ASK an Australian on to Desert Island Discs, and his luxury item would probably be a betting shop. They will have a gamble on almost anything, including their cricketers, which is why England ran into trouble here yesterday in the shape of a peroxide blond with a stud in his ear.
If we thought that the England selectors were in danger of being referred to Gamblers' Anonymous when they first picked Ian Salisbury after an apprenticeship of 70 first- class games, Shane Warne had played in only seven when he won his first cap for Australia, and the 23-year-old Victorian leg-spinner is already threatening to become the key figure in this Ashes series.
Warne yesterday tilted the balance of a riveting match with a spell of 3 for 14 in his first nine overs, including, with his first ball in a Test match in England, a delivery that left Mike Gatting with an expression he normally reserves for being given out lbw in Pakistan.
Pitching into the footholds outside leg stump, Warne turned the ball more than a foot to knock back Gatting's off stump, and the former England captain briefly threatened Chris Broad's record for time taken to vacate the crease, through bewilderment as opposed to dissent.
The first ball of Warne's next over turned almost as sharply to find the edge of Robin Smith's familiar stiff- wristed prod (caught at slip) and although Graham Gooch's three-hour vigil for 65 runs ended with him splicing a full toss straight to mid-on, it was doubtless the by-product of being uncertain about what to do with any kind of delivery sent down by Warne.
From 80 for 1, England suddenly found themselves in the mire at 123 for 4, a position from which they failed to extricate themselves, even though the damage would have been considerably worse had it not been for one of their own twirly men, Peter Such, mopping up the Australian bottom order in the morning session.
England spent the entire winter falling apart against flight and turn, and it would be a nice twist, would it not, if the fast bowler now comes to be regarded as an endangered species, with the International Cricket Council ordering all cricket balls to be manufactured with steel woven seams, pre-scuffed up on one side.
Australia, resuming on 242 for 5, lost their last five wickets for 47 runs on a surface that had been alternately soaked and baked, and which finally became as crusty as an Australian captain. Allan Border peered, glowered and prodded at the pitch until Such had him smartly stumped in his fourth over of the day, which made it all the more remarkable that Border declined to bowl Warne until England had been batting, with no discernable discomfort, for two hours.
Having mustered only nine wickets between their three specialist spinners in the entire series in India, England yesterday picked up eight in an innings, two to Phillip Tufnell, and six to Such. John Emburey was the last England off-spinner, in Sydney in 1987, to take more than five wickets in an innings, and Such's 6 for 67 was the best return by an England player on his debut since John Lever took 7 for 46 in Delhi in 1976-77.
England's ascendency lasted until mid-afternoon, by which time Gooch and Michael Atherton were threatening to add to their seven three-figure opening partnerships in 14 Tests. They had reached 71 when Merv Hughes found Atherton's outside edge, and sent Atherton on his way with a verbal broadside that did not, through binoculars, appear to be contain the words: 'Bad luck, old boy.'
Gooch came into this match so bothered by his form that he had been searching for it firstly against Somerset's Second XI, and then against a team cobbled together by a Southend hotelier for a Neil Foster benefit match. He also had an extended net yesterday morning, and Gooch's own luxury item on Desert Island Discs would almost certainly be a bowling machine.
However, the captain played beautifully until he fell to Warne, who, like many leg-spinners, began his cricket as a batsman/medium-paced trundler. He has a flipper and a top spinner in his repertoire, and uses his googly sparingly - brought out, like a best suit, for special occasions.
Warne having breached the England dam, it was Hughes who caused the middle-order flood by ripping out Graeme Hick and Chris Lewis. Hick, having been dropped in the gully off Craig McDermott when 22, was brilliantly caught, cutting fiercely at a long hop, by Border at cover point, and Lewis was equally unlucky to get out to a remarkable catch at short leg. Or at least it started off as short leg when David Boon parried a firm clip up into the air behind him, but closer to midwicket when Boon, a remarkably agile man for his shape, raced back for the rebound and dived to pluck it inches from the ground.
Phillip DeFreitas then fell leg before, wandering in front of his stumps against the left-arm seamer, Brendon Julian. To describe Julian's first spell as ordinary would be doing him a kindness, but he was much more effective from the Stretford End, and he then removed England's last front- line batsman with an inswinging yorker that thudded into the base of Alec Stewart's middle stump.
