Cricket: Border smiles at last

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Sussex. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .353 and 92-4

Australians. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .490-5 dec

Match drawn

CAPTAIN GRUMPY slipped off his cloak of crankiness and presented the smiling face of Australian cricket during yesterday's tame draw with Sussex. After a fortnight in which Allan Border has abused, in turn, the stumps at Lord's, his leading bowler and the media, the tourists' skipper made a bridge-mending trip to the press box and was renamed Captain Happy.

'Contrary to press reports I'm quite cheerful,' Border said. 'As long as the boys are doing well, that is all I'm concerned about. It has been good so far. We have had good practice and weather.'

The background to the conversation could not have been better, with Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh proceeding serenely towards hundreds against a Sussex attack wearing plenty of sweaters but few smiles.

Martyn, 21, is marginally more experienced than the other new batsmen, Matthew Hayden and Michael Slater, having played five Tests in the winter against the West Indies and New Zealand. Born in the cricket outpost of the Northern Territory, he may have been lost to the game had a cyclone not flattened his family's home in Darwin when he was three.

Having moved to Perth, he went on to lead the under-19 tour of England two years ago, and his innings underlined the depth of the tourists' batting. Normally a dasher, he batted, as on Friday, with caution. He and Waugh collected singles at will but took time to find the gaps in a well-set field. Martyn, 78 overnight, took just over an hour to reach his seventh first-class century, a feat he acknowledged with an embarrassed raise of the bat, having got there by virtue of a cut over slip.

Waugh, who admits he is relishing a return to the slower, lower English wickets, pushed a single into the covers 40 minutes later to reach his century, the sixth by an Australian on this tour. The famed square cover drive, which had become rusty through lack of use against the likes of Curtly Ambrose this winter, was unfurled with increasing frequency.

Both batsmen fell in unlikely fashion as Australia pursued quick runs after lunch, Martyn caught at mid-off off Bill Athey for 136 and Waugh stumped down the leg side. Australia declared with a lead of 137 at 490 for 5.

That gave most of the Sussex side the chance to watch the FA Cup final, along with Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, Mark Taylor and David Boon, who all went to Wembley yesterday, and gave Australia some bowling practice.

Craig McDermott, whose rhythm had pleased Border in the first innings, had no-ball problems but Merv Hughes continues to improve. 'He will get it right and lose that bit of excess weight once we get the workload out of him,' Border said. Both quick bowlers were upstaged by Tim May, who took three wickets, but there was never any chance of a result.

Border said Australia will pick their Texaco Trophy side in order to win it, not with a view to the Tests, which suggests Martyn will play, with Mark Waugh opening, as he did in New Zealand. Taylor may be unable to resist the mounting run-count of Slater and Hayden. We will know when the team for today's warm-up match in Northampton is picked.

Australia will be relieved to hear that Ambrose, their winter nemesis, is expected to be rested, thereby negating what appeared to be a cunning bit of scheduling by the TCCB.