Cricket: England lack bottle as the battle hots up

England 178 Australia 182-1 Australia win by nine wickets
Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONLY THIS week England's coach outlined the perfect one-day batting strategy. In the first 15 overs of fielding restrictions, mused David Lloyd, teams should seek to score at 10 an over, lose no wickets and take no risks.

His side performed their own amended version of this in Melbourne yesterday by scoring at 5.4 an over (acceptable), losing three wickets (barely forgivable) and taking more risks than Evel Knievel (plain daft). It was a rickety platform on which to build a substantial target and England never threatened to do so.

Their only chance thereafter of taking anything from their third match in the Carlton & United triangular series occurred after 29 overs of the Australian innings when they were only 38 short of victory with nine wickets left and Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting apparently engaged in a private contest to see who could play the most sumptuous improvised stroke. At that point hundreds of bottles, varieties of fruit and golf balls were being rained on to the outfield beyond the boundary by the denizens of Bay 13 at the MCG. Bay 13 is the popular section and can make the Western Terrace at Headingley seem as boisterous as the Long Room at Lord's.

Several of the objects made their way on to the playing area near the England fielder Mark Ealham, who saw a snooker ball land a few yards away, had a golf ball graze his leg and eventually decided he had better act when a bottle arrived. He took the offending empty which once contained Victorian Bitter to the umpires. Play was stopped for four minutes while discussions took place and the prospect was briefly, if somewhat wildly, raised of the match being abandoned and the sides taking a point each. England saved.

Then, in to the arena at the behest of the England captain, Alec Stewart, stepped Australia's acting captain, Shane Warne, smiling. "Warnie's a god in Melbourne. Asking him to come on and calm them down seemed the obvious thing." As for Warne, he confessed he had not a clue what he might achieve but he and Stewart strolled towards Bay 13 and pleaded for order. Unruliness ceased. It was not a miracle but a highly sensible piece of crowd control.

The incident was genuinely intimidating and completely unwelcome on a sweltering day. The temperature was 38, the crowd totalled 82,299. Both, it seemed, got to England long before the golf balls. Having won the toss they must have envisaged a total above 230 to be competitive. What followed showed there is still some fine tuning to do on the important work in the initial stages of an innings when nine fielders are in the circle.

Stewart went early, undone by the bounce extracted by Glenn McGrath, and was replaced by Mark Ealham. It was Ealham's job to fulfil the pinch- hitting role and he went at it with the conservatism of a whirling dervish. His blade flashed through the air as if it were Zorro's sword. There were a couple of pulled fours but there were also cock-eyed edges and a top- edged six over backward square leg.

It could not last. In the ninth over of the innings Ealham stepped across his stumps to try to clobber a ball to leg and was bowled. If that was a bizarre way to sacrifice yourself Nick Knight was somewhat unluckier. His extra cover drive to Warne's third ball was legitimate in every sense except being in the air. It was well wide of Waugh at short cover but his spring heels took him to his left and he took the catch arching backwards.

England were never to recover from that, seeming uncertain where they should now go and how they should play. Graeme Hick went pulling one that bounced, Neil Fairbrother was caught by Michael Bevan scooting to his right and picking up the ball at his feet and Adam Hollioake edged a McGrath outswinger to Adam Gilchrist. While England were maintaining a reasonable scoring rate the haemorrhaging of wickets was a serious business.

Robert Croft was naively run out and when Nasser Hussain, playing his first match of the tournament, hit a short ball straight to mid-wicket to be eighth out, England's task was to use up the overs. They failed to do so by 40 balls.

It was a hopeless cause and while they had defended 178 against Australia in Brisbane that was a different pitch. They needed wickets early. Darren Gough made the first ball rear and Waugh could only fend it off the back foot wide of second slip. It was at catchable height but Hick spilled it.