Essex's achievement in turning Such into a Test bowler is not half as eyebrow raising as turning him into someone who gets into any team batting higher than No 11, but while he and Andrew Caddick held on to the close, England's last two wickets will he hard pressed to make much impression on a deficit of 87 this morning.
Old Trafford scoreboard
(England won toss)
AUSTRALIA - First Innings
M A Taylor c and b Such124
(325 mins, 234 balls, 12 fours, 2 sixes)
M J Slater c Stewart b DeFreitas58
(165 min, 131 balls, 7 fours)
D C Boon c Lewis b Such21
(107 min, 90 balls, 1 four)
M E Waugh c and b Tufnell6
(41 min, 37 balls)
* A R Border st Stewart b Such17
(69 min, 54 balls, 1 four)
S R Waugh b Such3
(19 min, 19 balls)
I A Healy c Such b Tufnell12
(62 min, 48 balls, 1 four)
B P Julian c Gatting b Such0
(6 min, 5 balls)
M G Hughes c DeFreitas b Such2
(8 min, 12 balls)
S K Warne not out15
(34 min, 40 balls)
C J McDermott run out (Lewis-Stewart)8
(30 min, 17 balls)
Extras (b8 lb8 nb7)23
Total (441 min, 112.3 overs)289
Fall: 1-128 (Slater), 2-183 (Boon), 3-221 (M Waugh), 4-225 (Taylor), 5-232 (S Waugh), 6-260 (Border), 7-264 (Julian), 8-266 (Hughes), 9-267 (Healy), 10-289 (McDermott).
Bowling: Caddick 15-4-38-0 (nb1) (First spell 6-2-16-0; second 5-0-15-0; third 4-2-7-0); DeFreitas 23-8-46-1 (nb3) (8-3-14-0; 6-3-7-1; 6-2-12-0; 3-0-13-0); Lewis 13-2-44-0 (nb4) (4-1-13-0; 9-1-31-0); Such 33.3-9-67-6 (7-1-28-0; 26.3-39-6); Tufnell 28-5-78-2 (nb4) (11-2-32-0; 10-2-33-1; 7-1-13-1).
Progress: First day: Start delayed until 12 noon (overnight rain). 50: 89 min, 21 overs. Lunch: 58 for 0 (Taylor 26, Slater 30) in 22 overs. 100: 137 min, 36 overs. 150: 215 min, 53.4 overs. Tea: 158 for 1 (Taylor 77, Boon 14). 200: 302 min, 75 overs. Close: 242 for 5 (Border 9, Healy 6) in 92 overs. Second day: 250: 375 min, 95.1 overs.
ENGLAND - First Innings
* G A Gooch c Julian b Warne65
(180 min, 137 balls, 8 fours)
M A Atherton c Healy b Hughes19
(99 min, 74 balls, 2 fours)
M W Gatting b Warne4
(17 min, 12 balls, 1 four)
R A Smith c Taylor b Warne4
(8 min, 6 balls, 1 four)
G A Hick c Border b Hughes34
(83 min, 71 balls, 5 fours)
A J Stewart b Julian27
(75 min, 49 balls, 4 fours)
C C Lewis c Boon b Hughes9
(16 min, 12 balls, 2 fours)
P A J Defreitas lbw Julian5
(17 min, 17 balls)
A R Caddick not out6
(28 min, 18 balls, 1 four)
P M Such not out9
(20 min, 19 balls)
Extras (b5 lb10 nb5)20
Total (for 8, 278 min, 68 overs)202
Fall: 1-71 (Atherton), 2-80 (Gatting), 3-84 (Smith), 4-123 (Gooch), 5-148 (Hick), 6-168 (Lewis), 7-178 (DeFreitas),
To bat: P C R Tufnell.
Bowling: McDermott 18-2-50-0 (nb7) (10-1-30-0;
8-1-20-0); Hughes 17-5-52-3 (8-3-21-0; 5-2-15-1; 4-0-16-2); Julian 11-2-30-2 (5-1-11-0; 2-0-6-0; 4-1-13-2); Warne
21-7-51-3; Border 1-0-4-0.
Progress: 50: 79 min, 18.3 overs. Tea: 99 for 3 (Gooch 60, Hick 4) in 36 overs. 100: 154 min, 36.2 overs. 150: 218 min, 53.1 overs. 200: 274 min, 67 overs.
Umpires: H D Bird and K E Palmer.
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