IT WAS hard to tell whether masochism or incurable optimism had persuaded 6,000-odd people to pack New Writtle Street yesterday. Either way, there can be no mistaking the tourists' determination to finish the summer as they started it, as the sight of Steve Waugh and Shane Warne practising diligently during the tea interval emphasised. The prospect of immortality, by way of the first 5-0 away in Ashes history, is enticing indeed.
The hitherto subdued crowd were granted a belated chance to exercise their lungs during the final session when the Australians shared four top-order wickets for 17 runs. However, since Allan Border had juggled his batting order this was a pyrrhic victory.
Graham Gooch opened proceedings by driving Merv Hughes to distraction, reaching 50 off 57 balls with the air of a man determined to right a few wrongs. Then, just as he had cut down Robin Smith at Trent Bridge, Brendon Julian reacted with breathtaking suppleness to intercept Gooch's return drive with his left hand. Nasser Hussain provided the only substance thereafter, as the two spin Tims, May and Zoehrer, mowed down the rest.
Michael Slater's sparky, footloose batting has been an undoubted highlight of the tour, not to say an object lesson to his English peers, but when he carved Mark Ilott to backward point he experienced one of the few lows, departing for the first pair by an Australian all season. Bobby Simpson, at least, was on hand to provide succour; the manager, after all, had been the only such victim on the 1964 trip.
Promoted to open and never for a second looking out of place, Julian now plucked the other strings in his bow. He again proved his enviable temperament by hitting eight boundaries in the space of 11 balls from Ilott here to amplify the point. The omens just get worse.
The first Under-19 Test was abandoned as a draw yesterday after an overnight storm had left Trent Bridge waterlogged. The West Indies led England by 33 runs after an unbeaten 203 by Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The last two Tests are at Hove, on 26 August, and Old Trafford on 10 September.Reuse content