OTHERS

Another Steve Waugh hundred in crisis

BIRMINGHAM, JULY 6. Steve Waugh passed the 9,000 Test run mark at Edgbaston today to win a new place in history, Australia passed England's first innings total of 294 in 72 overs, but the fraction of a second in which England thought it had the Aussies by the throat passed so quickly that it has already been forgotten. Once again this team of champions showed how it deals with a crisis. It attacks. The day dawned cloudy, misty and sweaty. A Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick day as the old ground - it is looking its age, in badly need of a coat of paint - filled for the second day in a row, full of smiling people hoping for a reprise of day one when we watched 427 runs, 12 wickets, a record last-wicket stand and 236 after tea. The weather had changed the whole basis of the first Test. Even if the Aussies battled their way to 350, England had a chance. The idea of a 5-0 whitewash faded and with the second ball of the day visions of an England victory changed from fantasy to fact in a flash. Gough came in - deliberately - from the pavilion end, consciously slower since cricket wisdom says that when the pitch has absorbed moisture and will help the swing and seam you can cut back the pace and rely on accuracy to get a wicket. So it proved. That second ball at 85 miles an hour seemed to give Michael Slater the opportunity to drive into the covers but, as he committed to the shot, the ball shot back off the pitch and knocked back Slater's middle and off stumps. The ball that changed a Test match, we thought. Now surely Gough and Caddick would cause a crash of wickets, the sun would burn off the cloud and England would make 400 and then, well who knows. In fact none of those things happened.

Caddick bowled well below par, Gough had not much luck and Steve Waugh batted so bravely - ``we will not take a backward step'' he said before the tour - that he had 27 before the day was 45 minutes old and it did not matter that brother Mark was in one of his dreamy moods. Mark might have been stumped off Ashley Giles on 29 before lunch and was dropped off Craig White by Marcus Trescothick in the slips on the same score soon after. Steve Waugh was far from dreamland. He played every ball late, needed only 71 balls for his fifty in an hour and a half and every so often could be seen trying to plant a bomb behind his twin. Still, 106 runs came in the first session (62 to Steve, 29 to Mark) but the pace slowed as Australia approached England's 294 - if 60 overs spent making 259 can be described as slow - and the Australians seemed to tire as Dad tires of cricket with the kids. Perhaps that accounted for Mark Waugh's departure. He hit a superb square cut but edged Caddick to Alec Stewart, the second wicket we anticipated at the start but 133 runs late.

Steve Waugh took a leisurely route between 90 and his 26th Test hundred off his 13th four but Damien Martyn hit 14 off a mainly legside over from Giles' left-arm spin so that 30 came in 35 balls.