Cricket: Cake rises to the occasion

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The Independent Online
Australians 388-5 dec and 178-4; Combined Universities 298-7 dec

FIRST Mark Lathwell says he does not want to play for England, now Russell Cake. What is happening to our country's youth?

Cake, a Cambridge undergraduate freshman aged 20 but looking too young to be legally allowed to celebrate his success, yesterday joined Graham Gooch and Graeme Hick among the elite to take a first-class century off the tourists. He then said if Ted Dexter came calling the chairman of the selectors would find him playing hockey in Argentina.

In only his ninth first-class game - two more than Shane Warne had played when he made his Test debut - Cake displayed a degree of character and determination sorely lacking in England's awful Lord's first-innings display.

He was twice becalmed after resuming on 33, with 10 scoreless overs at 41, but, ignoring close fielders' taunts of: 'Play a shot, the crowd are going to sleep,' he completed a chanceless maiden hundred in four and a half hours, enabling the Universities the rare luxury of declaring.

That gave Australia a 90-run lead which was stretched to 268 in the 142 minutes remaining.

Although the pitch was as bare as a Chris Lewis pin-up and the bowling variable - Warne and Mark Waugh bowled in sunglasses, the latter essaying some form of spin - the three contestants for Craig McDermott's Test place were definitely trying.

Neither Wayne Holdsworth, Brendon Julian nor Paul Reiffel bowled consistently enough to secure the place. The captain, Mark Taylor, admitted: 'We won't be able to make a decision until after the Hampshire game.'

Cake, who is not registered to a county though he played for Surrey under-19s, was a late replacement for the Cambridge captain, John Crawley, who missed the match to attend his graduation ceremony this morning.

Australia confirmed yesterday that their injured fast bowler Craig McDermott would take no further part in the Ashes tour and that they would not be sending for a replacement.