Cricket / Fourth Test: Boon leads the assault on England's senses: Australia's batsmen take command on the first day as Gooch's beleaguered bowlers struggle to make heads or tails out of Headingley: Martin Johnson reports from Headingley

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Australia 307-3 v England

WHEN Graham Gooch dragged himself out of bed this morning, he was doubtless hoping to discover something practical among his pile of 40th birthday presents, such as a jar of Phyllosan and a spade. Having bemoaned the excavation of the pitch upon which his team won their two previous Test matches on this ground, the England captain - if he is not too weary by the end of the game - would happily dig this one up personally.

England have not beaten Australia for 16 Test matches, and at a time when nothing short of victory in No 17 will suffice if they are to retain any interest in this summer's Ashes, what happens? The one ground in the country guaranteed to represent 22 yards of sod, is turned into the spiritual home of the Flat Earth Society.

Australia are filling their boots so completely that their 1989 Headingley total of 601 for 7 declared will probably be eclipsed sometime after tea today, leaving England with nothing more than a draw to play for, and the air of resignation that Gooch has been wearing for most of this summer might this time be translated into a 'Dear Ted' letter.

The one difference from 1989, apart from the fact that Australia's 307 for 3 represents a substantially bigger first-day advantage than 207 for 3, is the fact that the opposition are at least not batting by way of invitation. The depressing similarity, however, is that the variety in England's attack extends only to one bloke sending down seamers with his left arm rather than his right, the specialist spinner having once again been deemed surplus to requirements.

When Peter Such drove his sponsored car into the ground yesterday morning, a glance at the records over the past five years would have told him to keep the engine running, and, sure enough, England entered their fifth consecutive Test on this ground without a recognised slow bowler. The last English spinner to take a Test wicket at Headingley remains Phillipe Edmonds, in 1987, a record that will now survive until South Africa come here next summer.

The pattern for Headingley Tests is invariably set early on, often by an opening batsman groping at thin air as the new ball nips past his outside edge. Yesterday was no exception, the difference being that Michael Slater steered the first delivery of the game down to the third-man boundary, a position that remained expensively unattended until Australia had rattled on to 52 for 0 in the first hour.

To describe England's attack, with neither swing nor seam to assist them, as impotent would qualify as unwarranted flattery, and Slater eventually became one of all three wickets to fall by way of donation rather than extraction - another depressing aspect of another depressing day.

David Boon, however, is not the sort of batsman who makes a present of his wicket, whether it happens to be the other chap's birthday or not. All summer long Boon has given the impression that he could play English bowling with the end of his moustache, and yesterday's unbeaten 102 came after previous innings in this series of 21, 93, 164 not out, 101 and 18. In all first-class matches on tour, Boon has now clocked up 1,218 runs at an average of 101.05.

Unlike England, for whom qualification just about applies to anyone who can whistle a few bars of 'God Save The Queen', or claim to have once sighted the white cliffs of Dover through a telescope, Boon is the closest that Australia have to a foreigner in their team. Tasmanians are regarded on the mainland as a slightly different species, a bit like Yorkshiremen over here, and their cricket is not thought to have been much of a national asset down the years.

Remarkably, Boon is one of only three cricketers to represent Australia while actually playing for Tasmania, and the other two - Roger Woolley and Greg Campbell, who played his one and only Test here in 1989 - have only three caps between them. Boon is currently playing in his 78th Test, and yesterday he completed his 17th century for Australia, and his sixth against England.

He reached three figures shortly before the close by hitting Martin McCague for his 17th boundary, and while McCague was retained here for his pace and aggression, he was sadly miscast on this pitch. He might have had Boon's wicket for 31, when a miscued hook dropped just short of long leg, but otherwise it was an exercise in huff, puff, and precious little else.

Martin Bicknell, preferred to Such, took the first wicket 20 minutes before lunch, but only after Slater and Mark Taylor had compiled an opening stand of 86, and only because Taylor shuffled across in front of his stumps and failed to make contact with a straight one.

Slater made 67 before unaccountably attempting to hit an off-stump ball from Mark Ilott in the general direction of square leg, and Mark Waugh also produced a classy half-century before perishing to his own personal idiosyncracy, a tendency to nod off at the crease. Ilott again arrowed in at off stump, and Waugh decided to not bother attempting to hit it. After that, Boon and Allan Border came together in an unbroken partnership of 90, which, whatever it says on the cards, is probably how old Gooch thinks he is this morning.


(Australia won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

M J Slater b Ilott. . . . . . . . . . . . 67 (139 min, 103 balls, 8 fours) M A Taylor lbw b Bicknell. . . . . . . . .27 (98 min, 62 balls, 4 fours) D C Boon not out. . . . . . . . . . . . .102 (289 min, 209 balls, 17 fours) M E Waugh b Ilott. . . . . . . . . . . . .52 (112 min, 75 balls, 6 fours) * A R Border not out. . . . . . . . . . . 38 (135 min, 96 balls, 5 fours) Extras (b5 lb10 w2 nb4). . . . . . . . . .21 Total (for 3, 389 min, 90 overs). 307

Fall: 1-86 (Taylor), 2-110 (Slater), 3-216 (M Waugh).

To bat: S R Waugh, I A Healy, P R Reiffel, M G Hughes, S K Warne, T B A May.

Bowling: McCague 21-0-99-0 (nb2 w1) (3-0-15-0, 6-0-28-0, 4-0-23-0, 3-0-11-0, 5-0-22-0); Ilott 23-5-64-2 (w1) (6-1-22-0, 7-0-25-1, 6-3-6-1, 4-1-11-0); Caddick 20-3-61-0 (nb2) (6-1-10-0, 5-0-25-0, 9-2-26-0); Bicknell 21-4-63-1 (nb1) (11-1-36-1, 6-1-18-0, 4-2-9-0), Gooch 5-3-5-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 53 min, 13.3 overs. 100: 114 min, 25.5 overs. Lunch: 103-1 (Slater 64, Boon 5), 28 overs. 150: 178 min, 40.2 overs. 200: 232 min, 52.5 overs. Tea: 209-2 (Boon 57, M Waugh 45), 57 overs. 250: 318 min, 74.2 overs. New ball: 295-3, 85 overs. 300: 375 min, 87 overs.

Slater's 50: 93 min, 75 balls, 6 fours.

Boon's 50: 114 min, 87 balls, 10 fours. 100: 275 min, 199 balls, 17 fours.

M Waugh's 50: 108 min, 72 balls, 6 fours.

ENGLAND: M N Lathwell, M A Atherton, R A Smith, A J Stewart, * G A Gooch, G P Thorpe, N Hussain, A R Caddick, M J McCague, M C Ilott, M P Bicknell.

Umpires: H D Bird, N T Plews, B Leadbeater.

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

County reports, Scoreboard, Page 35

(Photograph omitted)