England revive the ghost of Boycott
The spirit of Geoffrey Boycott was alive and well at Headingley today as England adopted a watchful but slow approach in their first innings on the second day of the Fourth npower Test Match.
While the Ashes are lost, England need to salvage respect from the remaining two Test Matches and a second-day batting collapse in reply to Australia's 447 first innings total would have done little to help them recover lost ground.
So when both Mike Atherton and Marcus Trescothick departed shortly after tea with England's score 67 for two, the alarm bells started to sound and the spirit of Headingley's favourite son and England's mulish opener was summoned.
Obduracy and courage, of Boycott-like proportions, was now required of England's captain Nasser Hussain and his number three Mark Butcher and they responded in a manner that would have made the Yorkshireman proud.
Hussain's arrival at the crease was accompanied by confusion all around the ground when a third batsman in full England kit also started walking out.
It turned out to be the same fellow who mysteriously appeared in the Manchester United team photo some weeks ago but he got to within 30 yards of the crease before turning round, pulling a mobile phone out of his pocket and wandering off, the phone attached firmly to his ear, to everyone's amusement.
The 50 partnership came in 97 balls, after Hussain had taken 20 minutes to get off the mark but he was in no rush; having spent so much time out of international cricket with his damaged digits, he seemed keen to get stuck in.
By the close, he was unbeaten on 45 and Butcher, who had unleashed some lovely drives on both sides of the wicket, was three short of his halfcentury, the pair having put on 88 runs for the third wicket, in 178 deliveries.
Their teamwork increased England's chances of saving the follow-on, the target of 248 still 93 runs away, with eight wickets intact.
Australia, resuming in the morning on 288 for four, made good progress in building a formidable first innings total and suffered no alarms until England took the new ball. Alex Tudor was preferred ahead of Darren Gough to see what havoc he could wreak but it was Damien Martyn and Simon Katich who had the last laugh when they picked off 23 runs in his two overs.
Gough replaced Tudor and immediately started causing trouble. He produced an excellent delivery that swung back in to Katich and clipped the top of his off stump, then before too long, he had dangerman Adam Gilchrist back in the hutch having been well caught in the covers by Trescothick.
Gough's war on wickets was given some assistance after lunch by some profligate batting by the Australians, who had clearly had a pow-wow over lunch and decided to pile on the runs, quickly.
Martyn kicked off a tense afternoon by reaching his second century of the series. It came in just 125 balls, included 15 boundaries and a five and was a show of high-class batting at its best.
In the same over, Shane Warne went before scoring, then Brett Lee followed him, again for a duck. Jason Gillespie was caught at first slip for five and Martyn, who by this time had made his way to 118, was last to go, caught by Alec Stewart after Atherton had helpfully deflected the ball in his direction.
Gough finished with 5-103, a fine effort after an average early showing yesterday but it was Martyn who received the biggest cheer as the players departed, to prepare for the next, and possibly decisive, phase of the game.