Cricket: Broad offers options

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Gloucestershire. . . .183-7

Australians. . . . . . . . . . . . .

CHRIS BROAD added his experienced voice to the England selection debate yesterday with an eloquent 80 against the tourists, but it was as a left-hander, rather than a Test candidate, that he joined the argument.

Broad's uncertainty against a far from convincing Craig McDermott and his lack of runs this season means his prospects of joining the list of recalled rebels remain slim. But the relative ease with which he, and, later on, Jack Russell, played Shane Warne supported the case for the likes of David Gower and Graham Thorpe.

Under glowering skies and amid bouts of rain, Broad batted with much of the style and authority that once made him an England fixture before finally succumbing to the leg-spinner, caught at silly point. Warne swiftly accounted for the middle order and, from the promise of 171 for 3, Gloucestershire collapsed to 183 for 7.

While Australia have been brushing all opposition aside, their hosts have been enduring a miserable season, losing eight of their 10 fixtures, avoiding defeat only against hapless Durham.

Broad's return has only balanced the loss of Bill Athey and Gloucestershire have yet to make a score of 300. With David Lawrence still out, the bowling is totally dependent on Courtney Walsh, who has joined them straight from a tiring winter. Lawrence, a rare English bowler with a heart to match Merv Hughes', was at the ground, looking smart but wistful; had it not been for his second fracture of the knee in March he would have expected to have been playing for a Test place this weekend. 'I'm playing benefit matches, doing some bowling,' he said. 'But you can't get too optimistic. I'm not making any predictions, it is a case of wait and see.'

Hughes again demonstrated the value of self-belief and enthusiasm on a slow pitch. Five hours after the ground staff started work, the captains, encouraged by Tetley's booty, talked the umpires into an 11.30 start. It took Australia an hour to settle on the damp surface, then Hughes' boundless energy was rewarded with the wickets of Dean Hodgson and Mark Alleyne in eight balls.

At the other end, McDermott continued to give Australia concern after his wicketless first Test. However, after changing ends, he twice beat Broad on 49, pushing a slower ball past his edge and following it with a short rising one. His humour was further improved when the team put on large plastic ears as he ran in to bowl after tea, McDermott, who is regarded by his team-mates as being 'large of hearing', could hardly deliver the ball for laughing.

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