Gough needs a respite from the deadly duo

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The Independent Online

The dazzler was still sparkling yesterday. Underneath, he might have felt murkier than the River Ganges, inside he could have been pondering on how much fuel there is left in his fast bowler's body, but nobody would have guessed from Darren Gough's demeanour.

He looked forward to his impending 100th one-day match with as much relish as he must have anticipated the first. In genial, generous fashion, characteristic of his nickname, he extolled the considerable batting virtues of Sachin Tendulkar, who some 24 hours earlier had bashed him almost at will round Green Park, Kanpur.

The Little Master was joined in this assault by Virender Sehwag, a kind of little master's apprentice with a slightly more vicious streak. It was the culmination of an exacting series for Gough. Or at least it was the culmination so far. With two matches left, the first of them at the Feroz Shah Kotla tomorrow, there could be more where that came from.

"It's only really yesterday when I didn't feel I had total control," he said. "It was taken out of my hands really by those two. Out of all the games I've played I can't remember two people striking the ball as well as that. Possibly, Sanath Jayasuriya did, when we played Sri Lanka in the World Cup quarter final in 1996."

On that occasion in Faisalabad, Jayasuriya hit 82 from 44 balls. On Monday, Tendulkar thumped 87 not out from 67 balls, while Sehwag bashed 82 from 62 balls. They did with Gough as they liked. Actually, they did with them all as they liked but it was the Dazzler who observers should have felt for. He is an effort bowler rather than a rhythm bowler. It is not all brute force but it is not all poetry in motion either.

Tendulkar had already tucked into him in the previous match. When Gough took his first wicket in the opening match of this series in Calcutta, after missing the trips to Zimbabwe and the Test leg in India, he shouted: "Goughy's back." You begin to wonder for how long.

He also uttered two words when, tired and dismantled, he bowled Sourav Ganguly and they were probably not, as he twinklingly suggested, "Bad luck." His whole one-day effort, like England's, is aimed at the 2003 World Cup but the thought has crossed the mind this past fortnight that it may be too far in the future for him.

He has gone at 5.34 runs an over in the past four matches – seven in Kanpur – compared to his career economy rate of 4.21. Not conclusive figures by a long chalk but allied to the puffing cheeks, the fact that he has twice been removed from the attack early, the way they, not least Smashin' Sachin, have targeted him it is possible now to contemplate when the end for him might arrive. He entertains no such thought.

"It was always going to be a tough series. Anybody who comes to this part of the world and bowls to the best batsman in the world knows. If you get one chance and don't get that he just goes away. Some of the shots he played yesterday, two he played past mid-on towards the end, you just have to take your hat off.

"I never give in. No matter when you get him out, even if he's got 130, it's still something you want to do. That's why it's disappointing you think you've got him out and he's not given. He's a top player, he's a pleasure to bowl at and the only one I'd actually pay to watch."

The disappointment to which Gough referred derived from the first ball of India's innings. He thought he had Tendulkar caught at the wicket down the leg side and was supported by firm evidence. The umpire did not agree, however. India would probably have won the match but not so far inside the distance.

If Gough has looked out of puff at times he has no concerns about his fitness or being dropped before he can make his 100th one-day appearance tomorrow. He still sees himself as England's premier strike bowler (and it is true he has taken six wickets so far in four matches) and puts everything down to being in the sub-continent. "I'm fine. Some of the lads who've been away all winter are tired. In between the games some are not doing much in the nets. It's been up to me whether I do it or not and I've done it every day. When you feel like doing it you've got to do it because there will come a time when I just want to sit in my room and play on the Playstation."

Gough thinks it entirely probable that England will begin a rotational policy with their fast bowlers during the next year. For him it may be wise to begin that tomorrow and leave that 100th cap for another day.