Buchanan perplexed by no-ball issue
Bad days in the field for England are known in the trade as Duncan Days, because it is at times like these that Duncan Fletcher is wheeled out of the dressing-room to glower sourly at the assembled press corps and dip into his stock of clichés to satisfy the demands of a voracious public. It is not too often in the recent past that Australia have had to do likewise, but after watching his charges serve up 22 no-balls in a truncated day's play, including 18 in the morning session alone, John Buchanan had no choice but to face the music.
England's bowlers have the inestimable Troy Cooley to hand out guidance on all aspects of the game - from the raw science of biomechanics to the dark arts of reverse swing - but Buchanan's boys are pretty much on their own. "Self-management" is his preferred term, but today anarchy might have been a more apt description.
Buchanan's first recourse was to wry humour. "We set ourselves a target of not bowling one no-ball, and obviously we missed that target," he deadpanned. "That gives us some room for improvement, which is always a nice place to be." But, he added, there was "no explanation" for a performance that gifted England four overs-worth of sighters and resulted in Marcus Trescothick being reprieved on 55.
"It's a training thing," added Buchanan. "All the members of the quick bowling group get together to measure out their run-ups and they aim to deliver on those, but clearly that hasn't worked and we will need a more direct approach. If you look back to the Old Trafford Test, Brett Lee was delivering the ball from well behind the line because of the footmarks. It's a combination of factors - different surfaces, different ramps, they all affect the rhythm.
"It's a headache," Buchanan conceded, emphasising that his stated "zero tolerance" policy meant precisely that - regardless of appearances to the contrary. But, although the issue of a specialist bowling coach was raised, he was reluctant to engage in such measures. "We'll consider everything to give our bowlers the best support, but you've got to recognise that within the group we've got some of the best bowling coaches available, in terms of experience and knowledge. It's a misdirection to continue to look outside for help. The best form of help is to get things right yourself."
Shaun Tait, sat patiently alongside his coach, would know all about that. Last season he suffered the no-ball problem from hell, bowling 18 wicketless overs in two matches for Durham, in which he was carted for 176 runs before returning home to work on his elusive rhythm. "It's tough to figure out," he said. "It's a matter of bowling more and more and just getting used to it."
Despite the absence of Glenn McGrath, there was never any suggestion that Tait might be handed the new ball on his debut ("I just do as I'm told!"), but he pronounced himself "reasonably pleased" with his first day of Test cricket, with the emphasis on reasonably.
"I got hit for a few runs which you can't do much about, but the guys talked about the best moments of your debut, the presentation of the baggy green and that first wicket, and I think the wicket was the better feeling. It was just a release of nerves. I was a bit uptight this morning and didn't let myself go, but after the wicket I bowled much better."
His victim was Trescothick, who was thus denied a chance at that ever-elusive maiden hundred against Australia. "I tend to be playing well and then be back in the hutch before I know where I've got to," he said. "But I think we've got our noses in front. The wicket quickened up after the rain, it got a bit greasier and the ball kissed through more, but we've got to get up around 400. If we can bat well tomorrow morning and get a good partnership going, we'll have a good chance."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo