SPORT

Australia makes mincemeat of England

BRISBANE Nov. 10. Nasser Hussain, the captain of England, saw the terrible effects of his decision to put Australia in to bat when his side crumbled to defeat by 384 runs in a wretched second innings that lasted just two hours and seven minutes at the Gabba today. "I still believe we can win the series,'' he said afterwards but those who watched England's inept display would be justified in believing they could lose the series 5-0.

Now history may remember Hussain as the man who tossed away an Ashes series. Australia bowled out England — minus their badly-injured fast bowler Simon Jones — for just 79 in 28.2 overs. Only two of England's much-vaunted top six batsmen reached double figures, its acclaimed

record-breaker Michael Vaughan was out to his second ball and only Mark Butcher, with a top score of 40, looked comfortable before he was eighth out caught off a soft shot against Shane Warne.

Australia's aggressors were their usual indomitable selves. Glenn McGrath, at his most accurate, broke the back of the batting with four for 46 to bring his match analysis to eight for 123, while Warne weighed in with three wickets on a pitch that gave his sharp spin every help. It was England's lowest score at Brisbane and their third widest margin against Australia measured by runs. Worst of all, it was a sign that the bad old days are never far away.

Steve Waugh, the Australian captain, summed up the effect on England with a hard-eyed realism. "It will take a lot for them to come back from such a devastating defeat. It will stay with them for a long time. Too much has been made of Hussain's decision to put us in: we batted well and they bowled poorly which makes the toss irrelevant.''

Hussain found it difficult to explain his error. "I picked wrong at the toss,'' he said. "I thought there would be life in the pitch at the start and I did not expect a Gabba pitch to break up. But really they played a lot better than us. They are a great side and if we are to succeed against them we have to reach their standards.''

He promised a great deal of hard work would be done against Australia `A' in Hobart at the end of the week when England will be joined by Chris Silverwood, the replacement for Darren Gough, who flew home today. This crushing defeat and the final admission that Gough, who arrived without fully recovering from a knee operation and who has been trying to get fit while he was here, was never going to be fit enough to play means the end of England hopes of regaining the Ashes.

That mythical trophy has been in Australian hands since 1989 and seems likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. Calls have already been made for an end to the Ashes tradition. Judging by today's play, there is no sign of a swing in fortunes.

Matthew Hayden, Australia's robust left-handed opener, scored a second century to ensure his award as man of the match, Damien Martyn added another elegant 64 and Adam Gilchrist a superbly-timed 60 off 59 balls as they set England a target of 464. Waugh made only 12 to bring his match aggregate to 19; a paltry number with selectors watching his fitness to lead the side, aged 37.

No-one was foolish enough to think that England might win but there was a hint of a storm tomorrow afternoon and the suggestion that with a solid opening stand England might hope to draw; but when Vaughan was out to a poor lbw decision and Marcus Trescothick caught in the second over there was clearly no escape. Butcher and Hussain batted sensibly for an hour but then Hussain, John Crawley and Alec Stewart were out in six balls and even the Barmy Army surrendered.

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