IT is just about getting to the stage when an Australian batsman scoring 99 against England runs the risk of being ridiculed as an abject failure. For the want of one single from Mark Waugh in the second Test at Lord's, Australia yesterday failed to become the first team in Test cricket's 1,224- match history to clock up centuries from the top four in the order, and the way this series is going, it will be a toss-up as to whether Graham Gooch is the first Englishman into a padded cell, or Bill Frindall.
Australia's one consolation for missing out on another statistical milestone is the fact that they will probably do it in the next Test at Trent Bridge anyhow, although there is still the possibility that the International Cricket Council, currently reconsidering whether Gooch's century in South Africa should count, will also be asked to adjudicate on whether Test match centuries against England in 1993 should count as first-class.
Australia resume this morning on 592 for 4, and whether they intend to bother winning the game, or press on to eclipse England's record total of 903 for 7 against them, is just about the only thing taxing Allan Border. On that occasion, in a timeless Test at the Oval in 1938, the scoreboard read 876 for 7 when Arthur Wood returned to the dressing-room and said: 'Just like me to get out in a crisis,' which may have prompted a similar bon mot from Waugh yesterday for forcing his side to re-entrench at 452 for 3.
Waugh's failure to pass 99, which probably rates as a dropping offence against an England attack, came after Australia had batted for half a day without losing a wicket for the third time in the series, and while Philip Tufnell deserved the wicket for persistence, it was still a fluke.
Waugh, spotting a free hit as the ball drifted down the leg side, for once got his footwork wrong, and looked as though he was squatting on an imaginary pogo stick when he was bowled off his back pad. Scenes of rare emotion followed, as misty-eyed Englishmen scuttled off to the champagne bars to raise a glass to a treasured moment. 'Were you there when England took a wicket at Lord's, grandad?' 'Yes my boy . . .'
When Australia resumed there were two salient figures being digested; 292 for 2 on the scoreboard, and 100-1 on the Ladbrokes' odds sheet. By lunchtime, these had been altered to 397 for 2 and 500-1 respectively, but the Botham era of miracles has long passed, and there was no reports of a repeat of the Lillee and Marsh 1981 Headingley investment from the visiting dressing-room.
Neil Foster and Andy Caddick bowled well enough first thing, when the latter must have been very close to winning an lbw appeal with Waugh on 10, but Chris Lewis fed the Australians' penchant for whipping overpitched deliveries through the on side, and Australia's breeze towards what is now their second-highest total at Lord's only faltered when Boon became becalmed in mid-afternoon.
This may have had something to do with the fact that Boon had previously entered the 90s four times against England without emerging on the other side, and having failed by seven at Old Trafford to record his first Test century in this country, Boon was overcome by a bout of rigor mortis even more severe than when he got stuck on 57 attempting to overtake the Australian record for aircraft tinny consumption on the flight here in 1989.
Tufnell and Peter Such bowled well in tandem after lunch, and Boon began to fret so badly against the off- spinner that the second of two miscued on-side lofts against Such hobbled straight to Lewis at midwicket. Lewis, by some margin England's best fielder, made a total pig's ear of it, and those spectators who had been regaled by morning newspaper stories of Lewis disrobing for a women's magazine, made it plain enough that they did not approve of him posing in the middle of a Test match.
Boon, was on 75, and although Waugh's dismissal prompted Border to stride in and start playing as though he was 100 not out, Boon was stuck in prod and fidget mode. He took several deep breaths when he reached 99, but when he flicked the three-figure single off Lewis, he punched the air in delight, and an expression which normally makes Gooch's look like a pools winner's, came close to registering a smile.
Despite Waugh's failure to create history, this was only the fifth time in Test matches that the top three batsmen in an order had made centuries, and England have now watched five opposition centuries in Australia's three innings in this series.
Had it not been for the fact that Border was busy throwing the bat during the final 10 minutes of play, he would almost certainly have taken that total to six this morning. In poor light, against the third new ball, Border was seeing it like a medicine ball, but in attempting to add to his collection of thunderous cover drives, he dragged a widish delivery from Lewis into his stumps.
Border threw back his head in momentary disgust, but then drank in the applause as he left his favourite venue for the last time with a career average of 100.6 in nine innings. He will not be back again in 1997, or so he says, and it is a safe bet that he will not be batting again in this match.
