Australia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .373
THERE was always a decent chance that Graham Gooch would utter the words 'I declare' sometime today, but only as a prefix to ' . . . that this team are terminally hopeless, urgently require a new captain, and I therefore turn in my badge.'
However, glory be. There is now the faint possibility of Gooch declaring the England innings closed this morning (for only the second time in their last 32 innings against Australia) and if victory is a touch too fanciful to contemplate, the mere joy of asking the opposition to bat under pressure for a change may yet induce slightly more than a twitch in the psychological swingometer.
The last time England's batsmen had the sort of day they enjoyed yesterday was at the MCG in 1990-91, when they were again in such dire disarray that the Melbourne Age indulged itself in the sarcastic headline: 'A Dull Day At The Cricket - England Fails to Collapse'.
Collapse, and eventual defeat, was certainly in yesterday morning's tea leaves, but depending on your point of view, Venus had either managed to juxtapose itself into a more favourable area of the galaxy, or England - Gooch and Graham Thorpe in particular - batted bloody well.
England, effectively 70 for 4 at 11am, finished the day 310 runs ahead with four wickets still intact, and this morning Gooch will be working harder on his mental arithmetic than his resignation speech.
Gooch, remarkably, has only elevated himself from average Test match batsman to high-class since he assumed the captaincy. Yesterday's century was the 19th of his Test career, of which the first eight spanned 15 years as a foot soldier, with the last 11 (in only 27 Tests) arriving since his elevation to the officers' mess.
This one was also his first in any batting position lower than No 1 (Gooch, in fact, last failed to open in a Test against Australia at Edgbaston in 1981) and he also reached another statistical milestone in becoming the eighth batsman to pass 8,000 runs in Test cricket.
How much satisfaction this particular century gave him is a little hard to judge (Gooch's last show of emotion during an innings was when he took off his helmet after passing 300 against India) but, without it, Australia would certainly be getting ready to celebrate retaining the Ashes today.
As things stand now, however, England should leave here for Headingley (where anything can happen, and usually does) no worse than 0-2, and with the faint hope of 1-2.
The other thing to emerge, somewhat belatedly, yesterday, is the fact that Australia have only represented an irresistible force because they have been meeting a distinctly moveable object. Merv Hughes spent most of the second half of the day off the field nursing a slight groin strain, which left the Australians basically down to one bowler, Shane Warne.
There was, even at the start of play, a discernable lack of bounce in the opposition stride, which may or may not have had something to do with falling foul of the match referee on Saturday. Clive Lloyd spent the morning sitting next to the Australian team manager, Bob Simpson, on the visiting balcony, and under his headmasterly gaze, the tourists barely submitted a polite 'Owzat?', never mind a volley of 'Jeez, cor blimeys'.
In fact, with Warne mustering nothing much more than a rueful grimace when he occasionally beat Gooch's outside edge, and Gooch responding with a congratulatory nod, it was more like afternoon tea with the vicar than the customary ill-tempered snarling, and the only semblance of violence came whenever Gooch spotted anything landing remotely short.
The pitch has been taking spin since Saturday afternoon, but so slowly that the ball is changing direction in much the same manner of a learner driver making scrupulous use of the indicators. Under these conditions, the margin for error to a class player like Gooch is minimal, as a boundary tally of 18 fours and a pulled six off Warne suggests.
Gooch could not, however, have seen the job through alone, and while Thorpe's 88 not out provided evidence of a Test-match temperament as well as ability, no more important innings was played yesterday than Andrew Caddick's. England would probably trade his adhesive qualities with the bat for a few more wickets, but Caddick's survival for a further 87 minutes yesterday (he has now batted for seven and a half hours in the series) was crucial to the plot.
Brendon Julian eventually got him caught at short leg, but while Julian is young enough to improve, on the Rodney Marsh scale of pie-purveying it is a surprise to find that Julian resides closer to Perth than Melton Mowbray. Hughes was all heart as usual (damaging his groin with a ball that almost tore off Gooch's chin- strap), but Tim May was pretty innocuous, and with Warne bowling mainly at the right-hander's rough outside off stump, England's batsmen were mostly able to play football without worrying about an lbw.
