Cricket: England suffer early net loss: Tourists' practice curtailed as Kent fast bowler searches for his mark

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND were distinctly angry at their first practice session here yesterday when the six net bowlers they requested did not show. Indeed, the only Western Australian turning over his arm insists he is now a pukka Pom - and that will be Martin McCague's problem this winter, writes James Alexander from Perth.

McCague is not the most popular chap out here. Traitor, opportunist, mercenary . . . he will hear them all and more in the next four months. When he played for England against Australia in 1993, one newspaper called him 'the rat who joined the sinking ship'.

But at 6ft 5in and 17st 3lb - the heaviest county cricketer - McCague is big enough to handle the insults. He also believes he has the strength of character. 'If anything, the comments will make me more determined and focused,' he said. 'People have been saying things for a couple of years now and I have to be thick-skinned. I certainly didn't get off the plane thinking 'my God, what are they going to say about me?' I'm here as an Englishman to win back the Ashes.'

McCague was born in Larne, Co Antrim, on 24 May, 1969, but his family emigrated to Western Australia when he was just two. He played 11 matches in the Sheffield Shield and his contemporaries at the Academy in Adelaide included Michael Slater, Michael Bevan and Craig White.

His parents divorced and his mother, Christina, moved back to Ireland. His father, Mal, is a site co-ordinator for the Metropolitan Water Board here in Perth and, if not exactly likely to be hurling the fruit, his paternal support might be somewhat muted. In fact, he hopes England lose.

McCague explains: 'Dad wants me to take plenty of wickets, but hopes Australia win the Tests. He also reckons I should drop the English accent.'

Whether the mystery of the missing net bowlers was a genuine oversight or an Australian plot might never be known. England wanted three leg spinners - a la Shane Warne - and three quicks, and Keith Fletcher, the team manager, protested strongly to local officials. The explanation from the WACA was that 'they proved difficult to get hold of'.

Fletcher said: 'We made the request by fax before we came out. Our practice was an hour shorter than we wanted because we could not flog our bowlers in the heat. We wouldn't have minded even if they supplied youngsters or club bowlers. You get angry when you can't practise properly.'

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