Trott anchors England chase
Half-centuries from Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior carried England to a tense four-wicket win in their final one-day warm-up match against South Africa A in Potchefstroom.
Despite sitting out the Twenty20 series, captain Strauss continued his fine form with a fluent 65, Trott picked up the baton in making 78, and Prior eased any nerves during a tense finale courtesy of a superbly-paced 54 off 48 balls.
He fell with just three required for victory, leaving Luke Wright to hit the winning runs as England completed an occasionally nervous pursuit of 280 with 11 balls to spare at Senwes Park.
It capped a fine all-round display from Wright, who earlier claimed two wickets and a run-out, finishing unbeaten on 25 off just 14 deliveries and sharing a crucial sixth-wicket stand of 46 with Prior spanning only 24 deliveries.
They eased any tension in the tourists’ dressing room as the run-rate climbed to more than nine an over, with Prior leading a late assault during the batting powerplay to ensure England head into the one-day series against South Africa on Friday boasting victory in each of their three 50-over practice matches.
Graham Onions, playing his first game of the tour, earlier claimed two wickets as South Africa A posted 279 for nine on the back of Andrew Puttick’s 62 at the top of the order and an unbeaten 42 from Heino Kuhn.
It represented a successful evening’s work for England, who were reduced by injury to only 11 fit players and forced to send bowling coach Ottis Gibson on to field briefly during the South Africa A innings.
Alastair Cook became the latest player to enter the treatment room when he was ruled out with a back problem.
He joined Stuart Broad (shoulder), James Anderson (knee), Graeme Swann (intercostal muscle) and Paul Collingwood (back) on the sidelines, and helped convince England to call up seamer Liam Plunkett as bowling cover for the first two ODIs.
If England finished the stronger of the two sides, South Africa A unquestionably made the early running, thanks largely to Puttick and Hashim Amla, his partner in an opening stand of 77 after they won the toss.
Onions was taken for successive boundaries by Amla in the opening over, although a mix-up almost saw the end of Puttick, on three, when Joe Denly missed the stumps from point after the batsman had given up hope of making his ground.
Puttick’s first four came from his 20th ball - he hit Onions back over his head - and Wright was driven through cover before he had Amla smartly taken by Strauss at midwicket for 37.
South Africa A raced past 100 in the 19th over, Puttick lifting Sajid Mahmood over mid-on en route to a 58-ball half-century, but slipped from 122 for one to 206 for seven in the face of a valiant England fightback.
Rilee Rossouw, who made 27, was beaten by Wright’s throw from deep square-leg as he went in search of a second run, before Puttick heaved Denly to Tim Bresnan at midwicket.
Herschelle Gibbs, dropped from the senior squad for the first three one-day internationals, played on for 24 as he attempted to steer Wright to third man, and four balls later Onions had the dangerous Vaughn van Jaarsveld taken at mid-on by Kevin Pietersen courtesy of a mistimed pull.
Dean Elgar edged Onions behind and Rory Kleinveldt was trapped lbw by Mahmood, but Morne Morkel struck 29 off just 22 balls while Kuhn shepherded the tail superbly to help set England a challenging target, albeit on a true surface.
Strauss was the central figure in the early stages of England’s reply, dominating an opening partnership of 68 with Denly inside 12 overs.
Denly, reprieved by Morkel when he had made 12, added just 11 before driving Kleinveldt tamely to mid-off, while Strauss went serenely to his fifty, off just 52 balls and containing seven fours.
But England’s progress suffered a major setback when Strauss, who made 72 and 117 not out in the first two warm-up games, edged behind as he attempted to cut CJ de Villiers.
Their hopes of victory dipped further when Pietersen, who never looked comfortable during his 17 deliveries at the crease, miscued Lonwabo Tsotsobe to Amla at mid-off.
When Eoin Morgan perished for 21 attempting to heave Kleinveldt over midwicket, England needed 115 off 100 balls, an equation which soon became 64 off 42 as South Africa A applied the shackles.
Trott spent much of his innings accumulating unfussily - his fifty included just two fours - but helped Prior take 15 off the first over of the batting powerplay, which also saw him bowled off the last ball by Morkel.
Prior maintained the momentum, with assistance from Wright, and they removed any doubts over the outcome of the contest by plundering 17 off the 48th over of the innings, bowled by de Villiers.
That Prior succumbed chasing the boundary which would have sealed victory could not take the gloss off a superb, match-winning innings.