Cape Town: South Africa's World Cup team suffered a seven-wickets thrashing at the hands of the Western Province provincial side in a 40-overs warm-up match at the Bellville Club on Saturday. South Africa, batting first on a pitch which had early life, crashed to 69 for six before being bowled out for 155. Western Province cruised to victory with 9.5 overs to spare, with former Zimbabwe player Neil Johnson hitting 70 off 53 balls. South African captain Shaun Pollock admitted, "It wasn't very good at all.
We were very rusty after a few weeks off but it was disappointing. Hopefully it's the sort of performance we have got out of our system." Pollock refused to blame the pitch, saying it had not behaved unreasonably. "The odd one held up and the odd one bounced but the guys who batted up front said it wasn't too bad." Pollock top scored with 26 against some lively bowling from the provincial side. Fast bowler Quinton Friend took four for 33. It was a different story when Western Province batted. Skipper Graeme Smith, who turned 22 on Saturday and was considered unlucky to miss selection for the World Cup squad, made 36 as he got the side off to a solid start.
The fireworks, though, came from the left-handed Johnson, who shone for Zimbabwe in the 1999 World Cup in England as he hit four sixes and seven fours. His first six was slammed off medium-pacer Lance Klusener and he then smashed three off five balls from left-arm spinner Robin Peterson before holing out to Peterson when the scores were level. South African coach Eric Simons said, "I said during the week the guys definitely showed rust in the nets and we needed some time in the middle. Western Province has got a top-class bowling attack and they bowled really well. "It's not a bad thing to happen in some ways. If we're going to have this sort of thing it's the right time to have it."
Smith, though, claimed the match as a triumph for Western Province, who won South Africa's domestic limited overs competition last month. "My team played really well. They did the basics right, they bowled really well, fielded with a lot of guts and determination and then we went out and batted as we should. It was a great team performance." The teams meet again in another warm-up match at the Green Point Track, also in Cape Town, on Thursday in what will be their last game before the World Cup opening match against the West Indies three days later. "Obviously South Africa is a top international team and it may have been a bit rusty but we're looking forward to Thursday and taking them on again," said Smith.
Western Province coach Peter Kirsten said he still expected South Africa to be among the favourites for the World Cup. "I think the South African team is well prepared for the World Cup, although perhaps they need to relax a bit," said the former South African test batsman. "It's going to be a great warm-up game on Thursday and I'm confident they'll be ready for the West Indies."