Gillespie sends England dizzy
When a side loses their sixth and seventh wickets in quick succession - as Australia did late last night - the opposing bowlers feel rightly buoyed by their success. And so, with only three more wickets to take, and each batsman averaging not much higher than their shoe-size, England didn't expect Nos. 9, 10 and 11 to stand in their way for too long this morning. But then Australia's No 10 Jason Gillespie walked to the crease to join Simon Katich. Underestimate this tail-ender at your peril.
While the lower order batsmen of previous eras would blindly swish and swat, much to the amusement of the crowds, the modern lower-order batsman is a different beast - and Gillespie is a case in point. Aptly nicknamed the "walking defence", his performances at No. 9 and No. 10, while not being lavished with flourishing cover drives, have enraged opposition bowlers and captains - and this was exactly what happened this morning at Lord's. Against India, at Chennai in October 2004, his 26 was made in 165 balls. At the SCG in January 2004, his innings of 47 in a partnership of 117 - again with Katich - was made in over two hours.
Even by not scoring many runs, his presence there today allowed Katich a certain amount of freedom to extend Australia's lead beyond the psychological total of 400. Interestingly he averages 51 minutes per innings, which is only 14 fewer than Adam Gilchrist.
Early in his career, he was an enthusiastic nightwatchman - on those rare occasions when Australia needed one, of course. It was Steve Waugh who encouraged his side's lower-order to spend more time in the nets and even succeeded in teaching Glenn McGrath how to bat. The dividends for Waugh's vision have paid off, however, with the likes of Gillespie refusing to be beaten into submission, driven by the desire to eke out as many runs as possible. Last November, at Brisbane, Gillespie and McGrath both struck their first fifties in Test matches against New Zealand. The effect this had on New Zealand was devastating, who conceded a 93-run partnership. That same year, he was the second highest run-scorer batting at number nine in Tests, scoring 314 runs at an average of just under 20.
Today, batting at No. 10, he defended with obduracy, withstanding a barrage of short-pitched bowling to support Katich. Their partnership of 52 was, of course, vital for Australia -but not just in terms of runs scored. It was debilitating for England who had, surely, hoped to be batting before lunch. While Katich will receive the plaudits tomorrow for his calm and crucial half-century, Gillespie played a vital role in dampening England's spirit.
Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo