Jason and Glenn - favourite sons of a country in a different world

By Angus Fraser
Sunday 10 November 2002 01:00
comments

On his favourite ground, the stage where he has taken 47 wickets in just seven Test matches, Shane Warne had to wait 451 minutes to get his first scalp. And then it was England's last man in. Not that it mattered too much; his mates helped him out and Australia, bowling as a team, knocked England over on a splendid batting pitch.

The bowlers who more than made up for Warne's unrewarded day's work were the three quicks Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Andy Bichel. England's fast bowlers would have been well advised to watch the way their opposite numbers went about their business; they would have learnt a trick or two. Judging by the way they ran in at the start of Australia's second innings they had been paying attention.

Bowling fast in Australia is hard work. The weather is hot, the pitches are like concrete and the batsmen ruthless on anything loose. In England seamers will often come across pitches where they can get away with dobbing it on a length. Over here such bowling is fodder. You have to bend your back.

You need to be fit, strong, disciplined and aggressive. Yesterday Gillespie was all four and it was his six-over spell with the second new ball which punctured England's middle-order and exposed the tail.

For a man with an overnight calf problem, which had suggested that any further participation in the game would be limited, this was an outstanding effort. He eased into the day in the morning, bowling at around 85mph. But when he had the glistening new ball in his hand he tore in like a rampaging bull. Bowling from the Stanley Street End he regularly hit 90mph and gave the impression he was attempting to burst not only the defences of the batsman but also the pitch. Nasser Hussain may have hooked him for six, but in he kept charging. This is the level of aggression required here and it was rewarded first with the wicket of Hussain, and then almost immediately with that of Alec Stewart.

It was not just those watching from the sidelines who were impressed. His opening partner McGrath – who took four wickets himself – was full of praise, too. "I thought he bowled exceptionally well," he said. "I think he has been the pick of our bowlers for quite some time without getting the success he deserves. However, if he carries on bowling as well as he has been he will end up taking plenty of wickets. He has good pace, good bounce and very good control. He really hurried the batsmen and got me a couple of wickets at the other end. He is up there with the best in the world."

McGrath and Gillespie are probably the best new-ball partnership in the world and the only thing that is stopping them being talked about in the same terms as Lillee and Thomson is the South Australian's poor fitness record.

"Batsmen talk about partnerships, but it is of equal importance to the bowlers and Dizzy and I are starting to form a pretty decent one," McGrath pointed out. "All we try to do is build up pressure at both ends." England's bowlers, take note.

And while England are searching the length and breadth of the country to find a fit fast bowler – Chris Silverwood is on his way out to replace Simon Jones – Australia appear to have plenty of young pacemen around their first-class game.

One reason for this could be that pace bowlers are appreciated over here. They, and the odd blond leg-spinner, are identified as match winners and treated as the stars of the show – so young cricketers aspire to bowl fast.

They are also looked after better than in England, something which was highlighted in the way that Gillespie was treated on Friday evening when he complained of soreness in his calf. Rather than going for broke there and then in the last session of the day, when Australia were struggling, he was told to rest, have a night of physiotherapy and see how it felt in the morning.

The scoreboard is proof that this more caring attitude worked. It is all somewhat different to England, where we still play in the shade of that bygone age when there were Amateurs and Professionals, when the aristocratic batsmen paid subordinate bowlers to bowl at them.

Batsmen controlled the game, made the decisions and treated bowlers like donkeys. They bowled them into the ground and it is no coincidence that the injury rate for English bowlers is far higher than their Australian counterparts.

Gillespie received excellent support from McGrath and Bichel. And although the world's best bowler modestly said that he did not bowl that well, he was still pretty good. After going at four an over on Friday he yesterday took 3 for 30 in 14 overs, figures that any of England's bowlers would bite your hand off for.

The other small thing for England to worry about as they contemplate the size of the total they will have to chase is that at the Gabba, Warne averages seven wickets a game. So far the leg-spinner has only got Matthew Hoggard.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments