World Series Cup - First Final: Incident between Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath with Mark Taylor in foreground during one day International at SCG in Sydney. Australia v Australia A.                   
Sport / Cricket / Head
World Series Cup - First Final: Incident between Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath with Mark Taylor in foreground during one day International at SCG in Sydney. Australia v Australia A. Sport / Cricket / Head

Crash: Day a nudge left Aussie cricket on brink of civil war

Civil wars and family feuds. Sports fans love them but players find them a test of their nerve.

So said Matthew Hayden in his autobiography Standing My Ground, and he should know.

Hayden was a part of the spicy 50-over series in Australia 25 years ago when Australia A joined Australia, England and Zimbabwe a competition which, when two Australian sides played each other, was on for young and old and even those aged in between.

The Australia versus Australia theme will be revived in a different form this week in a four-dayer in Southampton before Australia's 16-man Ashes party is named.

There's no doubt the pressure of playing for cherished Ashes berths will bring a special competitive spark but it may still have the feel of your local schoolboys carnival compared to the fruiter moments of the four Australia-Australia A clashes in the summer of 1994-95.

Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath clash mid-pitch.
Matthew Hayden and Glenn McGrath clash mid-pitch.

Hayden, in an A team captained by Damien Martyn and including Greg Blewett, Ricky Ponting and Merv Hughes, knew how to "press the buttons'' of the top team and admitted he found temptation "too hard to refuse.''

Knowing fast man Craig McDermott was a man of immaculately streamlined routines, from his bowling to his specially arranged socks in the dressing room, he deliberately denied McDermott the chance to slip into the groove.

Hayden scratched around before a ball was bowled, checking the field, stretching, marking guard and generally slowing the game down as McDermott became progressively more impatient.

But the most intense exchange came when Glenn McGrath shouldered Hayden as he ran between wickets, prompting Hayden to say something like if McGrath ever tried that again he would hit him back.

 

Hayden and McGrath exchange words.
Hayden and McGrath exchange words.

 

Then tension threatened to explode.
Then tension threatened to explode.

 

Steve Waugh, watching from gully, smiled and clearly loved the theatre of it all but it was no laughing matter for Hayden and McGrath - until the footage was showed 15 years later during a rain delay.

By coincidence, McGrath was holidaying at Hayden's place in Brisbane and the "you started that" theme erupted again, this time with shared grins as Hayden's wife Kellie shook her head as she listened in.

"Even after 15 years there was no resolution and I'm sure there won't be after another 15 years either,'' Hayden said.

Hayden and Australian captain Mark Taylor, long time rivals, also had a colourful dressing room exchange during that series, when Taylor accused Hayden of being the ringleader in the on-field pot-stirring and Hayden bit back.

The tension lingered for many years though subsided when they became fellow directors of Cricket Australia.

This week's showdown is not expected to have such hot blood coursing through it but it will still have a pressure all of its own.

There will no Barmy Army, no Ashes at stake and no innings that will mean much to anyone bar the person who made it. Yet players like Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Peter Handscomb and Michael Neser will bat or bowl in the knowledge that one false move could cost them the only chance they may ever get to make an Ashes tour.

 

Michael Neser and other fringe players know they can’t put a foot wrong. Picture: Getty
Michael Neser and other fringe players know they can’t put a foot wrong. Picture: Getty

 

The unusually late selection trial has left them on edge for months in the same way that Don Bradman was in when he and the great Archie Jackson were part of a selection trial between Australia and The Rest to play England in 1928.

Bradman got the nod but for a while it was a tight call as both youngsters admitted to being nerve-wracked.

If Bradman can feel the pressure of a selection trial, how do you reckon the boys are sleeping in Southampton?

News Corp Australia


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