On an afternoon of Stygian gloom, Australia bowled Leicestershire out to claim their first victory since 17 May when they beat Northamptonshire in a limited overs match. Although the match relied on some good old collusion from both parties, it was the Aussies first real excuse to enliven their tour by cracking out the amber nectar.
However, with Shane Warne and Paul Reiffel the only bowlers on song, it was a performance that posed almost as many questions as it answered. Reiffel's appearance may have eased some fears, but the worries now, must be over the lack of back up.
Of most concern will surely be Glenn McGrath's inability to adjust his length to suit the nature of the pitch. He is still two yards too short and aiming to force batsmen back rather than bring them forward. If he isn't rooming with Reiffel and talking things through, he ought to be.
On a helpful pitch, under cloud cover, Leicestershire made a better start than they should, as Iain Sutcliffe regularly cut McGrath away to the boundary behind point. After Reiffel's early dismissal of Darren Maddy, the home side needed a playmaker, a role Sutcliffe fulfilled until McGrath ventured around the wicket and induced him to edge behind to Healy.
Gregor MacMillan soon followed, caught by Michael Slater at mid-on as he drove at Brendon Julian. At that point the home side were 68 for 3 and in need of some guidance from their captain, James Whitaker. A Yorkshireman by birth, Whitaker knows only of attack. Hooking McGrath for a steepling six to get off the mark, he then belted the Aussie paceman for two searing fours. He repeated the glorious brace against Warne but then the umpire, John Harris, for whatever reason, ruled in favour of a distinctly hopeful inquiry for lbw.
It proved the turning point as Warne, bowling on a pitch not particularly suited to him, worked his way through the rest of the order to end with 5 for 42. Aftab Habib was caught on the slog, Paul Nixon was lured forward and stumped, and James Ormond was flippered. If his shoulder is about to be operated on then the surgeon must be looking for gold and not gristle.
Earlier when Australia batted after Whitaker's overnight declaration, there were torrid moments for the openers against Ormond. His encounter with Slater, a player who likes to take risks, was entertaining, bringing Slater one hooked boundary before an attempted repeat saw the ball cannon into his stumps off the bottom edge.
By contrast, Taylor was looking ever more assured. His feet are moving better now than at any stage in the last year and his shot selection, as he clipped and caressed was nigh on perfect. Leicestershire had a deep set field but such was his placement of stroke that his 57 took just 65 balls. His only misjudgement, which cost him his wicket, came as he tried to flick off-spinner Tim Mason through midwicket.Reuse content