Cricket: Warne and no peace

Somerset 284 and 147-3 The Australians 323
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The Independent Online
Traffic jams throughout the town, barely a free seat to be found and not a sponsor's box empty either. Say what you like about these Australians - that they are better than England is an obvious opening gambit - but they play the type of cricket which pulls in the punters. With Shane Warne, the Waugh brothers and Glenn McGrath in the line-up, this is turning into a side worthy of nostalgic tales to wide-eyed grandchildren a couple of decades from now. Sadly, from England's point of view, the bounce is kangaroo high, the confidence near unshakeable.

The one blot on a day of competitive cricket, punctuated by rain either side of lunch and tea, came late in the evening when the local brew had begun to take effect on mouths and brains.

Jeering Warne has become an unpleasant pastime for a vocal minority on this tour, a penalty for his excellence, presumably, but the barracking descended to such depths of crudity, Peter Anderson, chief executive of Somerset, was told to take action. The police were called and security officers were stationed behind the offenders when removal might have made the point more forcefully.

Not that the Australians were all innocence. Greg Blewett was in chatty mood at short leg, forcing Robert Turner, opening in place of the injured Keith Parsons, to move away from the crease half-way through McGrath's run-up. The Australian was still steaming from his previous over, dispatched for 11, but the eyeballing was not entirely wise given that Turner is half a hand taller and a stone heavier.

Turner had the last laugh, anyway, guiding Somerset to a lead of 108 by the close with a mixture of hefty thumps and studied defence. The luckless Parsons had to be taken to hospital for surgery after suffering a blow on the little finger of his left hand. The catch, off Steve Waugh's edge, was dropped and Parsons' season, which was blossoming nicely, has probably ended six weeks early.

Taunton had looked a picture in the morning sunshine when the Australians scored 141 in two hours to lead by 39 runs. It was good knockabout stuff, the more sober virtues of Waugh, the acting captain, preceding some effective hitting from Brendon Julian, whose 71 came off 60 balls. All bar 13 of his runs were made in boundaries, with 10 fours and three massive sixes off the luckless off-spinner Steve Herzberg. Australia's total was rattled up in just under 60 overs, at a rate of more than five an over.

The bowling figures of the Australian first innings will not aid the digestion of David Graveney's toast and marmalade this morning. Andy Caddick, so unwisely dropped for the fourth Test, added the wickets of Michael Bevan and Waugh to his first-day haul to end with impressive figures of 5 for 54 (five of the top six too), as eloquent a response as this quiet, uncertain, man could muster before this morning's announcement of the England squad for the fifth Test.

Bevan, the one Australian with something to prove at this late stage of the tour, varied his method of dismissal, edging an attempted drive off Caddick's first over of the day. Waugh was caught at slip off a ball which bounced more than he anticipated and, at 211 for 6, Australia were facing a significant deficit on the first innings.

A stand of 106 between Ian Healy and Julian soon banished such potential indignity and took the Australians swiftly past Somerset's total until Steffan Jones, a Cambridge Blue and reserve full-back for Bristol rugby club, removed them both, and Andre Van Troost, nursing a mauling from the first day, recovered enough pride to take two late wickets. In his defence, four catches were dropped, but the Dutchman will probably be one not regaling his offspring with sepia-tinted images of the 1997 Australians.

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