Cricket: Oven ready in Adelaide

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The Independent Online
NOT EVERYTHING on this tour has gone precisely our way so far, but in adversity the England bowlers have performed heroically. They have not always gained their due reward but they have rarely wilted, and they have shown great heart and soul.

The opening day of this Test in Adelaide epitomised their will. It was a toss which England had staked quite a bit on winning in the team selection, it was a slow and flat pitch, and it was also searingly hot. In the conditions the seam attack responded superbly. None of the trio of Darren Gough, Alan Mullally and Dean Headley could be faulted for their effort.

The vicious heat was largely responsible for the unusual strategy of rotating Headley and Mullally for a while in one-over spells. It was something that Queensland had done earlier in the tour when we played them in Cairns and it gives bowlers longer to recover between overs. There is a case for saying it can prevent them building up any momentum but it can also affect the batsmen, who are unable to settle to any particular pace or line.

Headley came in for Alex Tudor and if that was an unexpected decision given Alex's success on his debut in Perth there was also logic to it. Well as Tudor bowled in Perth, this was not a pitch which was likely to suit him. Surprising perhaps to outsiders was the inclusion of Peter Such. He had not played for a month - also at Adelaide, against South Australia - and that was his only game on tour. He had taken one wicket.

But he settled quickly into a critical role on Friday. A fringe player of the squad, then, until now, but exemplifying a point the management have often stressed out here; that everybody in the squad is likely to have a part to play at some point either because of injuries or team balance or because different pitches require different selections.

If we picked a horses for courses side for the match, Australia were no different. It was a big, big move for them to leave out Jason Gillespie. Adelaide is his home pitch and in Perth he had taken five wickets in the second innings. That's the Australians for you, though, and they will have been desperate to bat given the look of their side. And it came off. These are the little things which seem to happen when you're used to winning.

Of course, the build-up to this match rather took second place to the apparent scandal over Mark Waugh and Shane Warne. The general consensus in the media here is that they behaved improperly by taking money for passing on information to a bookmaker about the state of the pitch on a tour of Sri Lanka.

It was a long time ago now but these things have a tendency of coming out. It's a big story, maybe made bigger by the time-lapse. But despite all the comment, I don't think any English player has been approached in this way. I've certainly never come across anything like it. It was certainly interesting from our perspective as we were netting while the media scrum cum circus was taking place next door.

This story achieved rather more prominence here than another which, I am given to understand, was given large coverage back home. It involved a little contretemps I had in the state match against Victoria with one Ashley Gilbert.

There has been a series of verbal exchanges on the tour. They may not be what the purists want, and they may not be enshrined in the laws of the game, but they are part of the Australians' competitive make-up, the way they play their cricket. As I have mentioned before, I have been on the receiving end of several of their observations. I have said little back, purely got on with my batting, refused to be disturbed. In Melbourne last week it happened again.

England were chasing quick runs to set a big target. I hit it in the air and was caught. Gilbert saw this as an occasion for a few choice words. I ignored him and then Gilbert unleashed another volley, so I was fairly aggrieved; it would not have been allowed in a Test match.

When Gilbert came out to bat he received his first ball from Dean Headley. From my position at shortish cover I thought I heard him say something to Headley, and for a moment I snapped - I went up to him and had a brief go. The whole incident lasted for no more than 10 seconds and I was back in position.

It made a couple of lines in the match reports in the Aussie papers, no more. There is a dichotomy here, maybe I came down to his level for a moment but maybe, too, it was a human reaction.

If you are playing for England then you should not respond to provocation like that but equally you're encouraged to compete, so it can be difficult. But I won't be doing it in a Test match when batting. Whatever they say.

The saddest part of the past week was the departure from the tour of Graham Thorpe. He is an integral part of England but his back has let him down again. He sounded optimistic, on the surface at least, that the series of exercises he will work on in England will enable him to make a full recovery, but it is the professional sportsman's biggest fear, that your body will let you down.