Cricket / Fifth Test: May and Warne find their match

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The Independent Online
KEITH FLETCHER undertook the daily ritual of explaining his team's failures last night with his customary fortitude but his smile is now as thin as his hope in miracles.

Twelve years ago Ian Botham took five wickets for 11 runs here as Australia were bowled out for 121 chasing 151 but Fletcher has seen too much of his side to believe seriously in a repetition.

'Of course there is a chance, it is not a flat pitch and the ball is turning,' he said, before adding: 'but obviously it is heavily in Australia's favour. We need a couple of early wickets. We nearly got one tonight but it did not go to hand. But if we got them to 25 for 2, you never know.'

The spinners who bowled Australia into their winning position did not seem too worried. Shane Warne, extrovert and colourful, and Tim May, quiet but with a devastating line in deadpan humour, make a contrasting pair but an impressive combination.

Warne, who equalled Clarrie Grimmett's 63-year-old record for most wickets by an Australian spinner in a series in England (29), said: 'Tim and I looked at the wicket beforehand and thought we could take a few.'

Warne said the wicket of Graham Gooch, bowled behind his legs, was achieved exactly the way it had been planned, adding: 'He is the one we have struggled to get, once we have him out the rest usually follow. But today, for the first time when in real trouble, England dug in.'

May added: 'Like Shane I just came here hoping to play a Test. I toured in 1989 and did not play and it was a bit of a waste of time. I had four years out of Test cricket and thought, when I came back this year, 'Go for it. Be aggressive and try something different.' Two for 30 in five overs is better than none for 21 in 15.'

Fletcher admitted the two 'got more turn than our spinners did'. He added that it would have been nice for England to have such variety but said: 'Who is there? Phil Tufnell (left- armer) is bowling all right but not that brilliantly, Ian Salisbury (leg- spinner) is still coming back from injury. We did talk about John Childs (left-arm) but I can imagine the reaction that would have got.' Childs is 42 next week and from Essex.

'John Emburey was picked partly for his batting and he showed some of our batsmen the way to play spin,' Fletcher added. 'Graham Thorpe is a good player of spin bowling. He is very level-headed, he has only played three Tests but looks as if he played 20 or 30.'

Robin Smith has played 45 but shows little sign of ever coping with spin. Twelve of his last 15 dismissals have been to spinners but Fletcher insisted: 'He is a good Test cricketer, he is the sort of bloke I love in my side, he motivates other people. He is a great trier and I think he is a good player. This pitch was turning a bit and he struggled along with others.'