Cricket: `It does not get better than this'

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The Independent Online
For the second day running, the Edgbaston crowd watched in delirious disbelief as England continued the humbling of the Australians. After Thursday's orgy of wicket-taking, now runs flowed in a torrent from the cultured willows of Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain in a triumph of English batsmanship to rival any witnessed in an Ashes series since the war.

Hussain, whose early reputation as an enfant terrible threatened to terminate his Test career before it had properly begun, delivered a tour de force, an innings as imperious as has been witnessed from an Englishman in recent years. Thorpe, meanwhile, enhanced his standing as the side's most reliable performer.

"I always thought I might get a double-hundred one day but I thought it might be against Oxford or Cambridge University," Hussain said. "Cricket does not get any better than this."

Their mood was light-hearted, television cameras often catching them smiling and laughing, and they marked each passing milestone with an embrace. Both, however, were quick to dispel any suggestion that their easy progress yesterday will create complacency, not least when it comes to the still potent threat of Shane Warne.

"This wicket has not suited Warne. The ball sat up and that gave us more time," Hussain said. "But we have to keep our feet on the ground because this Australian side will come back at us."

Thorpe added: "The pitch was not doing so much for Shane and there were not many around the bat, so it was a case of trying to cash in. We know it will not always be that way."

It was all too much for some of the Australians present. The broadcasters of Channel Nine, for example, abandoned their live coverage in favour of Patrick Rafter's bid to reach the French Open tennis final.

The Australian team, meanwhile, have asked their selectors to provide an extra bowler to re-inforce their squad. Andrew Bichel and Jason Gillespie are injured, while Greg Blewett is fit enough only to bowl. Adam Dale, the Queenslander, is thought the most likely candidate.