CRICKET; England hierarchy happy with Atherton's hook

ENGLAND WILL instruct Michael Atherton to carry on hooking if he believes that is the best way to combat the new-ball threat of Glenn McGrath when their personal duel resumes in the second Test at the WACA tomorrow.

Atherton was dismissed for 28 in the first Test in Brisbane when McGrath snared him for the 11th time in their last eight matches, on this occasion caught at fine leg before England were saved from defeat by an electrical storm.

It was the fourth time in 15 months Atherton had fallen victim to the hook shot - and one McGrath is happy to see him play in his bid to continue his stranglehold over a batsman the Australians have nicknamed "cockroach" because of the difficulties they normally have in "stamping" him out.

But neither England coach David Lloyd nor captain Alec Stewart will instruct Atherton to cut out the shot and will be happy to see him hooking at will on Perth's pacy and bouncy pitch. "I wouldn't insult his intelligence," said Lloyd. "He's got nearly 6,000 Test runs and if he is happy hooking then I'm sure he knows what he's doing. Before McGrath got him out, Athers hooked two or three times very well in Brisbane - I was more concerned with one or two of our tailenders who came in and tried hooking first ball thinking they were Roy Fredericks."

Lloyd's view is shared by Stewart, who insisted: "He can play as he wants. He will play his own way, and everyone in this squad will have their own game plan - just because you get out doing one thing, you don't have to stop doing it.

"The ball that got him out went away from him, and he ended up dragging it from outside off stump - and that's why it ended the way it did. That shot has got him a lot of runs, and he will weigh up how much success and how much failure it brings him."

The England thinking is likely to come as music to McGrath's ears on a rock hard pitch. "I've never really played on it when it's been a normal pacy WACA wicket, and it's important not to get carried away on it," said McGrath.

"It's easy to do that with bouncy wickets, putting it in short and watching it fly through to the wicketkeeper, but you don't want to fall into that trap."

HOW McGRATH HAS TAMED ATHERTON

Michael Atherton has been dismissed by Glenn McGrath 11 times in the last eight Tests in which they have both played.

February 1995, Perth

c Healy b McGrath 4

c Healy b McGrath 8

June 1997, Edgbaston

c Healy b McGrath 2

not out 57

June 1997, Lord's

c Taylor b McGrath 1

hit wicket b Kasprowicz 77

July 1997, Old Trafford

c Healy b McGrath 5

lbw b Gillespie 21

July 1997, Headingley

c Gillespie b McGrath 41

c Warne b McGrath 2

July 1997, Trent Bridge

c Healy b Warne 27

c Healy b McGrath 8

August 1997, The Oval

c Healy b McGrath 8

c S Waugh b Kasprowicz 8

November 1998, Brisbane

c M Waugh b McGrath 0

c Fleming b McGrath 28

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