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The Wisden Bulletin by Freddie Auld
October 29, 2003
Rikki Clarke: leading the recovery
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Close England 237 for 4 (Hussain 47*, Clarke 53*)
Even though this England side are relatively inexperienced, Rikki Clarke, one of the newest faces, along with the old warhorse Nasser Hussain, dug England out of a giant hole at 134 for 4 to end the day just about on top. After Michael Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick put on 126 for the first wicket there ensued a dramatic collapse - four wickets in five overs - which threatened to turn the match on its head. But Hussain and Clarke, who scored his first Test fifty, stopped the slide with a battling partnership of 103 as England closed the opening day of the second Test on a respectable 237 for 4.
It could have been a lot worse. England began and ended the day well, but had a shocking 20-minute spell in the afternoon which stunted their progress and overshadowed another good start from the openers. When Khaled Mahmud put England in to bat, he gambled that his seamers would be able to exploit any early moisture there was in the wicket before the heat of the day took hold. It was a gamble which didn't immediately pay off. Trescothick and Vaughan did endure a difficult first half-hour but gradually found their touch, and by lunch England were 88 for 0 and in assured control.
Vaughan unleashed a series of elegant drives, and then Trescothick, subdued for the first hour, opened up with a towering six over long-on to break his shackles. Mahmud juggled his bowlers with little effect, and the spinners, who had posed problems at Dhaka, were treated with far less respect here - Enamul Haque jnr was driven for four and then lofted over midwicket for six off successive deliveries by Trescothick.
But what a difference a wicket makes, or in England's case, four. In the space of four and a bit overs, they went from domination to capitulation. Trescothick was the first to go, his post-lunch onslaught brought to an end when he attempted one drive too many off Mahmud, the ball skewed off the outside edge and looped straight to Mushfiqur Rahman at backward point (126 for 1). Then Mark Butcher's miserable series continued when he was bowled for 6 playing back when he should have been forward to Mohammad Rafique's arm-ball. (133 for 2).
Falling like ninepins: Graham Thorpe plays on to Mashrafe Mortaza
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Vaughan, who had been almost anonymous since lunch, then aimed an inappropriately loose drive at Mashrafe Mortaza and Khaled Mashud, the wicketkeeper, took a straightforward catch (141 for 3). And a mini-collapse became a fully fledged one two balls later when Graham Thorpe chopped an attempted cut off Mortaza into his stumps. He had made 0 and as Clarke strode out to the middle the crowd, quiet during the morning, were in raptures.
England were on the brink of crisis, but Hussain, ever the man for a fight, and his young sidekick Clarke slowly silenced the spectators and settled the nerves. The combination of young and old proved an effective one as the pair rolled up their sleeves in the searing heat and made steady, if unspectacular, progress to slowly but surely gloss over England's alarming slide.
Hussain thrives in these situations and he was mostly dogged defence in making 47 from 155 balls. He scored only three fours, including a lofted straight-drive off Alok Kapali and a firm clip through midwicket off Rahman. He did have a couple of let offs though. He was dropped by Rafique off his own bowling on 36, and edged Mortaza through the slips towards the end of the day, but his battled-hardened experience proved priceless to England.
Clarke, meanwhile, was a touch more positive, using his feet well and playing straight, especially against the spinners. He hit eight boundaries, putting away the few bad balls, but playing some stylish strokes too, including a handsome on-drive off Rahman. He also had one escape when he mishit Rafique off the back of his bat, but the ball landed just short of the fielder at point. He took his opportunity well, and brought up his maiden Test half-century in style with a lofted on-drive off Rafique. Hussain gave Clarke a pat on the head as they left the field, and it was certainly well deserved after a mature innings beyond his 22 years.
Stats highlights from the first day of the second Test between Australia and India in Brisbane