July 1, 2001

Australia opt for batting practice as game peters into draw

After two days of highly entertaining cricket, the final day proved somewhat disappointing for the capacity crowd with the Australians electing to bat throughout. When the close came, the game had slipped into the farcical stage with the home side turning to their recognised batsmen, including Nasser Hussain, to deliver the final overs.

The crowd had hoped for a declaration after lunch to set up a meaningful conclusion, which would have also offered another opportunity to Hussain to gain valuable practice ahead of next week's First Test. Since his return from a broken thumb, the England captain has scored only 47 runs in three innings.

Instead, the tourists opted to enjoy the easy-paced bating pitch and improve a number of bating averages. Five players contributed half-centuries in their mammoth 569-9 with Ricky Ponting joint top scoring with 79. His was one of a number of quick-fire displays as he struck a six and 12 fours from 71 balls.

He also featured in the highest partnership of the day, 100 for the sixth wicket with Jason Gillespie but the latter's display was dour as he paid unrelenting respect to the home side's attack.

Gillespie made only 22 of the 162 runs scored whilst he was at the wicket and his nearly two-and-a-half-hour vigil was finally broken by Peter Such who found a top edge when the batsman attempted a sweep.

Brett Lee was the other top scorer, in a breezy innings that contained 12 boundaries including two sixes but the most attacking performance came from Colin Miller. He needed only 32 deliveries to reach his half-century as he dispatched nine boundaries including a six before giving Richard Clinton his maiden first-class wicket.

Peter Such battled manfully for the home attack, the former England spinner sending down 39 overs that yielded 5-131 but he was unable to break a last wicket stand of 79 between Damien Martyn and Adam Gilchrist that would have given his side some welcome relief from their exhausting day in the field.

The Australians finally declared ten minutes before the scheduled close with a meaningless lead of 743 runs to bring a merciful end to the game.

Afterwards Gilchrist, the Australian captain, acknowledged that his team's tactics had not made for a gripping spectacle as he was heckled by frustrated members of the crowd.

"I am sorry for the spectators out there. But it is not 100% of the time we can keep everybody happy, sometimes you have to be a little bit greedy," Gilchrist said.

"I do not have any argument that it was a bit far-fetched from first-class cricket. But my answer to that is that we had a goal to get certain preparation out of the game and we have managed to do that.

"It is one of the very few times that the Australian cricket team has not gone out and had the paying public in mind all the time."

He dismissed the theory that Australia had intended to keep Nasser Hussain from gaining more match practice.

"We are focusing on our preparations, not anyone else's," he said.

"There is no doubt about it; it was disappointing, and I know there has always been a gripe about lower standard of opposition in tour matches. I would like to have been able to produce a result that was exciting for the crowd, but we have to look at the bigger picture.

"It is disappointing for the spectators who came in to watch and would like to have seen a close game. But we have to get the balance of an exciting game and preparation for a Test match, and we thought we came out of it well. We are happy with what we got out of this game."