It did England's supporters a power of good to see the way in which two young batsmen tested Australian sang-froid in the last few overs of the England innings. The 22-year-old newcomer from Middlesex, Owais Shah, was joined by the recycled 23-year-old, Ben Hollioake, in the 43rd over at 198 for 4 and they put on 70 in 45 balls.
The England captain, Alec Stewart, had gummed up the works after such a splendid start, spending nearly an hour over 25. The Australians will have been rubbing their hands at the prospect of keeping England to around 230.
Shah came in two overs before Hollioake and was given a torrid welcome. Brett Lee, looking rather more like it than he had done in Cardiff, had worked up a speed of just over 90 miles an hour. He greeted Shah with a guided missile which hummed its way past his nose.
To his credit, he did not show any outward signs of discomfort and got on with the job in hand. Hollioake was then greeted by a brute of a yorker which hit him resoundingly on the boot and must have been close to having him lbw. However, after a touch of early and characteristic airy-fairiness, he also got on with it.
There were some sparkling strokes. Hollioake picked up Ian Harvey with perfect timing over square leg for six. Then, when Glenn McGrath came back to bowl the last two overs from the Pavilion End, he unwound a sumptuous drive through extra cover.
Not to be outdone, Shah opened the face of his bat and lifted Shane Warne over extra cover. Then, after glancing Harvey for four, he drove the next ball over extra cover for another. In between these big strokes the running between the wickets was brilliant.
They constantly put the Australian fielders who had earlier lived up to their excellent reputation under pressure. Mark Waugh and Damien Martyn fumbled and let the batsmen back for a second run on a couple of occasions, Andrew Symonds gave away overthrows with a wild return from the boundary and there were other moments of distinct scrappiness. Suddenly it had all become strangely un-Australian.
Shah was in for long enough to suggest that he might be the third recent acquisition, after Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, to have the class and the temperament for this sort of thing. By the end too, one was even being tempted to wonder if Hollioake might not be persuaded to buckle down to it after all. It was not their fault that the final total was not enough.Reuse content