England's performance goes from bad to farce

CRICKET: After defeat by Australia A, captain blames failure to reach f inals of World Series on poor fielding and problems of the past week
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Australia A 264-5

England 235-9

Australia A win by 29 runs One-day cricket has come up with some bizarre endings down the years, not least on this same ground in 1993, when two South African batsmen were invited to resume after a rain squall and score 21 runs to win off one ball.

However, there has probably never been a finish to compare with the one here yesterday, when England were faced with scoring 31 runs to win off one ball, and yet 38,000 spectators and both teams were soaked with nervous perspiration.

This was because there were actually two matches taking place. One to win the game (the boring one) and the other (the nail-biting one) to secure a place in the three-match World Series finals. In this second contest, England's equation was only three runs off the final delivery, and it ended (as this tour will do in a month's time) in failure.

Australia will now play Australia A in the best-of-three finale, while England will hop across to Melbourne to contest, between themselves, the World Series of sunbathing and poolside lounging. Knowing them, they will probably lose what is left of their available personnel to sunstroke, or dry martini poisoning.

The reason for yesterday's thriller within a dirge was the fact that Australia's A side not only needed to beat England to qualify, but by a wide enough margin to squeeze them out on overall run-rate.

To explain how this is worked out requires an honours degree in advanced mathematics, but after the Australian team posted an intimidating total of 264 for 5, England were told that 237 runs would be enough to maintain their slide-rule advantage.

It was a bad toss for Michael Atherton to lose, as this pitch (the same one used for the Test match) got slower and slower as the game went on, and there also appears to be a positive advantage in batting in daylight, as opposed to artificial illumination. England have batted three times under floodlights in this competition, and lost each time.

The seeds of England's failure, however, were sown while the sun was beating down on a team that fields as if it has just gone through the card of an a la carte five-course lunch.

The opposition's total might conceivably have been 30 runs lower had England not run around as though they were head on into a force 10 gale, nor thrown as if their hand-eye co-ordination had been honed during an all-night pub crawl.

They always knew there would be passengers in this type of cricket, and indeed, the original squad was not picked with this event in mind.

They were also missing, through ill luck, two key one-day players in Darren Gough and Neil Fairbrother but, even so, England's performance was not far short of embarrassing.

Greg Blewett, one of many promising young Australian batsmen, and Michael Bevan, who had apparently gone from promising to inept in the space of three Test matches, both made classy centuries, but it was their whippet-like running between the wickets which really reversed the tempo, after Angus Fraser and Phillip DeFreitas had bowled so well early on that a total of 200 looked out of reach.

Chris Lewis bowled as though he was about to go down with one of his ailments, although it was he who was there at the end with Fraser when the final over the match was bowled by Paul Reiffel. With two overs left, England required 12 to reach their qualification target of 237 with two wickets in hand, but when Shaun Udal failed to score off the final four balls of the penultimate over, it boiled down to 10 off six deliveries.

Five came from the first two, but Udal was lbw swinging at the third, and only a leg bye and a single came from the next two.

The crowd could have nipped off for a meat pie and not missed the final ball, given the amount of time it took to set the field, but Fraser's rustic swing produced no more than an apologetic hobble to mid-off, and England were eliminated, despite apparently having decided not to get sidetracked by the 237, and set off with the intention of making 265 to win.

so fast did they set off (40 off the first eight overs, including 23 off three from Merv Hughes), that they also seemed determined to get finished in time for a civilised mid-evening dinner.

However, the story of the innings was of every batsman getting a good start and then getting out. the two players who looked most likely to get big scores were John Crawley and Graham Thorpe. Crawley, in fact, played beautifully for his 37, and his dismissal with 58 required from nine overs was the crucial one.

DeFreitas and Lewis managed to secure some extra runs, largely because of their hopeless understanding between the wickets, which curiously caused the Australian fielders to start panicking. In the end, though, it was the same story as on England's last

Ashes tour here. Elimination from the one-day finals, and a long period with nothing to do.

In 1991, they played a jankers match against New South Wales, but this time it merely means that the game against Victoria in Bendigo will now be a four-dayer starting next Friday, rather than the scheduled three days beginning on the Saturday.

As for the Australia v Australia A finals, it will make not a jot of difference to the crowds, who would turn up to watch Australia C v Mozambique if it was under floodlights. However, it will all be a bit of farce, in that as far as the International

Cricket Council is concerned Australia A does not exist (not officially at any rate), and none of the games will be regarded as pukka internationals.

