Cricket: Record stand sees England safe

England 187 & 457-4 South Australia 325 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
GRAHAM THORPE and Mark Ramprakash shared a record partnership against South Australia yesterday to give England an important boost as they enter the final stages of the Ashes build-up.

The undefeated 377-run fifth wicket partnership between the pair saved England from a potentially damaging defeat before they travel to Cairns for their final warm-up match against Queensland. It was the highest first- class stand for any wicket by an overseas side in Australia.

As delighted as both players were at entering cricket's record books by eclipsing the 368-run partnership by C A G Russell and Wilfred Rhodes against the same opponents in Adelaide back in 1920-21, their satisfaction at giving England a badly needed stimulus after a difficult opening three weeks was even greater.

Resuming just 11 runs ahead on 149 for 4, the pair successfully negotiated difficult spells from the fast bowlers Jason Gillespie and Mark Harrity at the start of the day - and again when the new ball was taken after just 16 overs. They displayed concentration, determination and discipline - three factors which were all absent during England's first- innings total of 187.

After withstanding the anxious early problems, including a late scare with Thorpe reporting ill at the ground, having contracted an overnight stomach bug, the pair grew in confidence and, by the time bad light halted play 40 minutes after tea, the debutant spinners Ewan Arnold and Andrew Crook had begun to resemble little more than declaration bowlers.

Pulling every delivery which was short of a length and driving the great number of over-pitched balls, they accelerated through the respective milestones at an alarming rate. Thorpe finished unbeaten on a career-best first-class score of 223, while Ramprakash had advanced to 140 to guide England to a commanding 457 for 4 by the premature close.

The pair added 194 runs in 34 overs during the afternoon session alone and, overall, batted for 372 minutes together and faced 593 deliveries. Afterwards Ramprakash said: "The local press have been very negative about our cricket in general ever since we touched down and it's nice to prove a point today. We have not played well in this game and we have been behind the eight ball for three days.

"We showed we are hard to beat and we are not going to roll over. It's nice to prove that point," Ramprakash added. "Hopefully we can start to improve on our performances and the victories will come."

Ramprakash's innings, which was far more cautious than Thorpe's, lasted 373 minutes and included 18 boundaries. It will have gone some way towards tipping the balance in his favour, should the England selectors have to choose between him and John Crawley for the last of six batting places in the first Test. "I came in when were in trouble during the first innings and we were fighting to save the game today, so it's difficult to go out and play your shots," he said. "I apply myself to the situation I find myself in, and we had to fight hard for a draw.

"We only became aware of the record," Ramprakash added, "when Ben Hollioake came out with some gloves and told us to keep going because there were only another 10 to get."

Thorpe is just happy to be on the tour after undergoing a tortuous time rehabilitating from the back injury which ruled him out for the second half of last summer. "It's always in the back of your mind that you might miss the tour when you pick up an injury like that," he admitted, after hitting four sixes and 23 other boundaries in his 380-minute marathon.

"It's probably the best I've played since I had the operation. I've not spent that much time out in the middle since it was done and it was pleasing to stay out there.

"You can build yourself up as much as you like - but you need runs under your belt especially on tour when you are only going to play about eight games," Thorpe added.

"It's important to try and get off on the right foot. I've played a lot of cricket over the last 10 years - and you do start thinking how many years you've got left when something like that happens."

Final day; England won toss

ENGLAND - First Innings 187 (N Hussain 57, D G Cork 51).

SOUTH AUSTRALIA - First Innings 325 (G S Blewett 143, J M Vaughan 58; D G Cork 4-45).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 149 for 4)

M A Butcher b Gillespie 5

M A Atherton run out 53

N Hussain lbw b Harrity 17

*A J Stewart lbw b Blewett 0

G P Thorpe not out 223

M R Ramprakash not out 140

Extras (b2, lb10, w1, nb6) 19

Total (for 4, 140 overs) 457

Did not bat: D G Cork, D W Headley, A J Tudor, A R C Fraser, P M Such.

Bowling: Gillespie 27-14-52-1; Harrity 31-7-87-1; Arnold 25-5-119-0; Johnson 15-2-46-0; Blewett 13-3-29-1; Cook 25-5-91-0; Faull 4-0-21-0.

Umpires: P G Parker and S J Davies.