Australia authors another annihilation

ADELAIDE Nov. 24. Rain clouds taunted and teased England all day offering succour against defeat with a deluge that would end the massive drought now threatening the whole country.

But by tea the Australians had shown once again that given the tiniest opening, the faintest show of fear or the minimum of time, it is capable of victory with many overs to spare by the widest possible margin and against rivals far more powerful that this dissembling England side.

The first Test was Australia's by 384 runs, on Sunday it today they won by an innings and 51 runs — both on the fourth day — and, unsurprisingly, you cannot get a bet on a 5-0 whitewash or an Aussie win in the third Test which begins in Perth on Friday.

To be fair to England — and this is not a common attitude in Australia at the moment — its batsmen tried their best to allow the storms sweeping South Australia to reach the capital.

Robert Key, obviously promoted beyond his capability at this moment, slapped an Andy Bichel long hop straight to mid-wicket in the third over of the day leaving his side 40 for four.

But Michael Vaughan and Alec Stewart thwarted Shane Warne, who bowled a two-hour spell of 15-3-25-1 from the northern end, and the other three from the southern end until a few minutes before lunch.

Vaughan, with 218 runs behind him in this Test, had scored only 24 runs in the morning but he thought he spotted the Warne ball to attack and attempted to swing it into the main stand. Ungainly Glenn McGrath ran, stopped, ran again and finally dived to snap up the ball in his right hand and finally trap it between elbow and chest.

McGrath is far from a great fielder so the crowd and his team-mates cheered as if he won the war on terror. That almost marked the end of England's resistance although Stewart, a single-minded man, concentrated hard enough to push his Test aggregate runs beyond 8,000 with a hard-earned 57. He joins Graham Gooch, David Gower and Geoff Boycott in that exclusive club after 125 Tests, averaging 39.62.

Whether he is able to produce more than a cameo innings aged nearly 40 is not certain but if every England cricketer had realised his potential as Stewart did, the result would not have been so one-sided.

Richard Dawson, apparently harbouring an ambition to follow the pattern set by Wilfred Rhodes a century ago and rise from spin bowling tail-ender to opening bat, drove four boundaries in 19.

Craig White, who has ceased to important runs for England, essayed a horrible swish at 130 for six and only Dawson's daring allowed them to reach 159.

With a growing injury list and failures by those still fit enough to draw on their whites, Nasser Hussain could be forgiven for reaching for the cyanide pills but he refuses to be down-hearted.

"Why should I be down'' he asked. "As I said after the first Test we must get our discipline right. We can learn from the Australians. There is no shame in that nor in losing if you have given it your best shot. They have a stranglehold on world cricket at the moment. I just hope people in my dressing room will learn, will try to win little battles and perhaps forget about winning matches.''

He left to hold a review of the options ahead of the Perth Test, including a survey of the injured. An early decision was ruled out.

Strangely, in view of all the `triumphalism' around him, the Australian captain Steve Waugh refused to gloat. "It is still possible for England to win this series 3-2 and I have been in cricket long enough to know that can happen, although I hope it will not. India came back from 1-0 down and England is capable of good days too. I will not make any plans further than the next Test.''

Alas, only another unseasonal storm will stop that being an Aussie triumph too.