Cricket / Sixth Test: Border finds profit in loss

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IT may seem daft, but Australia's captain confessed he was almost pleased at losing to England yesterday. But before Allan Border is accused of being senile at 38, he explained that the series had appeared so easy for Australia that people back home did not appreciate how well they had played because they had developed such a low opinion of England.

'So I'm sort of happy England played to some sort of potential, maybe now we will get some plaudits,' he said.

But Border's acceptance of defeat naturally paled beside Michael Atherton's joy at winning. Although his concerns are collective rather than individual, Atherton allowed himself a measure of personal indulgence.

Having stressed 'this is a vital win, a morale-boosting one,' he added: 'Personally it is very satisfying. I have played them about 13 or 14 times and this is the first time I have won. I have taken some hidings home and away and it is nice to get one back. It was an overwhelming victory.'

Not that Atherton was leaping about soaked in champagne. He conducts his public duties as captain the way he bats, quietly, intelligently and with the same wry look for the more obtuse tabloid questions that has greeted Merv Hughes's verbals all summer.

He added: 'It is nice to be able to bring people in in a winning atmosphere. We showed a lot of fight and played aggressive cricket. I hope it will be a young and spirited side we take on tour to the West Indies. I know the type of players I want to take and will talk to people over the next few weeks to work out the individuals.'

They still seem unlikely to include Graham Gooch, although Atherton said of the former captain: 'He has been an outstanding batsman this series and a great help to me as captain. It would be nice to have him along - but not if his heart is not in it. He will admit he was not 100 per cent committed in India last winter and that is a mistake on a long, arduous tour.

'I am sure England can be successful in the West Indies,' added Atherton. 'We put together a performance here, we had a squad of people in form that was high on confidence. Australia are the best batting side in the world and although they did not play as well as they have done we bowled them out twice on a good wicket.

'It was a nice victory for Ted Dexter to bow out on. We have all said we were sorry to see him go.'

Border, after what he admitted will almost certainly be his last Test in England, said: 'It is a bit sad, I first came over in 1977 and always enjoyed playing here more than anywhere.

'It takes the gloss off a bit to lose. We wanted to finish on a high. A few blokes are a bit jaded but the chance to win 5-0 was incentive enough. We did not play to the level of previous Tests and England played very well. They really needed the win.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND'S 18-TEST WINLESS SEQUENCE AGAINST AUSTRALIA ----------------------------------------------------------------- Sydney 1987 L 55 runs Sydney 1988 Draw Leeds 1989 L 210 runs Lord's 1989 L 6 wkts Birmingham 1989 Draw Manchester 1989 L 9 wkts Nottingham 1989 L inns & 180 runs The Oval 1989 Draw Brisbane 1990 L 10 wkts Melbourne 1990 L 8 wkts Sydney 1991 Draw Adelaide 1991 Draw Perth 1991 L 9 wkts Manchester 1993 L 179 runs Lord's 1993 L inns & 62 runs Nottingham 1993 Draw Leeds 1993 L inns & 148 runs Birmingham 1993 L 8 wkts -----------------------------------------------------------------