Australia gain small measure of revenge

Essex 502-4 Dec Australia 561-6 (Match drawn)
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The Independent Online

That more than 1,000 runs have been scored here in the past two days has a lot to do with the very ordinary bowling on show, but a lightning fast outfield and a 180-degree 60-yard boundary has done little to help errant bowlers. After watching their attack get carted for 502 on Saturday, the Australian batsmen gained some sort of revenge when they hacked Essex for 561 themselves.

Matthew Hayden and Brad Hodge scored centuries while Justin Langer had to make do with 87 - Australian cricket's alleged unlucky number, 13 short of 100. There were half-centuries for Simon Katich and Brad Haddin, the reserve wicketkeeper, but it was hard to work out who was gaining what from what was basically a glorified net.

Touring coaches appear happy to play two-day games but they appear to to be a waste of time. Alastair Cook's double hundred on Saturday will not be recognised in his career statistics, and when this is the case a competitive edge is often hard to find.

Andre Nel, the ultra-aggressive South African fast bowler, livened up the proceedings during two spells, but even he suffered the ignominy of being walloped for four boundaries in an over. Hayden has had a miserable tour of England, and he needs a big score in the fifth Test at The Oval if he is to keep his international career alive. In the Test series the bully has been bullied and he took his frustrations out on a lightweight Essex attack.

Essex generously declared on their overnight total and the Australian openers took no time in displaying their authority - 17 runs were taken off the second over of the day. The introduction of spin led to long-handle tactics and Hayden soon started depositing the ball into houses at the Hayes Close end.

The left-hander brought his hundred up off the 90th ball he faced, and Langer looked set to follow when he edged a drive at the off-spin of James Middlebrook to slip. Hayden was now trying to hit almost every ball for six. Australia scored 244 runs in the first session and Hayden, on 150, retired himself out during the interval.

The carnage continued with Hodge making the most of a rare outing. Katich looked in good touch during his time at the crease before he was strangled by a short, wide hop from Graham Napier. Adam Gilchrist came and went but Hodge continued to find the boundary. His hundred was brought up off 119 balls and he fell attempting to strike Tim Philips for six sixes in an over.

Haddin was stumped two balls later but by then the irrelevance of what was taking place had become apparent to the crowd.