Gilchrist was bowled by a humdinger of an incutter from Alan Mullally but Waugh (83 in 109 balls) and Ponting (75 in 100) did pretty much as they liked. Their skills were delightful but the crowd were bored, the Mexican Wave began with its attendant throwing of items in the air and by the 29th over some sections were paying scant attention to the cruise to victory. That was when play was interrupted. The Australian pair then dashed for the line and Australia had 64 balls still at their disposal.

The players talked down the kerfuffle later and there was probably something to be said for Warne's assessment that in such a vast multitude a little disorderly behaviour was almost to be expected. Ealham, too, was relaxed, but he could have been struck and he knew it.

It did not explain England's poor cricket. From sitting atop the group they have now slipped to second because of Australia's net run rate. Long before the unfortunate stoppage yesterday they had bottled it.

MELBOURNE SCOREBOARD

England won toss

ENGLAND

N V Knight c Waugh b Warne 27

64 min, 29 balls, 3 fours

*A J Stewart c Gilchrist b McGrath 8

19 min, 16 balls, 1 four

M A Ealham b McGrath 21

19 min, 19 balls, 3 fours, 1 six

N Hussain c Warne b McGrath 47

110 min, 62 balls, 5 fours

G A Hick c Gilchrist b Fleming 3

12 min, 13 balls

N H Fairbrother c Bevan b Dale 15

34 min, 40 balls, 2 fours

A J Hollioake c Gilchrist b McGrath 13

19 min, 16 balls, 1 four, 1 five

R D B Croft run out 2

10 min, 9 balls

D Gough c Waugh b Bevan 15

37 min, 28 balls, 1 four

D W Headley not out 10

38 min, 26 balls

A D Mullally c Ponting b Bevan 2

7 min, 6 balls

Extras (lb3, w8, nb4) 15

Total (43.2 overs) 178

Fall: 1-15 (Stewart), 2-44 (Ealham), 3-77 (Knight), 4-85 (Hick), 5-112 (Fairbrother), 6-139 (Hollioake), 7-143 (Croft), 8-145 (Hussain), 9-173 (Gough).

Bowling: McGrath 10-0-54-4 (nb1) (5-0-29-2, 5-0-25-2); Dale 8-2-27-1 (nb1) (6-1-26-0, 2-1-1-1); Julian 5-0-28-0 (w5) (2-0-20-0, 3-0-8-0); Warne 10-0-44-1 (nb2) (5-0-25-1, 5-0-19-0); Fleming 7-1-13-1; Bevan 3.2-0-9- 2 (w3) (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 45 min, 61 balls. 100: 95 min, 130 balls. 150: 155 min, 213 balls. Score after 15 overs: 81-3.

AUSTRALIA

M E Waugh not out 83

162 min, 109 balls, 8 fours

A C Gilchrist b Mullally 21

37 min, 28 balls, 3 fours

R T Ponting not out 75

124 min, 99 balls, 8 fours

Extras (lb2, w1) 3

Total (for 1, 39.2 overs) 182

Fall: 1-44 (Gilchrist).

Did not bat: D R Martyn, D S Lehmann, M G Bevan, B P Julian, *S K Warne, D W Fleming, A C Dale, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Gough 10-0-48-0 (4-0-25-0, 6-0-23-0); Mullally 10-2-42-1 (6- 2-21-1, 4-0-21-0); Headley 3-0-21-0 (one spell); Ealham 6.2-0-25-0 (3- 0-12-0, 3.2-0-13-0); Hollioake 4-0-14-0 (one spell); Croft 6-0-30-0 (3- 0-17-0, 3-0-13-0).

Progress: 50: 46 min, 68 balls. 100: 86 min, 124 balls. 150: 132 min, 189 balls. Score after 15 overs: 76-1.

M E Waugh 50: 86 min, 62 balls, 6 fours.

Ponting 50: 74 min, 57 balls, 5 fours.

Umpires: R A Emerson and D B Hair.

STANDINGS P W L Pts

Australia 3 2 1 4

England 3 2 1 4

Sri Lanka 2 0 2 0

Comments