Cricket: Cork and Mullally lose the plot

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The Independent Online
THERE IS a tendency among England's cricketers to consider that they should be immune from criticism. They regard themselves as the last word in professionalism. It would be interesting to know how they would try to reconcile these views with their performance on the fourth day at the Gabba, when much of their cricket was embarrassing, not to say shameful.

It is extraordinary that the same side which bowled and fielded so well last Friday when they took the first five Australian wickets for 178 and then batted admirably on Sunday, could have bowled as badly as they did yesterday and batted as unintelligently as they did when they continued their innings on the fourth morning.

When play ended on Saturday, Alec Stewart's side had regained the respect of Australia. Twenty-four hours later they were again not much more than a laughing stock. It is impossible to explain how players, at this level, can go from one extreme to the other with such rapidity.

Let us take the batting. England began the day at 299 for 4 and it was imperative that they should bat on for as long as they could, for all day if necessary, to consolidate the excellent impression they had made on Sunday. They had acquired the psychological high ground and they had to hold on to it.

Graham Thorpe and Mark Ramprakash had put on 59 overnight and although Thorpe had rather lost his touch from Sunday evening, they batted quietly through the first 10 overs. Thorpe then tried to hook a ball which came though at head height. It was too high for the stroke and he was unable to keep it down.

This let in Dominic Cork, who is not a Test match No 7 but still knows how to bat. His job, above all, was to stay in with Ramprakash. In Australia's first innings, he had made the astonishing decision to bowl bouncers at Glenn McGrath, one of the three or four fastest bowlers in the world and a lot faster than Cork.

Maybe Cork thought McGrath had a short memory. If he did, he was wrong. Within moments the ball was humming around Cork's ears and McGrath's extended follow through took him to within a foot or two of Cork. There was much glaring and a certain amount of chatter. Cork would have been best advised to keep quiet.

He avoided the bouncers for a time before an idiot bravado took over and he aimed a violent pull which gave a gentle catch mid-on. Robert Croft's sensible attempt to play McGrath short showed up Cork even more. Darren Gough also tried to stay there until he had an lbw decision which, on another day, might have gone in his favour.

Then came Alan Mullally, who had made Croft such a good partner at Cairns where they steered England to a one-wicket victory. His first ball was another short one from McGrath and, incredibly, he decided to pull it out of the ground and it ended up in mid-on hands - and Ramprakash was left with Angus Fraser as his last partner.

Now, what were Cork and Mullally thinking about? Whatever it was - always assuming that it was something - it was not the best interest of the team.

And they claim to be so professional.

Then followed bowling and fielding which confirmed our worst fears and England were made to look little short of a rabble by Michael Slater and Justin Langer.

As a result of having let themselves down with such a bump, England may even lose this match, but after Mike Atherton and Mark Butcher's splendid start in the evening, when they made 26 for no wicket, England could also win the spoils. A draw though, must be the most likely result, which is almost more than England deserve.

THE GABBA SCOREBOARD

Fourth day; Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 485 (I A Healey 134, S R Waugh 112; A D Mullally 5-105).

ENGLAND - First innings

(Sunday: 299 for 4)

M A Butcher c and b M Waugh 116

278 min, 236 balls, 16 fours

M A Atherton c M Waugh b McGrath 0

17 min, 14 balls

N Hussain c Healy b Kasprowicz 59

141 min, 99 balls, 10 fours

*A J Stewart c Kasprowicz b MacGill 8

17 min, 9 balls, 1 four

G P Thorpe c Langer b McGrath 77

231 min, 168 balls, 7 fours

M R Ramprakash not out 69

234 min, 166 balls, 6 fours

D G Cork c MacGill b McGrath 0

16 min, 11 balls

R D B Croft b Kasprowicz 23

51 min, 48 balls, 3 fours

D Gough lbw b McGrath 0

24 min, 23 balls

A D Mullally c Kasprowicz b McGrath 0

1 min, 1 ball

A R C Fraser c M Waugh b McGrath 1

7 min, 7 balls

Extras (b1 lb9 nb12) 22

Total (513 min, 128.2 overs) 375

Fall: 1-11 (Atherton) 2-145 (Hussain) 3-168 (Stewart) 4-240 (Butcher) 5-315 (Thorpe) 6-319 (Cork) 7-360 (Croft) 8-373 (Gough) 9-373 (Mullally) 10-375 (Fraser).

