Cricket: Operation for McDermott

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CRAIG McDERMOTT, Australia's strike bowler, was in a London hospital last night after an operation for abdominal pains. He will not finish the second Cornhill Test at Lord's and there must be some doubt as to whether he will play again on this tour.

Australia finished the second day in an almost invulnerable position of 592 for 4 but their ability to win the match will be in some doubt without McDermott, the fastest bowler available to either team.

Des Rundle, the Australian team manager, surprised a press conference waiting to talk to the Australian batting hero, David Boon, who had scored his first Test century in England, when he said: 'Billy (McDermott's nickname) has been complaining of abdominal pain for a few days but was trying to work it off. He was at the nets this morning when he became really creased up. Three doctors saw him at the ground and it was decided to refer him to a specialist who decided on surgery.

'As we do not know quite what the trouble is we cannot speculate. We have had no thought of a replacement yet and we shall wait and see what the reports are. Of course we shall miss Billy.'

Australia will now have to continue this match with an attack led by Merv Hughes, suppported by the spin ofShane Warne and Tim May and the medium pace of the Waugh brothers. Boon indicated that Australia might now be thinking that the spinners will be decisive over the remaining three days when he said: 'There are a few patches of rough out there and if our bowlers can put the ball in the right place often enough we should get some results.' Boon would not be drawn into any hyperbole. 'Yeah, you could say it was one of my best knocks. I was disappointed at missing out at Old Trafford (he was dismissed on 93) and as this was my first 100 here and my first at Lord's, I suppose it's got to be up there.' he said.

Boon was himself subdued for a spell by England's two spinners, when in his 70s, another indication of this match's direction: 'They bowled pretty well and I knew I had to be patient and play through the spell.' he added.

If McDermott is out of the tour, Australia would presumably have to replace him with someone more experienced than the young fast bowlers currently on tour here: Paul Reiffel, Brendon Julian and Wayne Holdsworth.

McDermott is 28 and is unlikely to be fit to bowl fast in a five-day Test match even if the operation proves to be a minor one. Australia's misfortune is the first light England have seen in what appeared to be a never- ending tunnel.