Fleming a force in his own right (16 December 1998)

16 December 1998

Fleming a force in his own right

By Ian Chappell

THEY used to say that any doubles pairing that included John McEnroe was No 1 in the world. On the same basis, any Australian opening bowling combination that includes Glenn McGrath is successful.

Since he took over the mantle of Australian spearhead in the Caribbean in 1995, the lanky quickie has combined with bowlers like Paul Reiffel, Jason Gillespie, Michael Kasprowicz and Damien Fleming and in virtually every series Australia have been successful. When McGrath was injured and missed the Indian tour, Australia experienced a rare series loss after regularly failing to make early breakthroughs with the new ball.

McGrath specialises in making inroads with the new ball but is much more than a one-dimensional bowler. As he proved in the second innings in Adelaide, he can go wicketless with the new ball and still be a destroyer.

He is a multi-faceted bowler, able to bowl probing spells under all conditions, in addition to acting as the enforcer. If he is not the best fast bowler around at the moment he is certainly the most versatile and his current partner, Fleming, is in the best form of his career. No wonder England are having so much trouble coping with the Australian attack.

The man-of-the-match performance in Perth seems to have boosted Fleming's confidence enormously following a slow start in Brisbane. He is now generating more pace from his short run-up and swinging the ball late, which makes him a handful, because unless a batsman has quick and decisive footwork, Fleming's movement beats him before he has had time to adjust. Like McGrath, Fleming also complements his bowling skills with an active brain and he always seems to have a plan up his sleeve.

The dismantling of the England batting in the second innings was clinical and precise. Sure, many of the batsmen were mentally tormented coming into the match but they were given no chance of recovering against this lethal pair. Fleming produced a pearler to get rid of the stubborn Mark Ramprakash and having sniffed the scent, the pair went in for the kill.

There is no doubt the England batsmen will be devastated and the hierarchy will be at their wit's end. It is never pleasant to witness regular batting collapses, but the England players can console themselves with the fact that the demolition job is being done by experts.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)