Captain stays in control of game

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The Independent Online

Steve Waugh must take to the wicket with him a mind-set which cannot be so very different from Don Bradman's. He is ice calm and infinitely focussed on the job in hand. He is not deterred by chatter from the fielders, noise from the crowd or any horror story that may be glaring down at him from the scoreboard.

His mind is not cluttered with anything except the need to get on with the formalities of taking guard and looking round the field and then with the business of coping with the next ball. He has an unwavering, almost superhuman concentration.

From the first ball Waugh now faced he was fully alive to the need both to survive and to keep the score moving. Never for a moment did he allow the former to obscure the latter. When Andy Caddick pitched on his pads he turned the ball through midwicket for three; when Darren Gough over-pitched he drove him to the cover boundary.

Both are bread and butter strokes for Waugh and, not only did he refuse to allow the situation to affect his determination to play his strokes, he also saw it as his job to capitalise on every opportunity in order to disrupt the attacking fields.

He had not been in for quarter of an hour before the forward short leg had gone back to square leg and the finer of the two gullies had been moved to mid-on. Already, Waugh had won an important psychological battle.

In circumstances in which most batsmen would have been hanging on for dear life by their fingertips, Waugh was able to dominate. It argues an extraordinary ability to detach the mind from the overall situation and to focus only on the moment in hand.

It was surely this ability which enabled The Don to score 100 every third time he went to the crease in a first class match. Needless to say, Waugh's technique, like The Don's is impeccable and it would have to be to enable him to put his trust in it as completely as he does.

Of course, he was helped by the extraordinary inability of England's fast bowlers to bowl at the stumps and to keep the batsmen on the front foot which were the two essential requirements. Both Gough and Caddick allowed the Australian captain far too much leeway and they were comprehensively outbatted by him as was his brother Mark at the other.