Gooch's Test record at Lord's is not a bad one either, 1913 runs at an average of over 60, including six centuries, and he will, one suspects, have to improve even on those sort of figures over the next three days for England to have any chance of avoiding their seventh successive Test match defeat. The task should be made slightly easier by the fact that Craig McDermott is out of the match with appendicitis.
Australia yesterday scored 300 for 2 (England having held them to 292 for 2 on the first day) and the innings has thus far contained 60 fours and two sixes. Most of them, as usual, have been witnessed by the Prime Minister, who is perhaps coming to the conclusion that watching England these days is not so much a chance to relax, as to witness an even more depressing swing to the opposition.
CORNHILL TEST SCOREBOARD
(Second day: Australia won toss)
AUSTRALIA - First Innings
(Overnight: 292 for 2)
M A Taylor st Stewart b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
(323min, 245 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)
M J Slater c sub (B F Smith) b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . .152
(293min, 263 balls, 18 fours)
D C Boon not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .138
(427min, 349 balls, 12 fours)
M E Waugh b Tufnell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99
(222min, 162 balls, 8 fours, 1 six)
* A R Border b Lewis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
(164min, 121 balls, 12 fours)
S R Waugh not out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0
(7min, 4 balls)
Extras (lb1 w1 nb13) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
Total (for 4, 722min, 187 overs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .592
Fall: 1-260 (Slater), 2-277 (Taylor), 3-452 (M Waugh), 4-591 (Border).
To bat: I A Healy, T B A May, M G Hughes, S K Warne, C J McDermott.
Bowling: Caddick 34-5-109-0 (nb5) (8-1- 23-0; 5-1-15-0; 5-0-22-0; 9-3-18-0; 6-0-30-0; 1-0-1-0); Foster 30-4-94-0 (7-0-27-0; 4-2- 12-0; 6-2-18-0; 2-0-2-0; 5-0-21-0; 6-0-14-0); Such 36-6-90-0 (4-1-5-0; 6-0-17-0; 4-0-9-0; 20-5-48-0; 2-0-11-0); Tufnell 39-3-129-2 (nb6) (4-0-21-0; 7-1-35-0; 4-1-9-1; 8-1-23-0; 16-0-41-1); Lewis 31-4-122-2 (nb11) (8-1-23- 0; 7-0-34-1; 7-2-27-0; 7-1-26-0; 2-0-12-1); Gooch 9-1-26-0 (w1) (6-1-15-0; 3-0-11-0); Hick 8-3-21-0 (2-2-0-0; 2-1-3-0; 4-0-18-0).
Progress: First day: 50 in 55min, 14.4 overs. 100 in 111min, 29.5 overs. Lunch 101-0 (Taylor 36, Slater 63) in 33 overs. 150 in 176min, 48 overs. 200 in 222min, 60.4 overs. Tea 212-0 (Taylor 86, Slater 120) in 67 overs. 250 in 282min, 75.5 overs. New ball taken after 89.3 overs at 289-2. Close 292-2 (Boon 11, M Waugh 6) 94 overs. Second day: 300 in 379min, 98.3 overs. 350 in 427min, 110.2 overs. Lunch 397-2 (Boon 55, M Waugh 66) 127 overs. 400 in 486min, 128.5 overs. 450 in 543min, 145.5 overs. Tea 492-3 (Boon 88, Border 28) in 160 overs. 500 in 617min, 163.4 overs. Rain stopped play 547-3 (Boon 118, Border 52) in 174 overs. New ball taken at 547-3 after 174.1 overs. 550 in 669min, 175.2 overs.
Taylor's 50: 156min, 126 balls, 5 fours, 1 six. 100: 288min, 212 balls, 9 fours, 1 six.
Slater's 50: 91min, 83 balls, 6 fours. 100: 192min, 175 balls, 10 fours. 150: 289min, 260 balls, 18 fours.
Boon's 50: 179min, 150 balls, 6 fours. 100: 337min, 284 balls, 10 fours.
M Waugh's 50: 117min, 81 balls, 6 fours.
Border's 50: 110min, 87 balls, 8 fours.
ENGLAND: * G A Gooch, M A Atherton, M W Gatting, R A Smith, G A Hick, A J Stewart, C C Lewis, N A Foster, A R Caddick, P M Such, P C R Tufnell.
Umpires: M J Kitchen and D J Shepherd (third umpire, J C Balderstone).
County reports, page 51
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