Cricket: Australia's driving force rewarded

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The Independent Online
IT WAS fitting that Allan Border should have marked what will surely be his last series against England with at least one big 100. This is his record third series as Australia's captain in England and no one in the history of his country's cricket can have done much more for them.

Numerically speaking, he may trail behind Don Bradman, whose figures are still as far ahead of the modern generation of players as they were of his own contemporaries. Bradman's records are unique in all sport in that they will, in all likelihood, never be broken.

Border took charge of Australian cricket most reluctantly back in 1984 when they were going through difficult times. They had lost the first two Test matches against the West Indies, at Perth and Brisbane, and Kim Hughes, always a misfit in the role of captain, had resigned from the job in tears after the Brisbane match.

Australia had lost Dennis Lillee, Rodney Marsh and Greg Chappell in quick succession: body blows no side ever would have got over quickly. Now, the Australians soon became rudderless and were being beaten by all and sundry. This was the point at which Border took over.

For some while things did not improve much except that Border by his own heroic efforts with the bat singlehandedly staved off defeat on countless occasions. But it was a losing battle and one which almost prompted him to resign the job on at least a couple of occasions.

Somehow he found the commitment to soldier on. Bobby Simpson took on the coaching job, a policy was formulated and slowly but surely Australian cricket again took on a recognisable shape.

Border, obstinate at times to the point of bloodymindedness, and Simpson, not the easiest of men, have not always hit it off but they managed to forge what was at first a workable partnership which was to turn into a highly successful relationship.

The young players they studiously allowed to develop - the Boons, the Waughs, the McDermotts, the Hughes and the Jones's, although the latter has now gone - to the point where they, and Australia, flourished.

The West Indies have remained the one nut which has been too hard to crack but all the others have been beaten and none more so of late than the old enemy, England.