Cricket: Taylor pays for his sportsmanship

Australia 362-6 dec & 265-4 dec Derbyshire 257-9 dec & 371-9 Derbyshire win by one wicket
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The Independent Online
Mark Taylor may be a man with a cloud hanging over his personal form, but his generosity in keeping Derbyshire in a game that could easily have been stifled was sportsmanship of the highest order. That is not to say he gifted the match Derbyshire's way, for no self-respecting Aussie would do that. Just that he kept to his early tour promise of playing exciting cricket.

And what excitement. In an afternoon that was dominated first by Chris Adams, then by Shane Warne and finally by Dean Jones, the climax could not have been any better timed, as the home team chased the 371 runs from 69 overs needed for victory.

With 11 runs wanted from 11 balls, Derbyshire's No 11, Kevin Dean, came in to face Warne, who had just taken his seventh wicket. Undeterred that he was about to face the greatest spinner of his generation, Dean crisply popped his first ball neatly over the in-field for four.

Seven balls later, after a few scrambled singles and a clumsy overthrow for two by Greg Blewett, Dean hit the winning runs as he flat-batted Brendon Julian through the covers. Derbyshire had beaten Australia by one wicket and in doing so run up the highest fourth-innings total in their history.

Speaking afterwards Jones paid tribute to Adams, as well as Paul Aldred, whose father passed away last week. "It will do the boys good," he said. Mind you, he also pointed out that the game had needed three declarations to set it up and that Australia were operating without the services of Andy Bichel and Jason Gillespie, whose bruised toe will hinder him but not keep him out of Thursday's Test match.

Before the thrill of the chase overtook events, the day looked as if it would centre round Adams and Taylor. Taylor's form has long been the subject of discussion in cricket circles and beyond. But with the talk, if not the man, close to reaching crisis point, the saga of Adams, Derbyshire's top scorer, has at least deflected some of the attention away from the Australian captain.

Taylor, a man now used to the terse press conference, was clearly more worried about the injuries his side are now carrying than the loss itself, though these are habits that the whole of Australia will be lamenting and sharpening their knives over.

"My main concern is the injuries and I don't think I'll have 11 fit blokes for the Test. I'm not overly concerned about the result as the top order all had a hit."

Talking about the growing concern over his own form, he said that the 63 he scored here "didn't make a difference. I've got to play in the Test match, it wouldn't be fair to expect guys like Michael Slater to play without having had a first-class knock."

Adams, fined overnight by Derbyshire for showing dissent to the umpire Vanburn Holder, yesterday top-scored with a violent innings of 91 that took just 76 balls. It was clearly the outpourings of a troubled young man, frustrated by matters that go far beyond the initial incident - which included a few choice words with the Aussies - and the fine.

Adams's position in the matter only really became clear when Derbyshire issued a statement through their chairman, Mike Horton. The club gave Adams until lunchtime yesterday to agree to pay the fine. He did not, and now has 14 days in which to lodge an appeal with the English Cricket Board's discipline committee.

Ironically, when Derbyshire were releasing the statement, Adams was busy battering Shane Warne and Michael Bevan to all parts of the ground. In one Warne over, Adams hit two fours and a six. Later he collared Bevan for three fours in four balls as Derbyshire's run chase gained dangerous impetus.

Even when he perished, caught at deep mid-wicket by Glenn McGrath off Warne, Derbyshire continued their mission through their captain, Jones, and a tail that wagged furiously.

Jones, who scored 57, marshalled his lower order quite brilliantly, as 80 runs wre added for the last three wickets. If England can do the same under less generous circumstances, beating the Australians could once again become an English disease.