(England win by 37 runs)
As England success stories are about as thick on the ground as snowflakes in December here, it might seem a little churlish to pour cold water on yesterday's 34-run win over Queensland. In all honesty, however, this was not so much a victory as a cross between a Christmas present and a burglary.
It would also, perhaps, be a trifle incongrous to describe Queensland's collapse as the result of schoolboy cricket, given that England have spent much of this tour being embarrassed by schoolboys, but, 45 minutes after tea on the final day, England wer e short odds to pull off something remarkable even by their standards. Score over 500 in their first innings, and lose the match by 10 wickets.
When Queensland, chasing 352 to win in 70 overs, were 231 for 0 after 46 of them, the frightening statistic emerged that England had by then been bowling at Queensland's batsmen for a total of six and a half hours and 94 overs and had conceded 436 runs without getting anyone out. Eighty five minutes and 18 overs later, England had taken all 10 second-innings wickets for 83. On a day hot enough to have boiled a kettle on the outfield, some spectators might have thought they had seen a mirage.
For most of the day, you could have boiled a kettle on Michael Atherton's head. The captain was seldom without vapour escaping from both ears as Matthew Hayden and Trevor Barsby launched what threatened to be the latest ritual humiliation, and England's fielding actually managed to dip below its customary status of inept.
Barsby was dropped twice on 33 and 87, the first a routine catch to Graham Gooch at deepish midwicket. Gooch's reaction to this type of thing is to punish his body even more manically than he does already and a few earlier diners at the team's hotel wou l d have been faintly startled to have looked out of the restaurant window and witnessed a 41-year-old hurtling up and down the hotel car park.
Running fast over short distances is something that Phillip Tufnell might also consider working on as his on-field relationship with Atherton is not exactly Mills and Boon, and if Atherton had his hands suspiciously in his pockets yesterday it would havebeen to fight off the urge to throttle his temperamental left-arm spinner. Tufnell ostentatiously declined to pick up a ball booted back to him by Alec Stewart after a Tufnell misfield and Atherton delivered a less-than-friendly lecture.
This occurred during the Hayden-Barsby carnage and Tufnell was banished to the outfield after a spell of six overs for 45 runs. Atherton eventually recalled him when Queensland entered the final 20 overs requiring 105 from their last eight wickets and Tufnell proceeded to win the game with a second spell of 5 for 26 from 7.3 overs.
The turning point was a breathtaking catch from Atherton at short midwicket to dismiss Hayden for 119 when the left-hander's clip off his toes off Malcolm was destined to add to (along with three sixes) his tally of 10 fours. Barsby was then run out by Angus Fraser's direct hit immediately after completing his own century.
When Queensland needed only 121 with 23 overs and all 10 wickets in hand, all it required was sensible cricket, but instead they batted as though they needed 12 runs an over. Furthermore, they could still have settled for a draw, but when their No 10, Michael Kasporowicz, hit his first ball for six, it was conclusive evidence they had decided on death or glory.
Death, in the end, is what it was, Ian Healy, the Queensland captain, saying afterwards that the crowd "deserved a result". The fact that Healy did not seem to mind whether or not England gained in confidence before the Melbourne Test was also evidence of something - possibly that Healy does not take England seriously whatever mood they are in.
England are merely hoping they have enough fit players to cause them to spend more than five minutes discussing selection, although Joey Benjamin and Craig White are definitely ruled out, and Atherton has also confirmed he will not consider employing Stewart as a wicketkeeper-batsman despite Stephen Rhodes' indifferent recent form in both departments.
The captain will, however, consider opening with Gooch and moving Stewart down the order, and will presumably get his way whatever the issue. Raymond Illingworth flies in tomorrow, but even Illy could not start demanding his own way after 24 hours in Australia. Could he?
scoreboard from toowoomba (England won toss: Final day of four)
England - First Innings 507 for 6 dec (M W Gatting 203no, J P Crawley 91, A J Stewart 53no, G A Gooch 50).
Queensland - First Innings 392 for 4 dec (A Symonds 108no, J P Maher 100no, S G Law 91).
England - Second Innings (Overnight: 188 for 3)
J P Crawley lbw b Kasprowicz 63
S J Rhodes c Love b Kasprowicz 26
A J Stewart c Healy b Tazelaar 0
S D Udal c Healy b Tazelaar 4
A R C Fraser not out 7
P C R Tufnell c Law b Tazelaar 2
D E Malcolm not out 14
Extras (b5 lb5 nb8) 18
Total (for 8 dec, 59 overs) 236
Fall (cont): 4-198 5-201 6-207 7-215 8-219.
Did not bat: M W Gatting.
Bowling: McDermott 12-5-33-1; Tazelaar 20-5-56-4; Rowell 6-2-20-0; Kasprowicz 17-2-85-2.
Queensland - Second Innings T J Barsby run out 101
M L Hayden c Atherton b Malcolm 119
* I A Healy c Gooch b Tufnell 8
M L Love c sub b Tufnell 24
S G Law c Crawley b Udal 7
J P Maher b Udal 15
A Symonds c Gooch b Tufnell 7
C J McDermott st Rhodes b Tufnell 7
G J Rowell not out 1
M S Kasprowicz run out 8
D Tazelaar b Tufnell 0
Extras (b1 lb10 nb6) 17
Total (64.3 overs) 314
Fall: 1-231 2-237 3-248 4-269 5-279 6-290 7-304 8-306 9-314.
Bowling: Malcolm 16-1-66-1; Fraser 11-1-50-0; Tufnell 13.3-0-71-5; Udal 20-1-95-2; Hick 4-0-21-0.
Umpires: P Parker and D Holt.