That was that, for it immediately rained again, as it had for most of the day thereto. This had a twofold effect. It deprived the tourists of match practice, which on the evidence of recent events they hardly need, but provided the opportunity to give England another flea in the ear, which they definitely could do without.
What now seems like a light year ago, but was actually six weeks, Australia seemed to be in all sorts of bother when they were beaten by Bangladesh in a one-day international. For a while the globe seemed to have been knocked off its axis, and it was given a further nudge the following day when England won a match against Austra- lia that they should have lost.
For a while after that, which seemed like a light year ago but was probably about five minutes, Australia were talking about how they had things to put right but were sure they could do it. Having gone 1-0 up in the Ashes series following two resounding victories to conclude the one-day international season, the repair work is probably on course.
They are also talking wonderfully again, full of cockiness and the certainty of winners. Stuart MacGill, the reserve leg spinner in the party, offered his words of advice to England yesterday.
"My thoughts at the moment are that there are way too many things going on between their ears," he said. "When good batsmen stride to the crease there is just one thing they should be thinking about and that's the red thing. So much was going on prior to the series that there were way too many complications. It doesn't really matter who is running in to bowl provided that you have good support at the other end and good fieldsmen. I would love to play."
This was in answer to a question about MacGill's chances of gaining a place in Australia's side for the Test series. But he was in his element now, and recognised an eager audience.
"There has been a lot of talk about the significance of the series and the fact that number two in the world are playing the top guns. I think if I was them I would have been spending a lot more time concentrating on what I was doing rather than telling what I was going to do. There are a lot of newspapers in England all looking for headlines, and too many people have been willing to provide those headlines."
He barely suppressed the smile showing that he had almost certainly supplied another one. Coming from most reserves, this would be at best a bit of a cheek. But MacGill has played 33 Tests for Australia in which he has taken 160 wickets at 28.81. If he had been born and raised anywhere else in the world - failing English mothers and the willingness to move continents - he would be a shoo-in for a Test place.
MacGill would probably be one of the most feared bowlers around. As it is, he was unfortunate enough to be born 17 months after Shane Warne. He can only ever expect to play if Australia play two spinners, or if Warne is injured or banned. Old Trafford offers his best hope, now that the weather looks certain to render the option redundant at Edgbaston.
He is very definitely Australian. He is bowling in every net as though it was a rehearsal for the next Test. "If I don't play a game, I will bug the living daylights out of every player," he said.
So, Australia are now back in every sense: winning and advising the English. They are being given their lead by the coach, John Buchanan, who has also been much quoted this week.
Buchanan is an admirably thorough coach with a line in cod psychology who bangs on about the need for people continually to improve, and this week he mentioned Australia's intention to target Ashley Giles, as though both those ideas had not occurred to anybody else.
The trouble is, unless England can win, there will be more of it from every quarter.
The most notable thing to happen at New Road yesterday was the presentation of Basil D'Oliveira's CBE. The great man was too ill to attend and his son Damien accepted the gong on his behalf from the county's deputy lieutenant.
Australian cricketers have a proper sense of the game's history and three of them lined up at the little ceremony: the captain, Ricky Ponting, Warne and Glenn McGrath, who will let Worcestershire know at the end of the Test series whether he will play for them next season. Somehow, they are much more acceptable in that context than telling England what to do.Reuse content