Taylor in touch as Australia go gently

Cricket: Australia 235-5 Duke of Norfolk's XI 122 Australia win by 113 runs
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The Independent Online
It may have a long tradition, but the curtain-raiser here between the Duke of Norfolk's XI and the Australians is just as likely to be a testing ground for the visitors' infrequently worn long-sleeve sweaters, as it is a harbinger of summer. But, despite the dank cold drizzle, Mark Taylor's tourists were able to gently flex their batting and seam bowling muscle as the Duke's side were well beaten.

In truth the contest was a walkover against a scratch side whose strength revolved around three Zimbabweans - two Flowers and a Whittall - and three county players, Graeme Hick and the Worcestershire captain, Tom Moody, declining the invitation to play. Nevertheless, Australia played what approximated to their likely one-day side for the forthcoming Texaco matches, the only notable absentees being their two wrist-spinners, Shane Warne and Michael Bevan.

Having won the toss, no one could have blamed Taylor had he taken a deep breath before pulling on his pads. Bad form insinuates itself like a virus, which can take some shifting. However, the Australian captain is no shirker and he clearly felt it was time to see if three weeks' rest had cleared his mind of the poor batting form that has dogged him for nearly two years.

After an early wobble where he played and missed against Neil Foster, it soon became apparent that Taylor had not lost his nose for a long hop. Once he had got his feet moving, he crashed several tame offerings from Neal Radford to the cover fence. It was the start he needed and by the time he was bowled for 45, aiming John Emburey's cagey off-spin into the ether, it looked as if form and failure were at last taking divergent paths.

Mark Waugh, his opening partner, has never been known to fret, except over the nags on his betting slip. He is a player of exquisite touch, deftly exploiting angles like a Gower without the deathwish. Apart from paying Foster, his old colleague at Essex, the compliment that he was still good enough to open the bowling for his former county, little troubled him and it needed a fine running catch by David Ward at long-on to get rid of him.

Mark Waugh apart, there is a theory circulating on the back of their recent tour of South Africa that the Australian batting is not particularly proficient against spin. The basis of this is unclear and yet four of the five wickets to fall did so to spin, Emburey taking 2 for 25 in a fine spell of bowling.

Having survived one stumping chance, Steve Waugh gave Andy Flower a chance to make amends off his brother's bowling. He did not let him down and when Ricky Ponting was bowled making room to cut Emburey, Australia were 143 for 4 and more than a little bothered.

Enter the recently discarded Michael Slater, whose dashing strokeplay has been a double-edged sword as far as the selectors have been concerned. He hits the ball with a rare gusto and having belted three sixes, he brought up his fifty with an exquisitely placed off-side boundary from the last ball of the innings.

There has been talk, and not all of it idle, that the leading pace bowlers in this Australian side lack experience in English conditions. Indeed before yesterday, Glenn McGrath with a total of seven overs and Jason Gillespie with seven fewer, were greener than the pitches they are likely to encounter. Mind you, the same was probably said of Dennis Lillee and Bob Massie in 1972, before the pair wreaked havoc at The Oval and Lord's.

Unexpectedly, it was McGrath, the most experienced in Test terms, who took the longest to settle, and he visibly struggled to find his rhythm. By contrast, the bounding Gillespie clean bowled Andy Flower, the best batsman on display, with his first ball in England.

Two ball later he had his second when Andy Whittall, enacting a little hesitation shimmy, was palpably lbw. Ward followed, caught behind by wicketkeeper Ian Healy. In all he took 4 for 21 from six pacey overs, his forcefulness being ably backed by Mike Kasprowicz, who took 3 for 17.

Apart from an early glimpse of the Aussies, the 7,000-strong crowd had every reason to be disapppointed as just three of the Duke's batsmen ventured into double figures. Only a ninth-wicket flurry by Emburey and Radford, worth 60, put the home side past the 100 mark and this warm-up into perspective. Australia love a good Pommie bashing, whatever the venue.

Arundel scoreboard

Australia won toss

AUSTRALIA

M E Waugh c Ward b Whittall 46

*M A Taylor b Emburey 45

S R Waugh st A Flower b G W Flower 27

R T Ponting b Emburey 13

J L Langer c Ward b Radford 22

M J Slater not out 50

I A Healy not out 15

Extras (b8, lb3, w5, nb1) 17

Total (for 5, 50 overs) 235

Fall: 1-101, 2-107, 3-143, 4-143, 5-190.

Did not bat: B P Julian, J N Gillespie, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Bowling: Radford 10-0-52-1; Foster 7-0-26-0; Whittall 10-0-45-1; Capel 4-0-21-0; Emburey 10-2-25-2; G W Flower 9-1-55-1.

DUKE OF NORFOLK'S XI

G W Flower c Langer b Julian 26

J W Hall b Kasprowicz 4

T S Curtis c Healy b Kasprowicz 2

A Flower b Gillespie 2

C Walton c & b Kasprowicz 3

D M Ward c Healy b Gillespie 2

A R Whittall lbw b Gillespie 2

*J E Emburey c Gillespie b M E Waugh 29

D J Capel c Langer b Gillespie 5

N V Radford not out 30

N A Foster c Healy b Julian 1

Extras (lb4, w11, nb1) 16

Total (34.5 overs) 122

Fall: 1-19, 2-31, 3-39, 4-43, 5-45, 6-47, 7-51, 8-59, 9-119.

Bowling: McGrath 10-1-37-0; Kasprowicz 7-0-17-3; Julian 7.5-1-20-2; Gillespie 6-2-21-4; M E Waugh 4-0-23-1.

Umpires: R Palmer and A Clarkson.

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