Cricket / Second Test: Gooch enters darkest hour: Familiar tale of England woe as Australia turn the screw

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Australia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .632-4 dec

England. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .193-9

FOR THE benefit of all those unable to travel last winter and without access to satellite television England yesterday produced a performance as humiliating as anything they managed in India and Sri Lanka. No one can still be in any doubt as to the seriousness of the malaise in the national side.

On a docile pitch on which Australia had gambolled their way to the second highest Ashes total in Lord's history England capitulated to 193 for 9 at the close of the third day. They are 439 behind and 240 short of making Australia bat again. Weather permitting, they will today follow on for the third time in six Tests, and that will surely be a prelude to their seventh successive heavy Test defeat. With only Sir Donald Brad

man's 1936-37 side having come from two down to win the Ashes it appears that this one is as good as settled with eight days gone.

Australia were not even able to call on Craig McDermott, widely regarded before the series as the key bowler, who will be incapacitated for at least a week and possibly longer after an operation on Friday on a twisted bowel. Bobby Simpson, Australia's coach, said a replacement would not be sent for, whatever his condition - hardly surprising, since this is rapidly becoming an ideal series to blood players.

In McDermott's absence England were unhinged by a combination of primitive man and modern technology. After Australia had batted on for 44 minutes, taking their total to 632 for 4 declared, Merv Hughes, carrying the seam attack - and quite a bit more besides - made the breakthrough, and the spinners danced through the gap. The only area England gained parity was in video verdicts. While Robin Smith was condemned to the unwanted historical footnote of being the first player dismissed by a third umpire in England when he was stumped off Tim May, Neil Foster was reprieved when faced with an identical fate.

Of the captaincy candidates waiting in line for a throne that may be vacant by Monday night only Mike Atherton is sure to make the third Test team at Trent Bridge. He has had a poor season, making runs against only the Universities and Durham, but yesterday, batting, like many, for his place, he responded impressively. As wickets fell around him he played himself back into form with a wide range of shots before being unluckily eighth out for 80, his highest Test score since making 87 at Adelaide more than two years and 23 Test innings ago. No one else passed 20, and if Keith Fletcher continues to describe the top six as 'the best in the country' he should be first out of the door. They clearly are not.

Last night Fletcher admitted: 'It was bad batting. It is still a good wicket. There is no way a leggie should get four wickets on that. There were some bad shots played.' The wicket, while taking spin, is doing so slowly, and with so little bounce that Foster was able to hook Hughes for successive fours in comfort.

England certainly found nothing to trouble Australia in the morning when, resuming at 592 for 4, they batted on for eight overs. With Steve Waugh, aware that he had everything to lose including his place to Damien Mar

tyn, proceeding cautiously it was left to David Boon to add the bulk of the 38 runs they scored. The declaration left Caddick with figures of 1 for 237 after two Tests. Hopefully Shane Warne will remind him of the virtue of per

severance at this level.

At that stage four wickets had fallen in 195 overs, nine went in the next 90. The first was the most important. Gooch, having clipped Hughes through mid-on for three off his fifth ball, was looking his imperious self when he was brought down by his admirably confident agression. Hughes, who had previously been pulled for four, bounced Gooch in his 11th over, the captain got under his hook, and May took a fine running catch at long leg.

Enter Mike Gatting to be greeted by three very sharp balls from Hughes. On his home ground, Gatting was keenly aware that his place is the first one earmarked for redistribution and he was even happier than usual when the lunch interval arrived with England 44 for 1. But it was only a brief respite. Two overs after the break, he drove rashly as May turned one sharply down the slope and bowled him. Gatting has made 298 runs at 27 since his return from exile, and though the mind is willing the reactions no longer seem up to the challenge.

Smith was still walking to the wicket as Allan Border smugly threw the ball to Shane Warne for his first bowl of the innings. He dealt relatively confidently with Warne, but May, bowling with great control and extracting far more turn than Peter Such or Phil Tufnell managed, was posing the problems. May took five wickets for nine runs in Adelaide five months agowhen West Indies won the fourth Test by a run, and he has regained the status of senior off-spinner from Greg Matthews. He came to England four years ago and failed to play a Test, his preparation affected when a Tom Moody drive hit him in the jaws at an early net session at Lord's.

He is a more confident bowler now. Soon he lured Smith down the pitch and beat him, Healy took off the bails, and umpire Mervyn Kitchen paused and signalled for Chris Balderstone, in the pavilion, to make judgement by television replay. After a long interlude, three replays and a slow hand-clap Kitchen gave Smith out.

The wait was 85 seconds by press-box timing, but only 50 according to the Test and County Cricket Board, giving encouragement to those who think they are hastening the pace of change unduly. While Smith did not have to wait as long as Gatting did when bowled at Old Trafford, the delay should have been shorter. In South Africa, where the system originated, an inferior television company produces more replays more quickly, mainly because it does not constantly switch to pictures of the umpire.

Practice should improve matters, although it appears to have little effect on England's cricket. The TCCB was pleased with the system, if not the immediate consequence, their press officer Ken Lawrence saying: 'The Board is very happy that the right decision was reached.' Balderstone said: 'It has worked superbly.

Hughes returned to take his bunny, Graeme Hick, caught for 20. He was at least attacking rather than fending off the short ball, even if it was too close to cut. Alec Stewart, joining his captaincy rival Atherton at the crease for the first time since was run out they were protagonists in a controversial run- out in Bombay, could have perished for nought before being harshly judged leg before the last ball before tea. The interval refreshments, it may be assumed, were eaten with spoons, the dressing room having been cleared of sharp objects to prevent Graham Gooch committing hari-kari.

Seven balls after the break Lewis was clearly leg before, misreading Warne's flipper. Then Foster was given out caught at silly point by the sort of decision that will soon see calls for the third umpire to adjudicate on catches and lbws - a dangerous idea.

All the while Atherton had remained, but now he drove at Warne and was bowled off his foot. He deserved a century. But if he maintains this form he may gain an even bigger prize by the end of the summer.

(Photograph omitted)