Cricket: Different strokes of twin talismen

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THIS SERIES is reaching breathtaking heights at its end. After the dramas of Melbourne, it was inconceivable that we should start the Fifth Test with a day which was as good as any of the three at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Darren Gough's hat-trick may have been the most sensational item on the agenda but, for sheer pleasure for all but the most prejudiced England supporter, the batting of Steve and Mark Waugh was almost as satisfying and has taken Australia to an immensely strong position on a turning pitch.

They came together when another wicket might easily have seen Australia dissipate most of the advantage they gained when Mark Taylor won his fifth successive toss. While Mark Waugh had his moments early on, as he almost always does, Steve carried on with that cool, almost clinical efficiency which he displayed for hour after hour in Melbourne.

The Waughs are a remarkably disparate pair of twins. Their batting styles differ as widely as their appearances and their temperaments. Mark is all elegance, touch, timing and grace. Steve does not like the frills, or the thrills for that much, either. He is dedicated to the job of being successful and winning. His two strokes on either side of lunch, when he went back to balls from Gough which were not an inch short of a length and yet found the room to drive them through cover point to the boundary, were the best strokes of the day. Mark was more flamboyant and gave the bowlers more of a chance. But, in their different ways, both were terrific in their stand of 190.

It may seem churlish to be critical on a day of such magnificent cricket but Stewart showed his bureaucratic approach as a captain. He is seldom prepared to take a chance and maybe this is thrust upon him by Graham Gooch, the most defensive of thinkers. When the Waughs came together, Stewart hesitated to attack, which England had to do to get back into the match. Just before lunch Mark Waugh drove successive balls from Peter Such over long-on. Stewart immediately sent Graeme Hick back from mid- on. It was 10 minutes before lunch and Waugh had mishit the first of the two strokes. Why not keep Hick in position until lunch and try and persuade Waugh to play the stroke again and get himself out?

Steve Waugh loves to play that curious half pick-up, half sweep stroke against the spinners. He invariably plays it over straight mid-wicket yet Stewart stationed Headley at deep backward square-leg where he could only receive a mishit.

Gough appeared to redeem the day at the end with his hat-trick - the fear is that on this pitch he only made it less awful for England.