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Proteas out to even the score

South Africa's big match temperament will be tested in Saturday's NatWest series final against England at Lord's here on Saturday.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2003 11:34 IST

South Africa's big match temperament will be tested in Saturday'sNatWest series final against England at Lord's here on Saturday.

South Africa finished top of the turnament table but England lead them 2-1 after three previous series matches with both sides looking to recover from a disappointing World Cup.

At The Oval, South Africa were blown away by centuries from England openers Marcus Trescothick and Vikram Solanki.

But at Old Trafford, tight bowling by Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini put South Africa in charge early on before Jacques Kallis and Jacques Rudolph saw the Proteas home with the bat in commanding fashion.

Then at Edgbaston, Kallis (15) had his first failure of the series and South Africa were held to a meagre 198 for nine.

They then had England wobbling at 30 for three before one-day captain Vaughan and Flintoff eased the home side's nerves.

South Africa captain Graeme Smith emphasised Friday that "both new balls do a lot up front," in English conditions.

Much will depend on the new-ball attacks. Each side has a 'fire-and-ice' combination, Pollock providing the control for South Africa with Ntini the wicket-taking aggression.

For England, James Anderson has been the man to do most damage while, unusually, Darren Gough has found himself in the role of steadying influence.

Pollock, remarkably in view of the accuracy of his bowling, has taken just four wickets in the series and, as he himself said Friday, was due a change of luck.

As for the batting, Kallis will again be the key man for the Proteas. His Edgbaston failure excepted, Kallis has been in superlative form with two hundreds and a tournament average of 164.50.

His ability to pace an innings is something as yet unmatched in the England team.

However, at the top of the order left-hander Trescothick has frequently got England off to a flying start.

By contrast, Herschelle Gibbs has had a disappointing series. Apart from an unbeaten 93 against Zimbabwe at Cardiff on Saturday, all Gibbs's other tournament innings have ended in single figure scores.

Logic suggests that a player of his talent must come good soon but even as relaxed a character as Gibbs must now have at least a few doubts.

Meanwhile England's plans for the final have been upset by pace bowler Richard Johnson's latest injury problem.

Johnson was unable to complete his full quota of 10 overs on Tuesday because of a groin strain and during a fitness Test at Lord's on Friday bowled well below full pace.

As he is also a hard-hitting lower-order batsman, Johnson's absence would alter the balance of England's team.

Durham quick Stephen Harmison, the most obvious replacement for Johnson, has seen his last five overs in one-day internationals go for 45 runs and no wickets. He is also a genuine tailend batsman.

Kabir Ali, another option, offers more with the bat, but has yet to get on the field in a one-day international.

And then there is the Lord's factor. England used to regard it as a 'hoodoo' ground with their opponents, making the most of a rare visit, lifting their games.

Smith, a Lord's novice, admitted Friday to feeling "intimidated" by the historic venue.

But Saturday will be no time for stage fright.

Probable teams:

England: Marcus Trescothick, Vikram Solanki, Michael Vaughan (capt), Anthony McGrath, Andrew Flintoff, Rikki Clarke, Chris Read (wkt), Ashley Giles, Stephen Harmison, Darren Gough, James Anderson

South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt), Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Jacques Rudolph, Mark Boucher (wkt), Martin van Jaarsveld, Shaun Pollock, Paul Adams, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini

Umpires: Simon Taufel (AUS) and Neil Mallender (ENG).

TV umpire: Jeremy Lloyds (ENG).

Match referee: Clive Lloyd (WIS).

First Published: Jul 11, 2003 20:58 IST