Gough gives everything in an old-fashioned way

Tim de Lisle sees England's young tyro salvage some much-needed pride
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The Independent Online
The song did not have many words, but it said a lot. Muffled by the great bowl of the MCG, it sounded like "Got the Aussies", but somehow that did not seem likely. Repeated endlessly, it became clearer: "Goughy! Goughy!"

Bustling, exuberant and uncomplicated, Darren Gough is the man in the replica shirt's favourite cricketer. He also goes down well with shirts of the stuffed variety. He has an old-fashioned look - national service haircut, rosy cheeks, big in the beam - and old-fashioned words come to mind to describe his cricket: game, plucky, never-say-die. If this was a war film - and it often feels like one - Gough would be the trusting young NCO who goes over the top and wins a posthumous medal.

He began the day by walking out to play with Graham Gooch, having gone in as a nightwatchman. The role does not suit him, but he had buckled down and blocked for 17 balls. Batting with Gooch should have been an education for him. Perhaps it was: an object lesson in how not to play a slow full toss. Gough still had not got his eye in when Rhodes, whose wicket he had been sent out to protect, joined Gooch in the doghouse.

This brought in the wounded Alec Stewart, who shares some of Gough's qualities. Stewart hit his first ball for four (back over Shane Warne's head). Gough took this as the cue to play his natural game. Warne likes to talk about having new variations in his repertoire. Gough actually produced some.

There was the chip-drive, hit on the up back over Craig McDermott's head (two runs); the pull-chip back over Warne's head, luring him into thinking he had a caught-and-bowled (two more); and the cow-sweep, also off Warne, over square leg for four.

Off 34 balls, Gough and Stewart added 34 runs. It did not make much difference, but it was fun.

When Australia batted again, Gough had to wait 75 minutes to bowl, even though, with 10 wickets, he was easily England's leading bowler in the series. He has the priceless gift of making things happen, and proved it immediately, breaking a fluent openingpartnership by getting Mark Taylor lbw. He then had an absorbing duel with Michael Slater, a young cricketer with a similar outlook. Slater's wicket fell to the painstaking Phil Tufnell, but Gough played his part: together they put the plug in, restricting Australia to 12 off 10 overs in mid-afternoon. Gough is a highly attacking bowler, quick, hostile and always mixing it up - bouncers, lifters, yorkers, slower balls. For him to be economical too is quite something, even in the age of Warne.

Gough retreated to long leg, and at 4.45 David Boon hooked Phil DeFreitas in the air. Gough bustled to his left, flung himself full-length, got his fingers to the ball and did a somersault, but could not stop it going for four. Five minutes later he was bowling again - a string of tight, testing overs which culminated in the wicket of Mark Waugh. Gough was visibly tired, and left the field early for treatment on what Keith Fletcher called "a slight muscle spasm in his bottom". For the second day running, England had taken three wickets and for the second day running, Gough had taken two of them. On a day that was dull if you were Australian and grim if you were English, he provided a ray of sunshine.

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