Cricket / Fourth Test: Mayday as Australians congregate for the kill: Gooch's captaincy on the line as Atherton and Stewart state their cases for ascendancy with the bat in the face of defeat at Headingley

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Australia 613-4; England 200 and 237-4

GRAHAM GOOCH was on the dressing-room balcony for most of the day, looking as chipper and carefree as he has done all summer. This may have been partly down to his team failing to repeat Saturday's impersonation of a straw hat in a hurricane, but a more likely reason may be that the England captain - verbally at any rate - has already turned in his badge.

Whether or not England manage to avoid defeat in this Test match - and on a pitch now showing Gooch-like signs of wear and tear this will largely depend on a good deal more umbrella activity than during yesterday's three shortish shower breaks - the moment of England's official cheerio to the Ashes and Gooch's official cheerio to the job should not be too far apart today.

Gooch, who first tendered his resignation after the opening Test, but was subsequently talked into staying on, is, at the age of 40 and a bit, in better nick with the bat than he has ever been. However, his shoulders currently make Old Father Time resemble a Palace guardsman, and unless Ted Dexter and Keith Fletcher have come up with a better reason for him hanging on than they have so far ('Er, we can't think who to give it to, Graham . . .') someone else will be giving the team talk at Edgbaston next week.

Who that will be was recently a toss-up between Mike Gatting, Alec Stewart and Michael Atherton, but the signs are that the jaw-jutting style of the first two will be passed over in favour of the scholarly type with a harder centre than his diffident demeanour suggests. If so, it is a job which Atherton's engaging smile, often employed to irritate hot-under-the-collar Australian bowlers, will do well to survive.

Atherton made two half-centuries over the weekend, and the opportunity to bat twice in two days was more or less pre-ordained after Australia had made 653 for 4 declared. In the first innings, England cobbled together only as many runs as Allan Border's personal contribution for Australia, and while the second innings has so far proved to be more of a winkling operation for the tourists, not a lot more winkling will be required today.

England's versatility is such that, despite having yielded just one wicket to Shane Warne so far in this game, they have now managed to add the name of Paul Reiffel to the list of modest practitioners who knock them over for a pastime. Reiffel's decisive spell on Saturday was four wickets in 27 balls, during which England did not have a clue as to how to cope with the ball cutting back into the right-hander.

Atherton's method, despite several deliveries that might have warned him as to its potential for calamity, was to make no attempt to employ the bat, and he had his off stump knocked back as a result.

England's last three first-innings wickets disappeared inside the opening 18 minutes yesterday, but while Lathwell did rather better second time (in an opening stand of 60, no less) his lack of footwork is going to find him out at this level, and it was a crooked half-forward prod at Tim May that caused the ball to dribble back into his stumps.

Atherton and Robin Smith then took the total on to 131 for 1 until, shortly after tea, Atherton was involved in another pivotal decision, this time involving the walkie-talkies and the first of two television replay decisions from the third umpire, Barry Leadbeater.

Atherton was at least attempting to use his bat this time as he advanced down the pitch to May, and Ian Healy, whose wicketkeeping gloves occasionally greet the ball more like trampoline than a duvet cover, this time had the bails off with commendable speed. Even so Atherton had managed to slide his leg back rapidly enough for Dickie Bird, who has made a reputation out of getting these borderline decisions spot on, to call for modern technology, which showed the batsman marginally out.

It was a closer call than when Bird referred to it again for Gooch, who was so far down to May that he had to turn and lunge back with his bat. However, even if television replays are, heaven forbid, ever employed for lbw adjudications, Dickie would not have bothered ringing Leadbeater over the delivery from Reiffel that seamed back into Robin Smith's pad.

Smith, like Atherton in the first innings, was playing no stroke to a delivery that Smith should have known was almost Reiffel's stock delivery. Maybe Leadbeater's television had been pinched from the England dressing-room.

However, there was still some batting to admire from Stewart, who hit some rasping shots in his unbeaten 59, particularly square of the wicket when the second new ball was taken late in the day, and he may yet score his most disappointing century if he loses out to Atherton over Gooch's job.

Gooch's job, of course, will remain precisely where it is should England win. All they have to do is make the 216 they still require to avoid their fourth innings defeat in their last seven Tests by lunchtime today, thrash another couple of hundred by tea, and then bowl Australia out before stumps.

The odds on this happening are 5,000 to 1, according to the bookmaker Ladbrokes, which has been steadily adding on noughts since it patriotically quoted England at 5 to 2 on the opening morning of the Test.

FOURTH CORNHILL TEST SCOREBOARD

(Australia won toss)

AUSTRALIA - First Innings

(Friday: 613 for 4)

* A R Border not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . .200

(567 min, 399 balls, 26 fours)

S R Waugh not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

(407 min, 305 balls, 19 fours)

Extras (b8 lb22 w4 nb9). . . . . . . . . . . . .43

Total (for 4 dec, 821 min, 193 overs). . . . . 653

Did not bat: I A Healy, P R Reiffel, M G Hughes, S K Warne, T B A May.

