Cricket / Fourth Test: England find inspiration in Headingley history: Gooch's men out to exploit a pitch with a reputation for results despite groundsman's determination to produce a batsmen's paradise

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THE BBC is seldom less than patriotic in wartime (which is a fair enough description for a Test match between England and Australia), and they did their bit for the cause by re-running the highlights of Headingley 1981 over the weekend. The old ghosts may have been partially exorcised since then, not least by the retirement of the old bogeyman himself, but there is no harm in rattling a few skeletons inside the Australian cupboard.

Two-nil down with three to play is not the sort of statistic to promote overpowering optimism, but England at least tucked away a few pyschological points after Trent Bridge, and Australia's attack - with Craig McDermott back home in Queensland, and Merv Hughes wondering whether his groin strain will go the distance - is now a long way from being intimidating on a ground where anything can happen, and usually does.

With Clive Lloyd having been prodded into action by the opposition's lack of deportment at Trent Bridge, this is the sort of venue at which the International Cricket Council's match referee is less likely to be keeping an eye on the players for evidence of poor behaviour, as the pitch. Headingley has a reputation to uphold, and there has not been a draw here since bad weather took a hand 13 years and 11 Test matches ago.

Grey skies traditionally collaborate to produce an a la carte menu for English-style pie-throwers, and on no other Test ground does the pastry move around so much, both sideways, and at varying heights. Batting sides who are not patient rarely prosper here, which explains why England's last two Headingley victims have been the West Indies and Pakistan.

Happily for those who believe that variety is part of cricket's essential character, the groundsman, Keith Boyce, has made it his life's work to produce a surface made to measure for batsmen, without too much success. The pitch has been dug up four times since the mid-Seventies, once by overnight intruders promoting the message that George Davis was innocent, and three times by the chairman of the Keith Boyce is innocent campaign, the groundsman himself.

There is not much that Boyce has not tried in his attempts to discipline his disobedient child. He once hired a 15-ton road roller, and his conviction that the answer lies in the soil has, on occasions, led to Mrs Boyce opening the oven door to pop in the Sunday roast, only to find that the old man had requisitioned it for sod-baking.

One year, Boyce's customary pre-match statement that he had finally produced the long-awaited 'belter', duly came to pass. It was in 1989, when the David Gower-Ted Dexter dream ticket became the totally-in-a-dream ticket after one match. Dexter scuttled up to Gower clutching an inclement weather forecast, Gower was sufficiently naive to swallow advice from both Dexter and Michael Fish, waved goodbye to his spinner, and invited Australia to bat. This they did until Saturday morning.

The last two Tests at Headingley have both been bowlers' pitches. Against the West Indies in 1991, England were bowled out for 198 and 252, and yet, thanks almost entirely to Graham Gooch carrying his bat for 154 not out, which he still regards as his finest innings ever, England won by 115 runs. Last summer, against Pakistan, the pitch was so badly cracked that the visitors decided to bat first, but were bowled out for 197. Gooch (135) and Michael Atherton put on 168 for the first wicket, a match-winning stand in a Test in which the last 21 wickets disappeared for 342 runs.

The fact that it was a thoroughly absorbing game did not dissuade the umpires from marking the pitch 'unsatisfactory', which is why a different one is being used for this Test match. This has been greeted with something other than euphoria by the England captain, who said yesterday: 'I'm not very happy about it. We win twice in a row on a pitch and then they go and dig it up. Why? You'd better ask the TCCB.' For their part, the TCCB claimed that the decision to re-lay the pitch was entirely Yorkshire's.

Today's pitch looks, says Gooch, much the same as normal here, 'although you can never be certain whether to bat or bowl first at Headingley. Depending on the weather, it can change from one day to the next.'

It will almost certainly start damp, which suggests an insertion if the skies are as grey as forecast, although Australia's bowling problems are such that they will probably play both spinners. Brendon Julian's groin strain probably spared Allan Border the problem of dropping him, Wayne Holdsworth is scarcely the line and length merchant that conditions demand, and Paul Reiffel gets in by virtue of being ordinary but accurate.

England will play all seven batsmen, and cogitate between Paul Such and a seamer this morning. Such will probably be selected for balance and on the basis of Gooch's gentle swingers being well suited to Headingley. 'Will you turn your arm over?' he was asked yesterday. Gooch, who is 40 tomorrow, replied: 'Probably. But it's not so much turning the arm over that bothers me as getting the legs moving.'

Allan Border yesterday criticised the Test match referee, Clive Lloyd, for officially warning the Australian team at Trent Bridge, but will not be disciplined for his remarks.

Lloyd's warning followed the Australians' dramatic appealing, but Border said: 'Trent Bridge was overplayed. We weren't reported by the umpires as far as I know. It was an over-reaction from the referee - he has got to realise his responsibilities.'

The attack clearly broke international cricket's code of conduct but Lloyd issued his own statement last night, which was intended to take the heat out of the situation although it contradicted Border: 'It was quite clear that Allan Border was under a misapprehension about the complaint from the Trent Bridge umpires. This was made clear to him and he and the management now accept that a formal warning was issued. The matter is now closed.'

Gooch plays it straight, page 34

ENGLAND'S RECENT TEST RECORD AT HEADINGLEY

1981 v Australia won by 18 runs

1982 v Pakistan won by 3 wickets

1983 v New Zealand lost by 5 wickets

1984 v West Indies lost by 8 wickets

1985 v Australia won by 5 wickets

1986 v India lost by 279 runs

1987 v Pakistan lost by an innings and 18 runs

1988 v West Indies lost by 10 wickets

1989 v Australia lost by 210 runs

1990 no match

1991 v West Indies won by 15 runs

1992 v Pakistan won by 6 wickets

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