Gillespie provides sting in tail

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The Independent Online

When Jason Gillespie came in to bat at the fall of Australia's eighth wicket, he confirmed two of the game's internal truths: the importance of tail-end batsmen being able to hang around and the fact that Australian tail-enders almost always bat better than their England counterparts.

The 66 runs Gillespie put on with Adam Gilchrist swung the game back, certainly to level pegging, and maybe just a little bit Australia's way. The most extraordinary statistic was that, when the partnership had reached 50, Gillespie had faced 45 balls to Gilchrist's 18.

It was only for an over or two that Gilchrist felt the need to try and protect his partner. After that, he was as content to take a single off the first ball of the over as he was to allow Gillespie to take a single off the last.

In no time the England bowlers, with the notable and significant exception of Alex Tudor, had been thrown off course. They forgot the importance of keeping the batsmen on the front foot and of maintaining an off-stump line.

Gillespie was happy enough against the short ball which was just about all that Andy Caddick, a shadow of the bowler who had taken three wickets the night before, had to offer. But the incontrovertible fact was that Gillespie, Australia's No 10, knows a good deal more than just the basic fundamentals of the art of batting.

His defence was capable and, unlike most batsmen who come in that low in the order, he knew where his off-stump was and as a result was good at leaving the ball alone. Not only that, but he played some highly competent strokes.

Of course, Caddick helped Alec Stewart add 103 for the last wicket in the first Test at Edgbaston. That was a very different situation to this one because England had collapsed in their first innings and at the very end both batsmen chanced their arms and got away with it in the most exciting manner.

The situation now at Trent Bridge was of match winning or losing importance; that at Edgbaston had been more a happy-go-lucky damage limitation exercise in the first innings of the match. Caddick and Darren Gough would have been much less likely to have succeeded than Gillespie in the circumstances at Edgbaston.

Why is it then that Australian tail-enders seem to know more about the basic essentials of batting than the English? It has something to do with the all consuming, focused approach of the Australians and their strong sense of collective self-belief.

The better natural conditions in which youngsters learn the game in the first place in Australia may also have something to do with it.

Gillespie and Gilchrist's effort took one back to perhaps the most famous of Australian last wicket stands, when Graham McKenzie helped Alan Davidson add 98 at Old Trafford in 1961. They left England 256 to win and Richie Benaud bowled his leg breaks round the wicket and took Australia to victory by 54 runs.

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