Australia have no regrets over batting practice

Australia 405-5 dec & 569-9 Essex 231 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

It was not all bad news for England yesterday. Judging by the huge number of children who swarmed on to the outfield for an impromptu knock-up during the breaks yesterday, there could be a lot of useful cricketers to choose from in 10 years' time.

Otherwise the kids spent a day watching one of the best cricket teams in history grinding a poor county side into the dust. At 5.20pm, when Adam Gilchrist finally declared, Essex were 743 runs behind. Pointless? In terms of winning this game, certainly, but not as regards the Test match, as the stand-in captain Gilchrist ensured every player who had not batted in the first innings got a chance second time round.

Once Messrs Lee, Gillespie, Miller and McGrath were out however, all having had a worthwhile knock, it was hard to understand Gilchrist's thinking. He and Damien Martyn, unbeaten century makers in the first innings, simply batted out the final 90 minutes to the loudly expressed irritation of a capacity crowd hoping to see England captain Nasser Hussain tested by the Aussie quicks again. Not that Gilchrist was worried.

The match ended in farcical fashion, with Essex resorting to mock 50-yard run-ups and tumbling over-acting in the field to appease a crowd who later accused the Australians during the man-of-the-match presentations of sacrificing sportsmanship.

Gilchrist sympathised but pointed to mitigating circumstances such as the depleted team Essex put out as well as Australia's need for practice before the Ashes start at Edgbaston in four days' time.

"There is no doubt about it; it was disappointing, and I know there has always been a gripe about lower standard of opposition in tour matches," he said.

"I would like to have been able to produce a result that was exciting for the crowd, but we have to look at the bigger picture. We have to get the balance of an exciting game and preparation for a Test match, and we thought we came out of it well."

In fact, with the openers Michael Slater and Matthew Hayden having made runs on Saturday evening, the only cloud in the Australian sky is Justin Langer's lack of form.

The No 3 scratched around for half an hour before being bowled by Peter Such. It brought his runs total to 21 in four innings on tour, and there is a suggestion that Ricky Ponting, in glorious touch – his 79 came off 70 balls – should move up the order, with Martyn coming in at No 6.

It is possible. "Belief and respect for what you've done before comes into it, but so does current form," said Gilchrist, trying to give nothing away. Brett Lee's 79 included two sixes, one of which floated away down the River Can, before he was stumped off Such.

The veteran off-spinner took five wickets, and Langer was not the only Australian batsman who found him difficult to read. It is an unnerving thought that the 37-year-old is still the best of his kind available to England.