Cricket: Australia parade their talent

England 469 for 6 dec & 166 for 2 Australia XI 293 for 4 dec
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The Independent Online
AN UNBEATEN 169 by Greg Blewett on the third day of England's match in Hobart, gave an insight into the depth of talent, especially batting strength, currently illuminating Australian cricket. "It's a golden age," he said later when news filtered through that Darren Lehmann rather than he would replace Ricky Ponting for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.

Dropped from the Test side following a poor tour of India last March - he scored 46 runs in six innings - Blewett appears to find England's bowlers particularly delec- table. A month ago he scored 143 against the tourists for South Australia, a knock that when added to the one here, and the three Test centuries scored in successive Tests against the old foe, brings his tally to five centuries against them in 15 innings.

With that kind of form, Australia's loss ought to be Yorkshire's gain and Blewett has signed up with the Tykes on a one-year contract to replace Lehmann, who in all probability will be involved in Australia's bid for the World Cup.

"From what I've heard," said Blewett, "Yorkshire are a pretty decent side but seem to fall away at the last hurdle. I'd like to help them win something. The standard of county cricket is good, it's just the intensity that is missing. It's not as hard as Shield cricket, but it's tough because of the amount of cricket played."

Blewett's choice of county, however, may not be all that wise. A bottom- handed player blessed with a good eye, Blewett is probably more susceptible to the ball that nips back off the seam, than any of the other leading Test batsmen. If there is one ground that encourages the ball to move about, it is Headingley, though what it takes away from his run aggregate should be added to his wicket tally.

On a "flattie," he was impossible to peg back and England's attack did not manage to sully the reputation of Bellerive Oval, as a place where bowlers fear to tread. Rather to their embarrassment, England's front- liners were about as effective as the Australian XI's part-timers. Mind you, a strong wind compounded things, at least from one end, and even Peter Such found it difficult to control his length.

A powerful driver of the ball who tends to get well forward, Blewett also pulls well off the front foot. It is a combination that makes him particularly difficult to bowl at. In one notable purple patch he struck Ben Hollioake for three fours in as many balls, each one a different shot.

Hollioake, one of three England bowlers to concede more than four runs an over, managed to take two of the home side's wickets before they declared at 293 for 4 - 176 runs behind - presumably after the captains had agreed a chase on the last day.

Bowling with the breeze after lunch, Hollioake ended Matthew Elliott's four-hour stay and the 206-run opening stand, when he forced the tall left-hander to mis-hit a lofted drive. Alex Tudor, who bowled well without looking dangerous, took a good running catch at mid-on, not least because a clash with Angus Fraser looked imminent, as the ball hung in the wind.

Two balls later, Hollioake had Cory Richards leg before for a golden duck, Blewett having crossed to take strike when the previous batsman was out. Apparently Richards, a talented batsman for New South Wales, is either a hundred or a nought man. What the exact ratio is between the two extremes is not known, just that a duck farm beckons should he continue to play around straight ones as he did here.

If England had to wait almost 59 overs for their first success, they were suddenly on fire, and Dominic Cork also struck in the next over to remove the left-handed Lehmann. It needed the catch of the match to do it though, a grass-in-the-fingernails job by Michael Atherton diving to his left at second slip.

In terms of whether or not it carried, it was not dissimilar to the one Atherton was given out to in the last Test, when Mark Taylor held up a catch off Stuart MacGill. This time no replays were needed, and Lehmann did not even ask the fielder if he had caught it clean.

Stuart Law then followed, when he skied a pull off Mark Ramprakash to midwicket. It must have given Mark Butcher, who took the catch, some rare pleasure to actually help dismiss someone off a rank long-hop than being the victim himself.

Moments later the declaration came whereupon Butcher and John Crawley, promoted to open, added a rapid 117 for the first wicket. In the absence of three front-line bowlers, England's second innings had even more farce about it than their first, a feeling confirmed when Crawley was lbw reverse- sweeping Lehmann whose first over had gone for 17 runs.

Somehow, amid the gentle bowling and Butcher's butchering, Hollioake managed to avoid a pair but got out in a regulation manner by edging a left-arm spinner to slip. He still has much to learn, not least that even part-time spinners can occasionally turn the ball.

AUSTRALIA (Fourth Test v England, Melbourne, starting Boxing Day, from): M A Taylor (capt), M J Slater, J L Langer, M E Waugh, S R Waugh, D S Lehmann, I A Healy (wkt), D W Fleming, S C G MacGill, J N Gillespie, G D McGrath, C R Miller.


Third day; England won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 469 for 6 dec (M A Atherton 210no, G A Hick 125, M R Ramprakash 65).

AUSTRALIA XI - First Innings

(Overnight: 30 for 0)

M T G Elliott c Tudor b Hollioake 81

G S Blewett not out 169

C J Richards lbw b Hollioake 0

*D S Lehmann c Atherton b Cork 4

S G Law c Butcher b Ramprakash 21

M G Bevan not out 0

Extras (b1, lb3, nb14) 18

Total (for 4 dec, 77 overs) 293

Fall: 1-206, 2-207, 3-212, 4-278.

Did not bat: A C Gilchrist, P R Reiffel, B P Julian, M S Kasprowicz, G R Robertson.

Bowling: Tudor 14-3-54-0; Fraser 20-3-53-0; Such 15-1-62-0; Cork 11-3-33-1; Hollioake 10-1-55-2; Ramprakash 6-0-29-1; Hick 1-0-3-0.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

J P Crawley lbw b Lehmann 63

M A Butcher not out 85

B C Hollioake c Blewett b Elliott 17

D G Cork not out 0

Extras (nb1) 1

Total (for 2, 37 overs) 166

Fall: 1-118, 2-164.

To bat: *M A Atherton, M R Ramprakash, G A Hick, W K Hegg, A J Tudor, A R C Fraser, P M Such.

Bowling: Julian 7-2-23-0; Law 8-1-36-0; Lehmann 7-1-45-1; Bevan 10-1- 47-0; Elliott 5-0-15-1.

Umpires: S G Davies and P Parker.