FIVE victories in five matches so far this summer suggests that the Australians are coming nicely to the boil, as indeed, with three spats in four games, appears to be the case with their captain, Allan Border.
There is no suggestion that Border is given to taking his post-match refresher out of a test tube rather than a XXXX tinnie, but he does have the reputation of being a mildly Jekyll and Hyde type, and one of the nicknames he has acquired down the years is Mr Grumpy.
Before this game, he had already rearranged his stumps at Lord's, and in a public disagreement at Taunton, advised Craig McDermott he was in danger of an early appointment at the Heathrow departures terminal. The Taunton business was exacerbated by the conversation being relayed back home by Australian TV, which may have had a bearing on Border's reaction before play yesterday when asked for an interview by a local television reporter. 'You are all the same you British media,' he said, 'you are all pricks.'
This is, however, nothing more than business as usual when it comes to the special pressures of an Ashes summer. Border was no less gruff when he was last here in 1989 (at least until the Poms had been thoroughly buried) and these Australians are not here in Brighton for the ozone and the candyfloss.
Yesterday's cricket, by contrast, barely rose much above a simmer, with Sussex helping to reinforce the impression that if the Australians do have a noticeable weakness, it is probably in their second-line pace bowling. McDermott and Merv Hughes are their cutting edge, but you can perm any one of three from Paul Reiffel, Brendon Julian and Wayne Holdsworth.
There was not much to choose yesterday between Julian, the tall left-armer from Western Australia, and Reiffel, the Victorian medium-pacer, although Julian does seem to have the knack of taking wickets in the middle of ordinary spells, and he collected five more in this way yesterday. The one way these Australians will consistently take wickets is with their fly-paper catching, and Hughes, McDermott and Julian all profited from corkers in the slip- gully area.
Hughes, as ever, was bursting with enthusiasm, and judging by the way he is also bursting out of his sweater, he needs the work. A coolish day at Hove did not seem quite the venue for dipping the nose in zinc cream, but suspicions that it was mainly there as war paint were roused on one or two occasions, not least when Hughes engaged Peter Moores in conversation about the protocol of non-walking. Moores clearly needs to watch a few more videos of Australian batsmen.
There was also an interesting contest between Hughes and Alan Wells, which the Sussex captain won fairly conclusively. Wells is probably the best batsman in the country never to have won a Test cap, and he underpinned his team's innings with 93 in a shade over four hours, more than an hour of which he spent in the seventies.
Wells finally succumbed to a catch in the gully to the second new ball, although, rather gratifyingly, it spent the rest of the day pinging off the middle of Ian Salisbury's bat.
Photograph, County reports,
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