Gillespie Leaves England Dizzy; Stewart's Strugglers Are off Key as Jason Hits All the Right Notes

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ANY dizzy dreams about England's Ashes prospects were blown away last night by a man called Gillespie.

We know Glenn McGrath is the world's finest bowler, Shane Warne the trickiest and Brett Lee the fastest.

But it has been easy to overlook those eager to join in the assault.

Since Jason Gillespie caused havoc at Headingley in the last series here in 1997 with seven for 37, the spindly paceman has spent much of his time on the treatment table.

He still has something of the look of a New Age traveller but, more importantly, a clinical ability to make a cricket ball jag about at high speed.

Judging by last night his catalogue of injuries has done nothing to diminish him, for he was at least his strike partner McGrath's equal in reducing the home side's batting to a shambles on the way to 86 all out and a 125-run defeat By the time this gruesome twosome had done their worst with their full allocation of overs England were 40 for five, all the tigerish work in the field amounting to a complete waste of time.

Hitting the seam at will in helpful conditions under Old Trafford's lights, the Duckworth/Lewis target of 212 off 44 overs was made to look the stuff of fantasy.

So, too, was all the talk of wrenching back the Ashes.

It was Steve Waugh who, prior to this match, was keen to divorce the NatWest Series from the summer's main event, but after this he has to be kidding. The ball will be red, the clothes white, the light real and the rules different, but this humiliation surely represented a direct psychological hit in the phoney war before the first Test starts on July 5.

Seam bowling may be England's strong suit, but any residual temptation to create bespoke pitches for Darren Gough, Andrew Caddick and Co will be banished by last night's events.

The home team could not even point to any lack of oneday experience as a relevant factor when they were reduced to 26 for three after three wickets in six balls.

By horrible coincidence the score had been the same against Pakistan at Lord's on Tuesday.

Nick Knight, Alec Stewart and Michael Vaughan found that the bowling was simply too good and the skipper's hybrid stroke to the near unplayable Gillespie was particularly horrendous.

Once again, Marcus Trescothick and Owais Shah were the two left exposed, but this time there was to be no redemption.

McGrath has let it be known that he regards Shah as somewhat lippy - stones and glasshouses spring to mind - and he was able to give him a proper going over before his partner removed him. …