Cricket: England spin towards series defeat

Australia 322 & 184 England 220 & 175-7 Lunch score today
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The Independent Online
IN THE series that refused to lie down quietly, it was England's most important session. By the end of it though, there as no doubt who were the stronger side and at lunch, with England 175 for 7 Australia were within a chocolate wafer of winning this riveting final Test, and the series 3-1.

It has been a white knuckle ride, and 20,000 turned up to the SCG to get their daily fix of thrills and spills. Cricket needs matches like this and its image, like England's repuaution over the last two Tests, has grown immeasureably.

The morning began with England two wickets down and needing 183 runs to win. Nasser Hussain and Mark Ramprakash have been England's most consistent batsmen this tour. Unlike the openers though, they began slowly, the softer ball far harder to time and place than the new hard one.

In such circumstances, Australia are past masters at building pressure and Mark Taylor first turned to Shane Warne rather than the more jittery Stuart MacGill to open with Glenn McGrath.

The tactic, as it has done for most of the series, paid off though it was pace rather than spin that brought the wicket. Unable to add to his overnight score of 14, Ramprakash got restless and, cutting at one that was too close to the body off McGrath, he edged to Taylor at first slip. Feeling it had not carried, Ramprakash stood his ground and Taylor had to wait while umpire Darrell Hair consulted his colleague Steve Dunne at square leg, to see if he had broken the world record with his 157th catch. Dunne concurred that he had, and the handshakes began.

Graeme Hick got off the mark with a four, his only significant act. Sweeping at MacGill he was bowled round his legs for seven. John Crawley and Warren Hegg fared no better as wickets tumbled to spin.

This pitch has helped the slow men but it has never been spiteful. When Hussain was out, for another painstakingly crafted fifty, the ghost was up.

Lunch on fourth day of five (today); Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA - First Innings 322 (M E Waugh 121, S R Waugh 96; D W Headley 4-62).

ENGLAND - First Innings 220 (S C G MacGill 5-57; G D McGrath 2-35).

AUSTRALIA - Second innings 184 (M J Slater 123; P M Such 5-81).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 104 for 2)

N Hussain c & b MacGill 53

M R Ramprakash c Taylor b McGrath 14

G A Hick b MacGill 7

J P Crawley lbw b Miller 5

W K Hegg c Healy b MacGill 3

A J Tudor not out 3

D W Headley not out 12

Extras (lb5,w1, nb3) 9

Total (for 7, 60 overs) 175

Fall: 1-57 (Butcher), 2-77 (Stewart), 3-110 (Ramprakash), 4-131 (Hick), 5-150 (Crawley), 6-157 (Hegg), 7-162 (Hussain).

Bowling: McGrath 10-1-40-1 (3nb); Miller 17-1-50-1; MacGill 17-3-47-4 (1w); Warne 16-3-33-1.

Umpires: R S Dunne and D B Hair.

Third day's play,

Henry Blofeld, page 22

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