Bowling: McGrath 34.2-11-85-6 (nb3) (7-2-13-1, 7-2-25-0, 5-1-13-0, 2- 0-10-0, 12-5-24-2, 1.2-1-0-3); Fleming 27-5-83-0 (4-2-10-0, 3-0-10-0, 5-0-26-0, 7-3-5-0, 3-0-11-0, 5-0-21-0); Kasprowicz 29-7-82-2 (nb6) (4- 1-14-0, 7-0-26-1, 3-1-10-0, 3-0-9-0, 7-3-8-0, 5-2-15-1); MacGill 24-4- 70-1 (nb2) (4-1-22-0, 10-1-32-1, 2-0-3-0, 8-2-13-0); S Waugh 3-0-17-0; Ponting 3-0-10-0; M Waugh 8-1-18-1 (nb1) (one spell each).

Progress: Second day: 50: 68 min, 17 overs. Close: 53-1 (Butcher 23, Hussain 23) 19 overs. Third day: 100: 120 min, 30.2 overs. 150: 163 min, 39.4 overs. Lunch: 179-3 (Butcher 93, Hussain 6) 47 overs. 200: in 218 min, 53.3 overs. Tea: 262-4 (Thorpe 50, Ramprakash 13) 82 overs. New ball taken immediately after tea. 250: 292 min, 74 overs. Bad light stopped play 3.54pm-close at 299-4 (Thorpe 70, Ramprakash 29) 94.2 overs. Fourth day: 300: 371 min, 94.5 overs. 350 in 460 min, 115.3 overs. Innings closed 11.53am.

Butcher's 50: 125 min, 101 balls, 9 fours. 100: 219 min, 179 balls, 16 fours. Hussain's 50: 94 min, 68 balls, 9 fours. Thorpe's 50: 135 min, 98 balls, 4 fours. Ramprakash's 50: 180 min, 136 balls, 4 fours.

AUSTRALIA - Second Innings

M J Slater c and b Fraser 113

190 min, 139 balls, 13 fours, 1 six

*M A Taylor b Cork 0

12 min, 5 balls

J L Langer c Mullally b Croft 74

202 min, 149 balls, 8 fours

M E Waugh not out 27

76 min, 54 balls, 1 four

S R Waugh not out 16

51 min, 30 balls, 1 four

Extras (b1 lb1 nb5) 7

Total (for 3 dec, 267 min, 62 overs) 237

Fall: 1-20 (Taylor) 2-182 (Slater) 3-199 (Langer).

Bowling: Gough 6-0-50-0 (nb1) (3-0-28-0, 3-0-22-0); Cork 5-0-18-1 (one spell); Mullally 14-4-38-0 (nb2) (6-1-18-0, 3-1-9-0, 5-2-11-0); Fraser 15-1-52-1 (nb2) (8-1-20-0, 5-0-27-1, 2-0-5-0); Croft 20-2-71-1; Ramprakash 2-0-6-0 (one spell each).

Progress: Fourth day: 50: 51 min, 12.2 overs. 100: 111 min, 25.3 overs. Tea: 111-1 (Slater 75, Langer 35) 30 overs. 150: 165 min, 39.2 overs. 200: 218 min, 50.5 overs. Declaration at 5.19pm.

Slater's 50: 72 min, 56 balls, 8 fours. 100: 172 min, 129 balls, 10 fours, 1 six. Langer's 50: 147 min, 107 balls, 6 fours.

ENGLAND - Second Innings

M A Butcher not out 7

29 min, 18 balls, 1 four

M A Atherton not out 18

29 min, 24 balls, 2 fours

Extras (w1) 1

Total (for 0, 29 min, 7 overs) 26

Bowling: McGrath 4-1-7-0; Kasprowicz 3-0-19-0 (w1) (one spell each).

Umpires: K T Francis (S Lanka) and D B Hair (Aus). TV replay umpire: P D Parker.

Match referee: J R Reid.

Compiled by Jo King

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