Even more of a farce is that three Australian players, including Bevan, have already appeared for both sides. England might not be much good, but at least they know which dressing- room to get changed in.

FINAL TABLE P W L Pts Run rate Australia 6 5 1 10 +0.4251

Australia A 6 3 3 6 +0.0928

England 6 3 3 6 +0.0800

Zimbabwe 6 1 5 2 -0.5948

More cricket, page 35

sydney scoreboard (Australia A won toss)

Australia A M L Hayden c Gooch b DeFreitas 4

(30 min, 21 balls)

G S Blewett c Thorpe b Lewis 113

(174 min, 133 balls, 8 fours)

*D R Martyn c Thorpe b Lewis 13

(32 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

M G Bevan c and b Udal 105

(144 min, 102 balls, 6 fours, 1 five)

J L Langer c Gooch b Udal 16

(21 min, 12 balls, 2 fours )

R T Ponting not out 6

(13 min, 7 balls)

P A Emery not out 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

Extras (lb7) 7

Total (for 5, 210 min, 50 overs) 264

Fall: 1-11 (Hayden), 2-46 (Martyn), 3-207 (Blewett), 4-245 (Langer), 5-262 (Bevan).

Did not bat: P R Reiffel, M G Hughes, P E McIntyre, S P George.

Bowling: Fraser 10-1-36-0 (6-1-14-0 4-0-22-0), DeFreitas 10-2-43-1 (7-2-25-1 3-0-18-0), Lewis 6-0-48-2 (3-0-21-1 3-0-27-1), Udal 10-0-56-2 (5-0-23-0 3-0-18-0 2-0-15-2), Hick 8-0-40-0 (5-0-22-0 3-0-18-0), Gooch 6-0-34-0 (3-0-16-0 3-0-18-0).

Progress: 50 in 65 min, 90 balls. 100 in 106 min, 152 balls. 150 in 137 min, 199 balls. 200 in 169 min, 251 balls. 250 in 200 min, 287 balls.

Blewett's 50: 97 min, 69 balls, 4 fours. 100: 162 min, 123 balls, 7 fours. Bevan's 50: 84 min, 58 balls, 3 fours. 100: 143 min, 100 balls, 5 fours, 1 five.

England G A Gooch c Emery b Hughes 17

(57 min, 36 balls, 2 fours)

*M A Atherton c Emery b Reiffel 20

(32 min, 21 balls, 3 fours)

G A Hick b McIntyre 35

(71 min, 47 balls, 4 fours)

G P Thorpe c Reiffel b McIntyre 24

(54 min, 44 balls)

J P Crawley c Emery b George 37

(67 min, 47 balls, 4 fours )

M W Gatting lbw b Hughes 15

(28 min, 25 balls)

S J Rhodes c George b McIntyre 23

(34 min, 29 balls, 2 fours)

C C Lewis not out 22

(48 min, 25 balls, 1 four)

P A J DeFreitas b Blewett 12

(23 min, 14 balls, 2 fours)

S D Udal lbw b Reiffel 9

(14 min, 11 balls, 1 four)

A R C Fraser not out 1

(4 min, 2 balls)

Extras (lb13,w7) 20

Total (for 9, 221 min, 50 overs) 235

Fall: 1-40 (Atherton), 2-55 (Gooch), 3-100 (Hick), 4-105 (Thorpe), 5-143 (Gatting), 6-179 (Crawley), 7-187 (Rhodes), 8-215 (DeFreitas), 9-232 (Udal).

Bowling: Hughes 8-0-43-2 (nb1,w3) (3-0-23-0 2-0-10-1 3-0-10-1); Reiffel 10-2-42-2 (w2) (6-2-12-1 4-0-30-1); Blewett 8-0-44-1 (2-0-17-0 4-0-17-0 2-0-10-1); George 10-1-33-1 (w2) (6-1-17-0 3-0-14-1 1-0-2-0), McIntyre 10-0-45-3 (8-0-35-2 2-0-10-1), Martyn 4

-0-15-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50 in 39 min, 53 balls. 100 in 103 min, 138 balls. 150 in 151 min, 215 balls. 200 in 195 min, 272 balls.

Umpires: D B Hair and T A Prue.