Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day November 25, 2006

McGrath not quite ready for his pension

Glenn McGrath: 'The boys were into me today for the number of times 'old' appeared in the headlines' © Getty Images
Old age is going extremely well for Glenn McGrath. He doesn't look like growing into a cranky retiree and is happy to poke fun at himself. As he left the field beaming at his stunning 6 for 50, he broke off from his ball-raising and grabbed at his lower back, pretending to be an aching grandfather. The crowd laughed as it cheered.

"The boys were into me today for the number of times 'old' appeared in the headlines," McGrath, 36, said. "I was having a bit of fun, I wasn't having a go at anyone."

In two days McGrath has swept away the game's version of the Zimmer frame and is walking proudly. England's batsmen must wish he would limp off over the horizon as they again faltered against such a durable bowler. McGrath has 548 wickets and his opponents have severe trouble, facing a deficit of 626 runs with two days remaining.

"To get that five-for, I couldn't have hoped for a better Test comeback," McGrath, who hasn't played since January due to his wife's illness, said. "When Ricky Ponting put down that chance off Ashley Giles I thought that was it, but he gave me a couple more overs than he probably wanted and I got the last two wickets." Stuart Clark collected an impressive 3 for 21 and also exploited the conditions.

McGrath's excellent workout ended at 23.1 overs and he was given an extended rest when Ponting refused to enforce the follow-on. Looking fresh at the end of the day, McGrath said giving the bowlers a break and the widening cracks were behind the decision.

"We're only two-and-a-half days through the Test so it's not about how quickly you can try to win," he said. "We hit the cracks a few times and it will definitely be playing on the English batsmen's minds. The longer the game goes the tougher it's going to get."

However, McGrath was also quick to recognise the strengths of the surface. "To have lost 10 wickets for about 750 runs, you'd have to say it's a pretty good deck."

Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo