Australia's preparations for the NatWest Series of one-day internationals has not been entirely impressive and yesterday's final warm-up ended in a somewhat scrambled tie following Tuesday's reversal against Middlesex at Lord's, three Northamptonshire wickets tumbling in the last over. However, it did produce the desired outcome for one of their number as Damien Martyn registered his determination to make an impact by scoring his second century in a week.
Such is the depth of Australian batting that even a player of such obvious quality as Martyn cannot guarantee his place and indeed has endured a career punctuated by frustrating omissions in Test cricket in particular. However, his selection for Saturday's opener against Pakistan in the triangular tournament now looks beyond argument.
Opening the innings after Northamptonshire had won the toss and invited the tourists to bat, Martyn could not be shifted, batting through the full 50 overs to finish unbeaten on 101 from 131 balls, with five fours. Although it was not enough, in the event, for Australia to build a winning total, Martyn supplemented his hundred against Worcestershire impressively enough to anticipate batting at No 6 tomorrow.
His 157-run partnership with Mark Waugh yesterday put the tourists in good heart in spite of the result. However, they have concerns now about the fitness of their bowlers. The left-armer Nathan Bracken missed yesterday's match from which Shane Warne and the skipper Steve Waugh were also rested because of a shoulder injury and Damien Fleming limped out with discomfort in a calf after bowling eight overs.
Ironically, it was an Australian who laid the foundations for what looked likely to be a Northamptonshire victory until the events of a bizarre final over left the scores tied. Mike Hussey, who has replaced Hayden as the overseas player at Wantage Road after his central contract with the Australian Board was not renewed, provided 73 off 106 balls with seven fours before falling to an unlucky dismissal against Michael Bevan's left-arm spin, the ball trickling into his stumps after a missed attempt to sweep.
His efforts put Australia's modest total well within reach but after the county side reached the last over needing three runs with three wickets in hand luck turned against them again. Lesroy Weekes took two off Ian Harvey's first ball but was then run out by Andrew Symonds' superb throw from extra cover, Darren Cousins looked bemused to be given out caught behind by the umpire David Shepherd and Jason Brown was run out attempting to score the winning single off the last ball, leaving David Ripley stranded at the non-striker's end on 22 not out with the scores tied.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed yesterday that the pace bowler Brett Lee, continuing his rehabilitation from the broken elbow that kept him out of Australia's tour of India, is to further his attempt to be fully fit for the Ashes Tests by making a guest appearance in county Second XI cricket. Lee will play for Nottinghamshire in a three-day match against Hampshire at Southampton from 19 to 21 June.
* Shane Warne has ended his high profile association with Nike and signed a boot deal worth more than $US500,000 (£360,000) with Mitre, it was reported yesterday.Reuse content