|Promising signs should England learn lessons
Mark Nicholas in Sydney
The manner in which the opening pair, Nick Knight and Marcus Trescothick, have dominated for much of their time at the wicket reflects the adventurous, modern approach adopted by the worlds most successful teams. Right behind them at last is Michael Vaughan, whose class has been immediately evident even if impetuosity has got the better of the two innings since his return.
Hussain himself and Alec Stewart are more of a contradiction - really good one day and really not the next. It is important they stay at four and five in the order and back their own mental strength to overcome the confusion which sometimes invades their play in this short form of the game. Ideally both would go in first and shape the innings rather than have to respond to it, which is more difficult and better suits younger, freer minds.
Michael Clarke, the 21-year-old from New South Wales who made such an eye-catching debut on Sunday, was a good example of this. He simply could not see a tricky pitch or a tense position for Australia, and tense it was. Instead he saw opportunity and glory and went for it without a care in the world. Clarke has immense talent for sure but also a lovely feel for the game, which showed itself off when he bowled with imagination and fielded with bravado. He is Australias brightest young thing, and a measure of the quality of cricketer here is that he has been sent back to his roots now that the rested Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are with the team again.
Andrew Caddick was quite funny the other day about the variously resting Australians. In essence he said that everybody was knackered so why were the Aussies making such a fuss about it. He, on the other hand, was up for it and, could not wait to get at em in the final. Thank heaven for this version of Caddick - who had conveniently forgotten the games he missed with injury before Christmas - such a different fellow from the one we watched through much of the Test series. Without him the bowling would look anorexic - and you could not have said that a month ago.
Sundays shambles came from over-ambition, which is better than a lack of it, and hopefully a lesson has been learnt. Had England worked out the state of the pitch quicker than they did - and then played for 200 rather than for 250 - they might have won. It is this sort of flexible, on-your-feet thinking that Hussain says he is looking for. Paul Collingwood has it - his smart innings of 63 from 106 balls again proved as much - and when he came off the field, he told the dressing room that the seemingly meagre total of 152 was defendable. Collingwood was playing league cricket in Melbourne in November. He is a handy find.
The door that opened for him is the one that seemed to have closed on Andrew Flintoff and Craig White. Until Tuesday, it was unlikely that either of the first-choice all-rounders - or Ashley Giles for that matter - would play a part in the series. These things change apace, however.
Flintoff made a quickfire 91 on Monday, rather rescuing the England Academy side against Australia Under-19s, and then took a wicket. Giles bowled 27 overs in the same game Tuesday, took one for 42 and is in Sydney already as a possible selection for Thursdays match. Flintoff is going to play out the four-days with the academy and link up with the England party in Melbourne on Friday. That is the good news, the bad is that Craig White will almost certainly not play until the first warm-up game in South Africa.
All of which only leaves the Steve Harmison update. No chance Thursday apparently but those ankle ligaments are doing fine and might allow him to be considered for the weekend. Do not bet on it, or his eventual presence in the World Cup party, either.
Can England win this little best-of-three vignette against a team they have not beaten in a one-day match for four years? You would not bet on it but, after a long haul this winter, they are improving. If the three disciplines came together, instead of continuing in their disparate way, the answer is yes. Australia are more fallible than they look, especially without so many ``gun players, as they love to call them. The key is having the brains to expose them and then the toughness to finish them off. It was that toughness that was missing in Tasmania after Knight and Trescothick put on 165 for the first wicket in pursuit of 280 for victory. From there 10 wickets fell for 99, which tells the story. Eradicate that and yes, England can win.
Or perhaps we should say could. It appears the miraculous recovery has happened. Shane
Warne reckons he is ready to play for Australia again. Do not tell the children.
|NEWS | FEATURES | OPINION | BUSINESS | EDITORIAL | CARTOON|