Marsh master class on show

Glamorgan 362-6 dec Young Australia 22-1
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YOU MIGHT suspect they are having a huge laugh, and there is no need to guess at whose expense. English cricket was hit by a torrent of runs at Taunton on Wednesday, the customers treated to 380 in 68 overs as Somerset's bowlers were dispatched to all parts of a lightning-fast County Ground. Young Australia had announced their arrival in no uncertain manner.

If they are taking the mickey, though, their batting backed up by some stunning fielding, they are diplomatic representatives of their country. In any case, thedeed and daring and sheer athleticism, while a shock to their opponents' system, encouraged a heartening response. If this was a glimpse of cricket in the future, there is much to look forward to.

Forget the stodge, the meat and two veg that passes for fare in so much of our domestic game. These young Australians have a message to deliver, and yesterday they came to the Gnoll at Neath to spread the gospel of positive play. A pity, then, in many ways that Glamorgan won the toss and batted first, but there was a chance to witness a fielding side right up on their toes.

Dave Gilbert, the tourists' manager who left his mark on English cricket with a career-best eight for 55 return from fast-medium bowling when playing for Gloucestershire at Canterbury in 1991, spelled out the Down Under approach to the game as practised and perfected at the Australian Cricket Academy. Those who make the grade do not come much better.

From this distance, a mystique surrounds the academy. Gilbert laughs. "Probably the thing that is its biggest plus is the fact Rod Marsh is in charge," he said. "Marsh has got them playing such aggressive cricket. The attitude is literally four runs an over. There's got to be a very good reason why the team hasn't scored at that rate. That doesn't mean tip and run and throwing wickets away, but the quicker we can score the more time there is for a result."

This is a breath of fresh air. "Taunton, mind you, was like an ice-rink and Somerset did their bit as well." They certainly did, entering into the spirit and showing how to produce a thrilling game, even if there was defeat at the end of a glorious pursuit.

"I look after the Queensland second XI and we had a game against the Academy in December in which they scored 380 in 70 overs," Gilbert said. "It was quite breathtaking stuff. They all get together in April and go right through to October when the squad embark on a nationwide series against state second XIs. It's got the states to get off their backsides and develop their own second XI programme."

Should we feel despondent? "I don't think there's such a huge gulf in the talent stakes. Mark Lathwell's innings on Wednesday was as exciting as anything that had gone before, and yet that kid is still scarred from his treatment - two Tests and then jettisoned. For the five days of his first Test he was left to his own devices. That's just hopeless.

"But in terms of the talent base there are some very good players here, though I have to say the one area where there is a huge gulf is in the fielding. John Crawley, for example, in the last Ashes series was an absolute donkey in the field, and the Aussies just played on that. As for this tour, the timing is terrific and should give us some very good pointers for the Ashes trip in 1997."

Hemp made 88, featuring in half century stands with Adrian Dale and Tony Cottey. "He is an England player of the future," Hugh Morris, the resting Glamorgan captain, said. And what of Cottey, 29 and full of runs? He completed his fifth hundred of the summer before the declaration besides taking the bat-pad catch to get rid of Martin Love before the close.