England's newest old hand, the opening batsman Mal Loye, who made his debut at 34 against Australia at the Gabba on Friday, has quickly turned a few heads with his innovatory approach.
Although he made only 36, he scored at a run a ball in what turned out to be a very low-scoring contest, and delighted his skipper and Lancashire team-mate, Andrew Flintoff. "He came in against Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath and played like he's always been here. His innings was outstanding. At Lancashire he is highly rated. He's scored a lot of runs in one-day cricket for us. He has his own method of playing; everyone harps on about his sweep shot, but there is more to his game than that."
Nevertheless, the one stroke which stood out in the entire match came in the fifth over when Loye played his trademark shot against the fast bowlers to perfection, dropping to one knee and astonishing the 38,000 crowd by helping a 90mph Lee delivery over the rope at long-leg. "It's a calculated gamble," Loye said. "You try and get used to the pitch and the bowlers - I'd not faced Lee before. Sometimes it doesn't come off and it's a shot you have to be 110 per cent about and not be half-hearted at all."
As well as surprising the crowd it shocked at least one Australian player who has played a few outrageous shots in his own 250-match one-day international career. "It was an unbelievable stroke," said Adam Gilchrist, Australia's captain on the night. "He's obviously got a plan - it's an unorthodox plan - and it came off for him. He added a little bit of firepower at the top of the order, and that's encouraging for him. It's whether you have the conviction over a long period of time to keep playing that way."
While Loye looked at home on the international stage, the one thing that did surprise him was the behaviour of the Gabba crowd, and here Loye's age, if not experience, certainly helped him. "I've never been abused ike that in my life," he said. "I thought I was a reasonable bloke until yesterday!"
England's other old new boy, Paul Nixon, 36, has also made his presence felt. Mike Hussey said the wicketkeeper's voluble admonishments when the Australian batsman stood his ground after England had appealed for a catch had provided extra motivation in his match-winning innings.
Flintoff, however, had only words of praise for the Leicestershire dynamo. "From our point of view he gives the team energy," he said. "He's great behind the stumps; he's non-stop. I don't know what he's like when he's on his own... Both in the dressing room and on the field, he has been great, and I hope he's going to have a future with us."
England have shown promising signs against Australia, either side of beating New Zealand in this series. After they had batted as a unit in the tournament opener in Melbourne, it was the new-ball bowling of Jon Lewis - who claimed four wickets - and James Anderson that caught the eye in Brisbane. "It would be nice now to put the two disciplines together in the same game," Flintoff said wryly.
Meanwhile, Michael Vaughan expects to have recovered from his torn hamstring in time to reclaim the captaincy from Flintoff for the game against New Zealand in Perth on Tuesday week. It means that he will miss the two games in Adelaide this week, against the Kiwis on Tuesday and Australia on Friday.Reuse content