Cricket: Gossip is order of the day

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The Independent Online
THE PAVILION was a hothouse for gossip this weekend. One man was so taken by one rumour that he dashed off a letter from the Writing Room to a newspaper demanding it confirm that Mike Brearley and Mark Nicholas were to replace Ted Dexter and Graham Gooch.

Brearley looked fazed, it was reported, when approached by one supporter of regicide as he left the press box: 'It's the first I've heard of it.'

Even better was the suggestion that Gooch's reappointment for the remaining five Tests, made two days after the first Test disaster, was an inspiration of Lord Ted's and came as a complete surprise to the manager, Keith Fletcher, not to mention the Test and County Cricket Board. As the announcement came out of the blue one sleepy Thursday afternoon, this one has some credence.

Speculation as to how many England players would survive (two? three?) for Trent Bridge, lessened during the day as the anticipated rout was at least delayed by a spirited innings from Mike Atherton. The run-out was the major disappointment to a full house, keyed up since lunch to give full salute to England's first batting success of the series.

Atherton would not apportion any blame: 'It was an unfortunate misunderstanding. I hadn't intended to go for three. I was running on the grass at the side, where it was a little juicier, and when I slipped it was one of those moments in your life when you could see all that was happening around you and knew you could do nothing about it. I've never been out on 99 before.' His partner, Mike Gatting, was so stricken that he spent 13 overs making one.

Fletcher described Atherton's innings as 'a gutsy performance. If they all give that kind of effort we shall get a draw.' Bob Simpson, Australia's coach, admitted it had been a hard day. 'We missed McDermott because there are enough variations in bounce for a fast bowler to have made a difference,' he said. 'We're not unhappy; the odds are very much on Australia and we are hoping McDermott will be out of hospital on Wednesday.'

Whatever happens today, the question of Gooch's captaincy is still in the balance. After Wednesday's declaration that 'if we don't improve someone else should have a go', will a draw against 10 men count as an improvement? Or will his personal form make him decide that enough is enough? He does not appear to be enjoying Test cricket and his lack of satisfaction communicates itself to the team, certainly in the field.