Even when the game is a gentle Sunday friendly in a charitable cause, there is something about England against Australia that stirs the competitive juices. At Trent Bridge yesterday, two teams of mainly fortysomethings stretched a few redundant muscles in aid of the Nottingham Test ground's Pavilion Appeal. There was much banter and some moments of mirth, notably when Derek Randall and Bruce French took a wicket apiece at the death – but behind the smiles there was still a desire to win and probably only a little less intensely felt than it will be when the fight for the Ashes begins for real at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Then again, given the pedigree of yesterday's line-ups, it would have been ludicrous to suppose that such instincts would lie dormant. An Australian side led by Allan Border, with a supporting cast including Jeff Thomson, Kim Hughes, David Boon, Ian Healy, Dean Jones, Geoff Marsh and Geoff Lawson, could hardly be expected to let the Poms roll them over and tickle their tums.
Border won the toss and stuck England in and when a silver-haired Thommo paid history a visit with only his second ball – not quite delivered at 100mph, but respectably brisk – it looked like poor old England were going to find themselves on the end of yet another bashing.
As Graham Gooch pushed tentatively forward and Tom Moody snared a catch at second slip, it could have been have Edgbaston in 1975, when Thommo ensured that the future England captain's introduction to Test cricket would be marked by the ignominy of a "pair".
But this was an England made of pleasingly stern stuff and the backdrop of the handsome, lop-sided pavilion – which Nottinghamshire plan to complete in the symmetry of the original plans – was clearly the inspiration for Randall and Tim Robinson, two of the county's more famous sons and Australia's more infamous tormentors, to rebuild the innings.
Robinson, whose sackful of runs in 1985 were at the heart of England's last Ashes triumph on home soil, shared a partnership of 65 with the ageless Randall, who made the game's only half-century.
Mike Gatting, captain of the last Ashes-winning England side in 1986-7, fell to a splendidly athletic catch by Border at mid-wicket, but runs from Allan Wells, Dermot Reeve, Chris Lewis and Kevan James produced a useful total of 248 for 8. Five overs of off-breaks from Dean Jones, who never bowled in a Test against England, took unlikely figures of 3 for 41.
After Boon and Jones had put on 97 in 19 overs for the second Australian wicket, the portents for England were again less than encouraging, but the match turned when Jones succumbed to a memory-bank slower ball from Reeve, whose qualifications as an England "master" might be open to question but who was good enough here to tear out the entire Australian middle-order.
His figures of 5 for 26 helped reduce the Australians to 215, 33 runs short of their target.Reuse content