England look rocky after rookie stand

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England 507-6 dec and 188-3; Queensland 392-4 dec.

Say what you like about England, but they will never be reported to the NSPCC. Still bearing the mental scars of a double weekend spanking at the hands of the Australian Academy batsmen, Michael Atherton's bowlers were yesterday thrashed around by two more Australians barely out of short trousers.

Andrew Symonds, 19, and Jimmy Maher, 20, had put on 10 runs for Queensland's fifth wicket when they resumed batting yesterday morning, and by the time their captain declared in mid-afternoon, they had stretched their partnership to 205 in three hours.

Symonds, as it happens, was born in Birmingham and would be eligible to play for England if he went through the two- year residential qualification. On yesterday's evidence, the TCCB would build him his own house in Solihull if he wanted, but Symonds is as dismissive of switching his allegiance as he was of England's bowling.

Symonds, an Academy pupil, recorded his maiden first-class century at almost a run a ball and struck 16 fours and three sixes. Judgement will have to be slightly reserved in that there cannot be a more amiable pitch in Australia, and neither will he havethe good luck to face England's attack every week.

None the less, Gloucestershire have just signed him on a one-year contract, and may not be bad judges. However, Keith Fletcher, the England team manager, could not resist a pop at the system when he was informed that Symonds will spend next summer in Bristol. "Ah well," Fletcher said, "saves 'em the trouble of producing a player themselves."

Sadly, it looks as though England will soon be grateful for any Australian-reared cricketer who cannot get into his own national team, and after Symonds and Mayer (who recorded his second first-class century) had seen off Phil Tufnell and Sean Udal with the proverbial stick of rhubarb, Atherton called for the new ball.

In the eight overs with it preceding the declaration, Symonds and Mayer flogged 57 runs, and the former reached his century with a spectacular assault on Angus Fraser. He pulled him for four, cut the next one for six, and reached three figures two balls later with another cut for four.

Fraser was then called for a no-ball, which produced an expletive that carried all the way to Toowoomba High Street, which is how far Symonds might have propelled the next delivery had its journey not been halted by a sponsors' flag-pole. Fraser is no longer quick enough to drop short and, with Malcolm also taking heavy punishment, England are heading for Melbourne with the look of a cowboy riding into Dodge City with pearl-handled water pistols.

There was, however, better news from the almost daily medical bulletin. Joey Benjamin has not, after all, got shingles and has recovered sufficiently from chicken pox to be considered for selection in the Test. Phillip DeFreitas and Darren Gough are alsomaking progress in the right direction.

Australia yesterday announced an unchanged 12 for Melbourne, which, given that Merv Hughes is unavailable with a groin strain, was no surprise, while England will almost certainly be playing the 28th of their last 29 Test matches with a different side tothe one that played in the previous one. It is a depressing thought.

England's batting is less of a problem than the bowling, which is admittedly not saying much, but at least they have made runs here, and Craig McDermott (who, curiously, does not appear to plaster himself in zinc cream when the TV cameras are absent) didnot manage to drag much life from a moribund surface.

However, McDermott will undoubtedly raise his game in Melbourne, and all three England dismissals yesterday, Graham Gooch, Graeme Hick, and Atherton, were the result of poor shots. Atherton (twice) and Hick also benefited from dropped catches and although England discovered that Symonds is a considerably better batsman than an off spinner, Atherton still contrived to slap a full toss from him straight to mid-off.

(England won toss; Third day of four)

England - First innings 507 for 6 dec (M W Gatting 203no, J P Crawley 91, A J Stewart 53no, G Gooch 50).

Queensland - First innings (Overnight 197 for4): J P Maher not out..........................................................100

A Symonds not out.......................................................108

Extras (lb10, nb12, w1).................................................23

Total (for 4 dec).............................................................392

Did not bat: *I A Healy, C J McDermott, M S Kasprowicz, D Tazelaar, G J Rowell.

Bowling: Malcolm 20-1-97-2, Fraser 17-4-65-0 (nb-8), Tufnell 23-1-89-0 (nb-4, w-1), Udal 28-2-108-2, Hick 6-0-23-0.

England - Second Innings G A Gooch lbw b Tazelaar..............................................7

*M A Atherton c Rowell b Symonds.......................49

G A Hick c Law b McDermott.....................................46

J P Crawley not out........................................................45

S J Rhodes not out.........................................................26

Extras (b4 lb5 nb6) ......................................................15

Total (for 3 ,43 overs)...............................................188

Fall: 1-19 2-93 3-153.

To bat: A J Stewart, M W Gatting, S D Udal, P C R Tufnell, A R C Fraser, D E Malcolm.

Bowling (to date) McDermott 12-5-33-1; Tazelaar 12-2-37-1; Rowell 6-2-20-0; Kasprowicz 9-1-57-0; Symonds 4-0-32-1.

Umpires: DHolt and P Parker.

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