Cricket: Verbal encounters of the close kind

Click to follow
Now England must do it the hard way. Coming from one match behind against Australia is probably not what we had in mind but we did it to beat South Africa last summer and it is that resilience we must reproduce to win the Ashes.

The side were well beaten in Perth, outplayed for most of the first two days, but although the defeat left us down and disappointed there were still enough bright spots to offer hope. As in Brisbane, we continued to create chances. It is the refusal to take them that is costing us dear.

There is no rational explanation for the misses. Men like Nasser Hussain and Graeme Hick, who both spilled chances at the WACA, are high-class catchers and fielders. It is understandably difficult for the bowlers when this happens. It saps their confidence and their will. Nobody has suffered more than Darren Gough. Nobody smiles like him in adversity. In Perth I think he went from smiling to anger to disbelief. If it continues in this fashion then we will not win. We know that to take advantage of any Australian weakness we can't let them rest for a moment. The way we played in Perth simply wasn't up to the job by the end.

For sure, we did not get enough runs in the first innings. So far, we have not had a good start in the series and the middle order has come under immediate pressure but 112 all out was still a far from adequate total. We had discussed how we should leave the ball on the WACA pitch and didn't do so properly, as all the catches taken in the slip cordon indicated.

The pitch played differently from the one we encountered at the start of the tour but, while cricket is a team game, individuals have to take responsibility upon themselves. That way you help the team.

Still, the gap in first-innings scores might have been closer had we taken our chances to get their openers out. It was a tribute to the perseverance of our seamers that they went for 240 and the contribution of Alex Tudor has been much-celebrated. Of course, we must be careful not to burden him with the weight of expectation after one Test but, as I have mentioned in this column before, his attitude, approach and preparation are first class.

He is willing to work and practise at all aspects of his game. We get on very well and and I think my shoulder is about to come out of its socket with all the throw downs I'm giving him in the nets. He batted with great aplomb in the first innings. But it was his pace, bounce and accuracy with the ball which made his first appearance so significant. Not only did he get Steve Waugh (and his brother Mark) but had him playing one very strange looking shot from outside leg stump.

By the end of the second day there was just a glimmer of hope for England. Graeme Hick counter- attacked wonderfully in the evening and it was a pleasure to be at the other end when he pulled two sixes off Jason Gillespie.

It was a long second innings for me and involved a considerable amount of verbal attention from the Australians. Glenn McGrath in particular was anxious to have a word or two at any given moment although what he was saying does not bear repeating on a Sunday morning.

I took no notice. My sole aim out in the middle is to stay in and make runs. I merely focused on that, never responded, kept concentrating. There was a moment when Ian Healy appealed for a catch behind off McGrath. I had not touched it, the umpire declined the appeal and bowler and wicketkeeper indulged in a few hysterics.

That is their way and frankly I shall accept it as a tribute if they have to try to undermine me like that. By staying there getting on with the job it means I am irritating them. I learned a lot by watching Michael Atherton in this regard last summer. Don't be disturbed, that's what they want; simply keep on batting; that's what they don't want. It does not make batting any easier when the opposition are constantly trying to erode your confidence but it would suit me to be around long enough to cop a lot more.

I was not at my most fluent in that second innings - sometimes in any sort of match your footwork is not quite right or your timing is slightly out and you have to try to stay there and overcome it - but it was deeply disappointing when the last four wickets fell so quickly. It is not the first time I have had to watch from the other end as this has gone on and while Gillespie bowled with genuine hostility I felt the lower order approached the task without any real plan. They looked a little bit shell- shocked by it all. This is another area where we can improve.

We have the players in the team to turn things round. Graham Thorpe, whose back seems to be improved, and Hussain have batted well and shown good form. Atherton and Alec Stewart have experience on their side. Mark Butcher has already shown what he can do under pressure.

Nobody said this would be a doddle and to bounce back England have to show reams of pride and self-belief. It would be very, very sweet.

Comments