Cricket: Marksman Reiffel finding his range

Australia 220-8 Leicestershire 62-4
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The Independent Online
Just 125 minutes of cricket were played yesterday as rain continued to frustrate Australia's preparations towards this week's second Test. Having declared at their overnight 220 for 8, Mark Taylor's side soon had Leicestershire four wickets down as Paul Reiffel continued to enhance his reputation for being something of a "dead-eye dick" in English conditions.

But although a substantial crowd did not see much entertainment, two hours of cricket can provide a revealing amount of information and Australia will sleep easier knowing they have at least one bowler capable of exploiting an "English" length.

In 10 high-class overs, albeit in helpful conditions, Reiffel took 3 for 12 (it should have been more) including the in-form Darren Maddy with a marvellous ball that disturbed the woodwork after it moved sharply off the pitch.

It is only five days since Reiffel arrived and he has bowled two of his side's most telling spells, the previous one 3 for 15 against Nottinghamshire three days ago. Yesterday he moved some so much off the seam that batsmen looked as if they were playing a fresh-air form of the game that did not involve hitting the ball.

There is nothing menacing about him in the manner of Dennis Lillee, and he appears fairly self-effacing by Australian standards. But he is a class operator for he hits the seam and gets the ball in those areas good batsmen least like it: on a full length on or around off-stump, a place where all but the most confident prefer not to commit themselves.

After Maddy's departure in the second over, following a rain delayed start, Leicestershire went into a run coma as Iain Sutcliffe and Gregor MacMillan, team-mates at Oxford a few years ago, brought down the portcullis as well as the front pad in an attempt to smother the moving ball.

For a while it worked, if a little shakily, as Reiffel and Glenn McGrath were held at bay. However, seeing a tall pommie with a plum in his mouth (MacMillan and not Sutcliffe, who is from Yorkshire and also has a Blue for boxing) was clearly too much for McGrath, who switched to bowling bouncers and decapitation as a means of removing the batsmen.

MacMillan's plight was not helped when he was dropped by Brendon Julian as he lobbed a mis-hook to backward square. McGrath, the bowler, looked fit to burst. Still seething, he clanged a short ball into Sutcliffe's helmet, a nasty blow the left-hander did well not to take the count on.

The knock clearly loosened something and Sutcliffe suddenly swished at Reiffel and was gone. That brought in the Leicestershire skipper, James Whitaker who, finding Reiffel's length a nasty one to contend with early on, promptly popped one up to Justin Langer under the helmet at short- leg.

At that point Reiffel was rested and Shane Warne brought on more as a PR excercise to refute a tabloid story that his right shoulder is so bad that immediate surgery would follow the Lord's Test. The allegations, refuted by the Australian camp, did not stop MacMillan trying to cash in on the off-chance, and he twice belted the leg-spinner down the ground for four and six. Warne's revenge came quickly and, with the final storm of the day brewing in the background, MacMillan sliced to cover.

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