Blunders show why the gap is growing

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The Independent Online

Nasser Hussain would not have been too displeased to have lost the toss here yesterday. With four fast bowlers and no spinners in the side he would surely have put Australia in to bat on a mottled looking Headingley pitch where green grass was interspersed with bare patches.

But yet again it was not to be England's day principally because of some scruffy cricket early on. The tone was set by the first ball. Darren Gough bowled a short one to Michael Slater who swivelled and hooked. The ball flew almost straight to Alan Mullally at long leg. He had to move a yard or two to his left and in his attempt to get behind the ball he seemed to overrun it and it went through him for four.

The score was 23 when Matthew Hayden drove at Andrew Caddick and Marcus Trescothick, who was a yard too deep at the finer of the two gullies, picked it up on the half volley. In the eighth over Slater hooked at Caddick with the ball flying straight to Mullally near the square leg umpire. He got both hands to the ball only for it to evade him for two runs.

Soon afterwards Gough fielded quickly to Slater off his own bowling and thoughtlessly threw at Slater's stumps although the batsman was clearly back in his crease. Alex Stewart could not get across and a pointless overthrow was given away.

When Caddick removed Slater he followed up with a splendid over to Ricky Ponting. When he came forward to drive, the ball took the edge and Mark Ramprakash, not essentially a slip fielder, swooped on the ball at third slip but the third umpire decided in the batsman's favour. Hussain and Trescothick, both specialist slip fielders, were in the covers. It is difficult to imagine the Australians committing these blunders.

In this first hour the contrast between the two sides was as extreme as ever.

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