Cricket: Australians at ease in royal company

Worcestershire 162-7 Australia 181-4 Australia win by six wickets (D/L method)
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THE DUKE of Edinburgh, a Dixieland band, the Australians in uniforms as canary yellow as Norwich City's shirts, an omelette bar, the famous Ladies' Pavilion running out of crockery. Well, it was Worcestershire's official Centenary Day.

HRH arrived by helicopter, met both teams, marched out to the middle to interview the groundsman in best Charles Colville style and then stayed to watch until after 3.00pm, confirming his credentials as a Lord's Taverner. The band, alas, wouldn't be mistaken for Louis Armstrong's, but the cricket, either side of a rainy lunchtime, wasn't bad.

The Australians got what they wanted, after managing only 10 overs of preparation earlier, exercising all their front-line bowlers. Glenn McGrath eased himself into England, barely touching third gear; Shane Warne bowled some free-and-easy overs, rolling his leg-breaks and taking his first wicket with what looked like a medium pace seamer; Adam Dale did what he does best, length and line, Shane Lee remains a good county bowler while Damien Fleming came nearest to showing us a genuine Aussie snarl.

Worcestershire, without Graeme Hick (with England) and Tom Moody (with Australia), are a fairly nondescript side and played this innings, for the most part, as if practising for a five-day Test. The pitch was dry and not without pace and the outfield quick, better than average conditions for early May.

Yet 30 overs were needed to score 79 runs, by which time Paul Pollard had departed, trapped lbw by Warne, who must have been at first mystified and then delighted by the respect with which he was treated after the battering he took in the West Indies. English batsmen, especially, play him as if expecting every other ball to be a cobra when most, these days, are harmless grass snakes.

Reuben Spiring, returning to the game after two years of knee problems,was stumped while sweeping, and Philip Weston also departed, to the persevering Lee, as soon as he took a risk. The Worcestershire middle order tried to boost a scoring rate either side of a 90-minute break for rain and lunch, giving Australia the chance to sharpen up their fielding and catching, which was not impressive. McGrath, almost as an afterthought, put one through Richard Illingworth's defence for an lbw decision.

If Australia were expecting to have to score 168 in 44 overs to win they were in for a surprise. The target, it was announced, was 186. Was this a cunning Pommy plot? Not so, it was all due to Duckworth and Lewis, they were told, two especially artful Poms who have worked out how to arrive at a target fair to both sides in one-day games affected by rain.

Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh zoomed past 50 in 10 overs without loss, although Gilchrist might have been caught at point, off Alamgir Sheriyar, at nought. He gave a sharp chance before opening his account but went on from a 63-ball half century to make 86 with the help of two successive sixes off Richard Illingworth. Then they learned that the target wasn't 186 at all, it was 178.

There may have been sighs recently for the departed Ian Healy, and Gilchrist did miss a possible stumping of Spiring off Warne, but as a batsman he makes Healy look third class. There were times when he even made Mark Waugh look second class as the World Cup opening pair passed 100 in 20 overs.

Waugh, trying to lift Illingworth, was caught at long-off in the 24th over for 64 off 67 balls, including eight fours, before Gilchrist retaliated with successive sixes off Illingworth, straight and long. Australia wanted nine when he was lbw driving for a glittering 86 off 94 balls as Sheriyar restored some county pride.