Cricket: Gooch finds his feet as England build for Test

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Victoria 246 and 334 England 329 and 139-1

(Match drawn)

Among the various items of hire equipment to accommodate the large crowds at this match has been a mobile loo, although as this is Australia, rather than Arundel, it carried the memorable inscription: "Draggaway Dunny". Sadly, not many of its customers yesterday were forced to use the facility through stomach-churning tension.

From a decent overnight position, England were firstly unable, and latterly disinclined, to make any serious progress towards winning the game, and it was slightly bewildering to discover (after the crowd had largely dozed through a somnolent afternoon) a great throng of excited punters milling around the pavilion at six o'clock. The doorman explained. "Naaat to do with the cricket, mate. Bladdy Bingo starts in half an hour."

Before then, the only time that the excitement meter had flickered above zero was when the ground announcer revealed two changes in the Australian 12 for the Adelaide Test match starting on Thursday, Greg Blewett for Michael Bevan, and Peter McIntyre forTim May.

It was tempting to think, given the parochial nature of Australian crowds, that the selection of two South Australia players was little more than a way of boosting pre-Test ticket sales. However, there is logic behind both changes, and England's prospects of winning in Adelaide remain much the same as they would have been had Bevan and May remained. Slim.

Blewett, 23, has leap-frogged a long queue of promising young Australian batsmen partly on the back of several high-scoring innings (and attractive ones at that) for the A team, but mostly because he is also a decent bowler. With Steve Waugh's shoulder injury having prevented him from bowling in the series, the Australian selectors decided to ignore Bevan's return to form, and go for an all-rounder.

McIntyre, 28, was identified as Australia's most promising leg-spinner well ahead of Shane Warne, but more or less disappeared when he was taken apart by Allan Lamb during England's match in Hobart on the 1991 tour. However, McIntyre has already bowled well against England in the South Australia game on this tour, and even though Warne constantly bangs on about how important it is to him to have May bowling at the other end, the selectors have taken the view that if May does not actually get anyone out,they might just as well have Warne's mum on at the other end.

England should also be concerned at their own bowlers failing to capitalise on good positions in both Victorian innings here yesterday, and the home captain, Dean Jones, was eventually able to declare, setting a target of 252 in 55 overs. England made 139 for 1 from 50 before Michael Atherton (59 not out) shook hands on a draw, although it was purely a cosmetic handshake from Jones' point of view, given his post-match comments on England's approach to their target.

"Bloody disgraceful" was Jones' considered opinion, and even making allowances for a slow, low pitch, Alec Stewart's absence, and Graeme Hick being bothered by a bad back that is troubling him more than at any time since the tour began, Jones was not entirely going over the top. England took tea requiring 178 from 30 overs with eight effective wickets in hand, and yet pulled up the drawbridge immediately by scoring nine from the next seven overs.

The thought of attempting to entertain the locals had apparently not occurred to Atherton, and if he deserves a certain amount of sympathy for using the game primarily to prepare for something far more important, he also has a tendency to forget that he often makes remarks on the importance to morale of winning this type of game. If winning was ever in his mind, as he said it was at the start of England's innings, it was not apparent to too many other people.

Still, he was correct to be encouraged by Devon Malcolm's pace on a lifeless pitch, even though Malcolm's plan rarely involved trying to hit the stumps, and also by signs that Graham Gooch's two-and-a-half-hour 48 had proved mildly therapeutic. Gooch's feet were at least moving yesterday, even though Fred Astaire he is not.

The other encouraging aspect yesterday was that England ended the day with the same number of fit players (i.e. not many) as they began it. Their dwindling numbers were also reflected here by a considerably diminished band of travelling supporters, who describe themselves, mostly loudly, as the Barmy Army.

Over the past four days they have been more of a Barmy Platoon than an Army, although quite the barmiest aspect of this match was a bizarre lunchtime ceremony in the middle of the outfield involving the Barmy's general, and the president of the Bendigo Cricket Association. The president was presented with an autographed Barmy T-shirt, while the Barmy general received the president's badge of office. By Thursday, they will probably be sitting down to a civic reception with the mayor of Adelaide.

Australia (v England, Fourth Test, Adelaide, starting Thursday): M A Taylor (capt), I A Healy (wkt), G S Blewett, D C Boon, D W Fleming, C J McDermott, G D McGrath, P E McIntyre, M J Slater, S K Warne, S R Waugh, M E Waugh (12th man to be named on Thursday).

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