Gooch dressed and stressed

A WORKING CHRISTMAS II: Self-denial and even a portion of hard work are the watchwords for the professional
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As England's tourists revel in the traditional fancy-dress Christmas Day party, their oldest member might be casting his mind back to the last one spent abroad by an England cricket team - Melbourne, 1990, writes Rob Steen.

The parallels with the current tour are striking. Playing against a formidably well-organised Australian team, they needed luck on their side, and found it deserted them. Graham Gooch, the captain, missed a month of the tour with a poisoned hand. Allan Lamb, a key batsman, missed the second and third Tests, and Angus Fraser, the centre piece of the bowling attack, missed the third and fifth.

Coming to Melbourne, the side are already one down in the series and a crucial time for the tour approaches. Gooch is champing at the bit, as he noted in his diary, Testing Times. "Practising was not the ideal way to spend Christmas morning, but we needed to sort a few things out before picking our Test team. Lambie had failed his fitness battle, so we were doubly keen that David Gower, troubled by a bruised right wrist, would be available. A TV crew got rather close when he was in the nets and David le t them have both barrels. David has this reputation for being laid-back, but he can blow a fuse quicker than anyone I know.

"After the nets it was back to our hotel for the fancy-dress parade. My letter was R, but my appearance as an England rugby player got very low marks. Lambie looked sensational as a bunny girl. David's letter was B, and he turned up as Biggles, jodhpurs and all. (I didn't know then that this wasn't going to be the only appearance of that particular costume on this tour).

"This was my first Christmas away from the girls. Although we'd been away for 10 weeks, we still had four Tests to play. I rang home twice and regretted not being there to share in their enjoyment, but now I had to turn all my thoughts to the task ahead.''

Things did not work out, despite a first-innings century from Gower. England lost by eight wickets, and lost the series 3-0.