspiring and where as the South Africans made it look easy, Middlesex battled to come to grips with their game.