Bowling: McCague 28-2-115-0 (nb2, w1) (3-0-15-0, 6-0-28-0, 4-0-23-0, 3-0-11- 0, 5-0-22-0, 7-2-16-0); Ilott 51-11-161-3 (w2) (6-1-22-0, 7-0-25-1, 6-3-6-1, 4-1-11-0, 9-3-27-1, 5-0-24-0, 5-1-19-0, 3-0-11-0, 6- 2-16-0); Caddick 42-5-138-0 (nb3) (6-1- 10-0, 5-0-25-0, 9-2-26-0, 1-0-2-0, 4-1-10- 0, 5-0-25-0, 3-1-11-0, 3-0-13-0, 5-0-13-0, 1-0-3-0); Bicknell 50-8-155-1 (nb6) (11-1- 36-1, 6-1-18-0, 4-2-9-0, 10-1-37-0, 3-0-11- 0, 6-3-11-0, 4-0-13-0, 10-0-33-0); Gooch 16-5-40-0 (w1) (5-3-5-0, 1-0-3-0, 6-2-17- 0, 1-0-2-0, 3-0-13-0); Thorpe 6-1-14-0 (3- 1-7-0, 3-0-7-0).

ENGLAND - First Innings

M N Lathwell c Healy b Hughes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(2 min, 3 balls)

M A Atherton b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55

(227 min, 180 balls, 5 fours)

R A Smith c and b May. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

(65 min, 58 balls, 3 fours)

A J Stewart c Slater b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

(23 min, 22 balls, 1 four)

* G A Gooch lbw b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59

(156 min, 129 balls, 8 fours, 1 six)

G P Thorpe c Healy b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(2 min, 3 balls)

N Hussain b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

(32 min, 30 balls, 2 fours)

A R Caddick c M Waugh b Hughes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

(47 min, 44 balls, 2 fours)

M P Bicknell c Border b Hughes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

(44 min, 32 balls, 2 fours)

M J McCague c Taylor b Warne. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(7 min, 6 balls)

M C Ilott not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(5 min, 4 balls)

Extras (b2 lb3 nb17). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

Total (311 min, 82.5 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .200

Fall: 1-0 (Lathwell), 2-43 (Smith), 3-50 (Stewart), 4-158 (Atherton), 5-158 (Thorpe), 6-169 (Gooch), 7-184 (Hussain), 8-195 (Caddick), 9-200 (McCague).

Bowling: Hughes 15.5-3-47-3 (6-1-19-1, 3-0-16-0, 4-1-8-0, 2.5-1-4-2); Reiffel 26- 6-65-5 (nb9) (15-4-36-1, 11-2-29-4); May 15-3-33-1 (nb4); Warne 23-9-43-1 (nb1); M Waugh 3-0-7-0 (nb2) (one spell each).

Progress (third day): Overnight: 613-4 (Border 175no, S Waugh 144no). 650: 815 min, 195.3 overs. Declaration: 11.58am. Lunch: 38-1 (Atherton 14, Smith 20) 13 overs. 50: 86 min, 22.2 overs. 100: 146 min 38.2 overs. Tea: 134-3 (Atherton 41, Gooch 51) 47 overs. 150: 204 min, 55.4 overs. Close: 195-7 (Caddick 9, Bicknell 7) 78 overs. (Fourth day): 200: 303 min, 80.5 overs. Innings closed at 11.18am.

Atherton's 50: 209 min, 164 balls, 4 fours.

Gooch's 50: 78 min, 74 balls, 7 fours, 1 six.

Second Innings

M N Lathwell b May. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 .25

(100 min, 78 balls, 2 fours)

M A Atherton st Healy b May. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63

(206 min, 171 balls, 8 fours)

R A Smith lbw b Reiffel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35

(125 min, 120 balls, 5 fours)

A J Stewart not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .59

(127 min, 111 balls, 5 fours)

* G A Gooch st Healy b May. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

(61 min, 40 balls, 5 fours)

G P Thorpe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

(42 min, 25 balls, 1 four)

Extras (b5 lb2 w1 nb11). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19

Total (for 4, 335 min, 89 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .237

Fall: 1-60 (Lathwell), 2-131 (Atherton), 3-149 (Smith), 4-202 (Gooch).

Bowling: Hughes 14-4-32-0 (nb1 w1) (7-2-10-0, 5-2-14-0, 2-0-8-0); Reiffel 20-2-84-1 (nb3) (4-0-18-0, 5-0-18-0, 4-1-16-0, 5-1-21-1, 2-0-11-0); Warne 28-10-46-0 (nb1) (22-8-35-0, 5-2-10-0, 1-0-1-0); May 25-4-65-3 (nb6) (10-4-17-1, 15-0-48-2); M Waugh 2-1-3-0 (one spell).

Progress: Rain stopped play: 11.31- 11.43 at 1-0 (Lathwell 0, Atherton 0) 0.4 overs. 12.00-12.09 at 10-0 (Lathwell 1, Atherton 6) 4.4 overs. 12.44 at 37-0 (Lathwell 20, Atherton 12) 13.3 overs. Early lunch: 50, 60min, 17.4 overs. 100: 167 min, 45.4 overs. Tea: 116-1 (Atherton 60, Smith 22) 52 overs. 150: 231 mins, 63.4 overs. 200: 285 mins, 75.3 overs. New ball: 218-4, 85 overs.

Atherton's 50: 171 min, 143 balls, 6 fours.

Stewart's 50: 123 min, 105 balls, 3 fours.

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

Match referee: C H Lloyd.

County reports, scoreboard, page 26

(Photograph omitted)

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