Cricket: Australians set fair for Old Trafford

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 156 and 176 Australia 465-8 dec Australia win by 133 runs

The Australian captain, Mark Taylor, left for Manchester last night a very contented man. His batsmen are mainly in the runs, his quick bowlers are firing, and everything is coming together nicely before the third Test at Old Trafford.

Even the current wet weather held off for the Australians to wrap up only their second first-class tour victory in three hours. An hour later steady rain set in, and Taylor said: "We're starting to turn the corner, playing the sort of cricket I know this team can play. Morale has been good since Lord's.

"We couldn't have got much more out of this game than we did, and did everything pretty well right. This is the kind of performance we've got used to on the last two tours, when we came out and dominated games in the first hour's play. And it's been enjoyable. On other tours, when we've played a lot of cricket, you're praying for rain, but not this time because the bad weather has come so early.

"After a three-day wash-out in our last match at Oxford, I thought we might be a bit slow but Jason Gillespie, Mike Kasprowicz and Paul Reiffel bowled really well. They all congratulated each other afterwards, and that's the sort of spirit I want to see in a touring team. We've got 17 guys to pick from. The worrying thing is to get it down to 11. It's a good thing to happen; it's something that hasn't happened on tour."

The final day against Hampshire was really a straight fight between Gillespie and Kasprowicz for the one place still open to debate in the Australian side, with Reiffel seemingly certain to play. Gillespie sent Hampshire into a downward spin with a spell of 3 for 7 in eight overs before lunch, but Kasprowicz took three wickets afterwards to complete the formalities.

Hampshire resumed at 71 for 2, still 238 short of making Australia bat for a second time, but once Jason Laney (30) fell to Reiffel after 40 minutes the rest of the innings ebbed away. Gillespie, 5 for 33 in 13 overs, ran in fast and accounted for Robin Smith, after a fighting effort of 44 in two and a half hours. The erstwhile England man was eventually undone by the bounce and sliced a catch to Shane Warne at wide third slip.

Will Kendall and captain John Stephenson, yorked for a first-ball duck to complete a pair, also fell into Gillespie's clutches. Shaun Udal (21) held up the tourists as black clouds converged on the ground, but Warne spun a delivery round his legs, and Kasprowicz knocked out Simon Renshaw's middle stump to complete a post-lunch spell of 3 for 32 and round off an impressive and timely bowling performance by Taylor's fast men.

Stephenson had chosen to bat on a wet pitch on the first day because "he wanted to do it for England". With rain forecast, his plan was to bat for a long time and deny the Australians time in the middle but, being shot out for 156 in 49 overs, it was a ploy which backfired.