Cricket: Majestic Hayden

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The Independent Online
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WHEN all has been said and the post-mortems done, one statistic worth remembering from Australia's tour will be that Matthew Hayden scored more than 1,000 first-class runs without playing in a Test match. It does not just say a lot about the tourists' batting strength. It speaks volumes about the chronic state of English bowling and until something is done to rectify this glaring shortcoming, it is irrelevant how often Ted Dexter and his kind come and go.

Yesterday Essex paid the Australians the compliment of fielding a full-stength side, the injured John Stephenson excepted, and the tourists repaid it by playing their three Essex men - Mark Waugh, Allan Border and Merv Hughes.

But before the first two entertained the capacity crowd with a century and half-century respectively, in their contrasting styles, the left-handed Hayden revelled against the county champions' front-line attack.

Having lost Michael Slater, his rival to open Australia's innings, in the second over of the day, Hayden took a few overs to settle in and then settled down to building another major innings, effortlessly driving Mark Ilott and Derek Pringle straight or wide of mid-on, and dancing three or four steps down the pitch to splatter the spinners. His 111, from 152 balls, contained two sixes and 18 fours and there were times when his stroke-play was as disdainful as it was dismissive.

Waugh's century was a mixture of cultured elegance and almost agricultural carting. Early on he took a step or two into Peter Sutch's much-admired length and deposited him into the Tom Pearce stand.

Later, again off Sutch in an over costing 20 runs, he cleared the same stand and by the time he was out on the stroke of tea, missing by one run 100 in session, his 108 from 133 balls featured four sixes in all and 13 fours. Mind you, even this was tardy compared with the 94 balls Sutch bowled to concede his century. He will welcome The Oval's longer boundaries if he plays there.

The batsmen England's bowlers might have to fear at The Oval this week are the two who missed out yesterday. Slater had not previously been dismissed without scoring on this tour, and he looked suitably miffed when umpire Harris adjudged him lbw in Pringle's first over. David Boon, meanwhile, will be looking for his 10th century of the tour. The pawky way he batted yesterday, it was never on the agenda.

(Photograph omitted)