Australian morale faces a further test

Click to follow
As Paul Reiffel joined the Australian party yesterday, they were bracing themselves for bad news to offset his arrival. Andrew Bichel, who has bowled only five overs in England, is likely to be ruled out of the tour.

Bichel, a 26-year-old right-arm fast bowler from Queensland who injured his back in the nets before the first Test, had hoped to play in the current three-day game against Nottinghamshire here. He has not responded to treatment, however, and, although further tests will be made today, the likelihood is that he will be sent home.

This, allied to Jason Gillespie's hamstring injury, is improving Reiffel's chances of making a team hoping to recover from the nine-wicket defeat by England at Edgbaston in the first Test. He has not played a first-class game since February but with Australia not exactly spoilt for choice thanks to injury, the final pace bowling place will be between him and Brendon Julian.

Which has shades of 1993, when Reiffel got into the Australian team after Craig McDermott broke down and proceeded to take 19 England wickets in three Tests. The irony, it was noted at the time, was that his movement off the pitch made him the most "English" bowler the tourists possessed.

Indeed Australia's captain, Mark Taylor, had estimated that Reiffel would be an important bowler on this tour, so it was a surprise when he was omitted from the original party. "One of the selectors, Jim Higgs, rang me up and broke the news," Reiffel said. "He offered me some encouragement but at the time I wasn't really taking in what he was saying. I was pretty upset so it wouldn't have mattered what he said. I had a few weeks off, thought about things and decided the only way back was to work hard was to have a good summer. It turns out I got back a bit quicker."

Reiffel's chance to impress here was denied yesterday when play was washed out. Which, given the need for the Australians for practice, summed up their fate so far on the tour. After Edgbaston you would expect spirits to be down, although Reiffel's experience would appear to deny that.

"The morale is very good," he said. "They're very professional and one loss is not going to leave them in the dumps. They'll come back fighting."

n John Emburey announced his retirement from first-class cricket at the age of 44. Northamptonshire's former England off-spinner took 1,608 wickets scored 12,021 runs and made 64 Test appearances in his career spanning 17 years, as well as numerous honours with Middlesex. He is to concentrate on coaching duties. He will, continue to play in one-day games.