Australia falter on final day of Ashes warm-up
Monday 18 July 2005
But a fellow Australian, Chris Rogers, and a journeyman English pro, Darren Robinson, had other ideas. The pair wrecked the plans of the tourists with an opening partnership of 247, the highest by a county side against Australia. Rogers dominated proceedings and posted the first double hundred of his career when he cut the leg-spin of Stuart MacGill through backward point for four.
The diminutive left-hander took a particular liking to MacGill, who he struck for three straight sixes and several sumptuous boundaries during his innings of 209. The spinner eventually got his man, when he chipped a catch to Ricky Ponting at mid-wicket, but he was the most expensive member of Australia's front-line bowlers. MacGill claimed three other wickets as Leicestershire closed on 363-5 but Ponting would not have been too concerned with the form of his second "leggie". Having Shane Warne sat with his feet up on the balcony is a pretty reassuring sight for any captain.
"It was a little bit of a disappointing day for us," admitted Ponting. "The flat, dead wicket didn't really suit our bowlers. But Chris Rogers played exceptionally well, he hit anything loose away to the boundary."
The return of Glenn McGrath will add consistency but the performance of the other fast bowlers would be slightly worrying. Brett Lee conceded six runs an over against a mediocre Second Division side, while Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz seldom looked like taking a wicket.
Lee's bowling during the one-day series, and in the first innings of this match, will have earned him a place in Australia's starting XI. This leaves Gillespie and Kasprowicz competing for the final spot, and Ponting spent most of the afternoon at slip attempting to pick between the two.
Bowling fast in these conditions was never going to be pleasurable but a post-lunch seven-over spell from Gillespie, which yielded four maidens and seven runs, could well have moved him ahead of his team-mate.
Rogers, a New South Welshman who represents Western Australia in the Pura Cup, is playing in his second game for Leicestershire. The 27-year-old is acting as a replacement for Dinesh Mongia, but if he continues batting like this the Indian star may be asked to fake an injury for the rest of the season.
Rogers is accustomed to English conditions, having played nine first-class matches for Derbyshire in 2004, and he has a good record in Australia, where he has scored more than 2,500 runs in the past three seasons. And like most batsmen raised on the fast, bouncy pitches of Perth, he is a good cutter and puller.
Robinson provided fine support. The former Essex opener was trapped lbw by Lee with the initial ball of the match, but yesterday he clipped his first delivery through mid-wicket for four. The 32-year-old enjoys playing against touring sides - his career best score of 200 came against New Zealand in 1999 - but with a 17th hundred there for the taking he lost his middle stump to a Lee yorker.
Australia will publicly say that the game gave them just the work-out they were looking for prior to the first Test. And to a large extent it did. But it was not just in the bowling department that Australia were short of their best. In the past decade the world champions have been brilliant in the field but yesterday they were ragged at times.
Robinson, on eight, should have been caught by either Matthew Hayden in the gully, or Simon Katich at point, when he top-edged a pull at Gillespie. But both players left the catch for each other and the chance hit turf. The ground fielding was also un-Australian. The tourists may be preserving their elbows and knees for Lord's, but yesterday there were several fumbles and poor throws.
LEICS 217 & 363-5
AUSTRALIA 582-7 dec
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