Contrast in Waugh games

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The Independent Online
Throughout a significant fourth-wicket partnership between the Waugh twins yesterday, Mark, the younger, wore a sweater, while Steve, the elder, was content with a short-sleeved shirt. As a distinguishing feature between siblings born barely a minute apart, it was hardly necessary.

They resemble each other neither facially nor in batting styles. Beauty and the Beast (with reference to the batting, that is, not the looks) may be pushing it a bit, but not by much. Old Steve is all vigilance and percentages and yesterday he played with a severely bruised right hand which required ice treatment all day. Not that he flinched. He plays the forward defensive with his left elbow jutting out high and level over the ball, meaning every inch of it. He waits for the deliveries from which he can accumulate, as he has done mercilessly against England for years, tucking off his legs, cutting and dabbing. He gives the impression of carving out every precious run as if hewn from a rock face. This still makes it a work of art, of course, but not even his mum could say the method has the deftness, the elan of their kid at the other end, otherwise known as Junior.

If Steve sculpts with a big hammer and wide chisel, then Mark glides lightly over a canvas, filling it with delicate, beautiful strokes which sometimes take the breath away.

Even when he clobbered Andrew Caddick over square leg for six yesterday there was something gracious about the pull. Despite their long, hugely successful careers in the same all-conquering Australian side - a gargantuan monster now displaying distinct signs of annoyance at being rubbed up the wrong way by the spirited minnows known as England - there has not been as much opportunity as you might expect to compare and contrast directly.

This was their 47th Test together since Mark was first introduced to the team, initially at Steve's expense, for the Fourth Test against England on the 1990-91 tour. In the time sense, Mark has batted mostly at three or four, Steve at five or frequently six. Junior has made 11 hundreds, Steve now has 13. But only once before have they shared a century partnership.

It will surprise nobody to have the suspicion confirmed that, yup, it was against England. In 1993 at Edgbaston the Australians were 80 for 4 when the twins came together. They put on 153, Australia made 408 and won the Test match by eight wickets.

For as long as they were together yesterday it appeared that they would comfortably emulate that feat and then some. The score was 39 for 3 when Steve strode cussedly to the wicket, looking especially mean beneath his helmet, to join little brother.

He wanted an argument. The pair had a brief chat initially, but then mostly got on with the job in their different ways. You wonder if Mark looks at Steve from the other end on such occasions and murmurs to himself, as brothers do: "Huh, that's ugly." Or whether Steve whispers under his breath: "Silly young fool. That was pretty, but risky."

They had put on 92 when Mark went, playing down the wrong line through a ball from Mark Ealham which did not appear to do much but, as is the way with this deceptively gentle seamer, did enough. But by then Australia were 131 and, crucially, more than 200 ahead. Just in case it was not enough Steve began to retrench and got out another chisel. He was still there at the close on 82, threatening to become only the third Australian to make two centuries in an Ashes Test and Australia, 335 ahead, were over the horizon.

A spot in the batting line-up may soon be available to the likes of Ricky Ponting, Justin Langer, and Michael Slater after another failure by Michael Bevan. The left-hander fell into the trap of the short, rising ball again. It was not that the poor chap could not help himself, more that he was simply hapless in playing it.

It is difficult to contemplate that this man, who has made 124 runs in 11 Test innings against England at home and abroad, is the same one who made 1,225 first class runs in 22 innings for Yorkshire last summer.

If there was an element of flat-track bully about this, Bevan has now been given more than a dose of his own medicine. He could learn a great deal from looking at the Waughs, the artist and the artisan.

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