Gooch, who offered a hard caught and bowled to Julian on 82 (much the same chance as Julian clung on to to remove Robin Smith in the first innings) had been batting for six and a half hours when he finally nicked Warne to slip. He is getting a bit decrepit now, as he rarely fails to remind us, and evidence that the old boy now needs an afternoon nap in the rocking chair came when he spent 34 minutes on 86 without scoring.
Perhaps what pleased him even more was that once his own finger was out of the dyke, the water, for once, failed to gush through and drown everyone else. Thorpe has now been batting for close on five hours, and this morning resumes 12 runs short of becoming the first Englishman to make a century on his debut since Frank Hayes in 1973. Hopefully, he will last a bit longer than Frank.
THIRD CORNHILL TEST SCOREBOARD
(England won toss)
ENGLAND - First Innings 321 (R A Smith 86, N Hussain 71; M G Hughes 5-92).
AUSTRALIA - First Innings 373 (D C Boon 101, M E Waugh 70; M J McCague 4-121).
ENGLAND - Second Innings
(Saturday: 122 for 4)
* G A Gooch c Taylor b Warne. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .120
(325 min, 265 balls, 18 fours, 1 six)
A R Caddick c Boon b Julian. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
(84 min, 76 balls, 2 fours)
G P Thorpe not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88
(294 min, 254 balls, 8 fours)
N Hussain not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
(71 min, 65 balls, 2 fours)
Extras (b11 lb10 nb7). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
Total (for 6, 522 min, 145 overs). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .362
Fall (cont): 5-159 (Caddick), 6-309 (Gooch).
To bat: M J McCague, M C Ilott, P M Such.
Bowling: Hughes 22-8-41-2 (8-3-21-1, 9-4-9-1, 5-1-11-0); Julian 28-10-77-1 (nb1) (6-2-11-0, 5-1-29-1, 14-7-26-0, 3-0-11-0); May 38-6-112-0 (nb3) (4-0-25-0, 8-1-16-0, 7-1-19-0, 3-0-7-0, 16-4-45-0); Warne 47-21-93-3
(2-0-14-0, 22-13-34-2, 7-3-13-0, 3-0-10-0, 12-4-22-1, 1-1-0-0); S Waugh 1-0-3-0 (one spell); Border 5-0-11-0 (1-0-3-0, 4-0-8-0); M Waugh 4-2-4-0 (nb3) (one spell).
Progress (Fourth day): Start of play: 122-4 (Gooch 12, Caddick 0) 43 overs. 150: 217 min, 59.4 overs. 200: 271 min, 75.3 overs. Lunch: 210-5 (Gooch 69, Thorpe 15) 79 overs. New ball: 231-5, 86.2 overs. 250: 361 min, 109.2 overs. Tea: 264-5 (Gooch 90, Thorpe 41) 110 overs. 300: 443 min, 122.1 overs. 350: 502 min, 139.3 overs.
Gooch's 50: 117 min, 93 balls, 10 fours. 100: 289 min, 235 balls, 16 fours, 1 six.
Thorpe's 50: 207 min, 176 balls, 4 fours.
Umpires: B J Meyer, R Palmer, B Dudleston.
Match referee: C H Lloyd.
----------------------------------------------------------------- THE 8,000 TEST RUNS CLUB ----------------------------------------------------------------- Tests Runs 100s Ave A Border* (Aus) . . . . . . . 144 10425 25 50.85 S Gavaskar (Ind). . . . . . . 125 10122 34 51.12 Javed Miandad (Pak) . . . . . 121 8689 23 53.30 V Richards (WI) . . . . . . . 121 8540 24 50.23 D Gower (Eng) . . . . . . . . 117 8231 18 44.25 G Boycott (Eng) . . . . . . . 108 8114 22 47.72 G Sobers (WI) . . . . . . . . 93 8032 26 57.78 G Gooch* (Eng). . . . . . . . 104 8017 19 43.80 * includes third Test scores to date -----------------------------------------------------------------
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