England Suffer from Short-Term Memory

The Evening Standard (London, England), March 29, 2006 | Go to article overview
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England Suffer from Short-Term Memory


SOME of the names change, but all too often it's the same old story for England on the one-day cricket circuit.

Consistently sound performances at Test level over the last couple of years have seen them rise up the rankings to be regarded as Australia's closest challengers.

But when it comes to the limitedovers stuff they seem unable to think on their feet, adapt to different situations and respond accordingly.

Yesterday's 39-run defeat by India in the first of a series of seven matches was another classic example.

Whereas the home team made the best of a bad job by recovering from 80 for five to keep themselves in the hunt with a total of 203, the visitors subsided after reaching a position of strength at 117 for three.

Coach Duncan Fletcher has often trotted out the theory that his men are handicapped by a lack of experience at one-day cricket, and it is true England paid far too little attention to the short game for far too many years.

But it is high time they started suggesting lessons were being learned.

Certainly, Suresh Raina - playing only his 14th international yesterday - and Irfan Pathan and Mahendra Dhoni, neither of whom has been around that long, showed the nous to help that more worldly wise No9 Harbhajan Singh extricate India from real trouble.

As for England, too many poor decisions were made by players who, even if they are still relatively wet behind the ears at this level, ought to have picked up a trick or two on the domestic scene.

Matt Prior, Kevin Pietersen and Ian Blackwell all swept to fielders waiting in the deep when there were shots offering a higher percentage of success.

And even Andrew Flintoff was sweeping - despite having seen Pietersen dismissed the over before - when he was adjudged lbw to Harbhajan's left-arm spin.

"One-day cricket is about managing the risks, and in this match we didn't manage them too well," admitted the captain. Unfortunately, though, it is not only "this match", by any means.

Part of the problem, according to at least some people, is that England have been too slow in recent years to come to the conclusion that their Test players will almost certainly be their best one-day performers.

"I don't think England are getting the balance right, and the one day team should be just the same as the Test team," said Ian Botham, who played when his country last went close to ruling the limited-overs world - all of 14 years ago. "The best players are just that and you don't find the Australians, or the India and Pakistan teams chopping and changing theirs.

"You only have to look at Matthew Hoggard to see that it is wrong. Why keep him sitting on the sidelines?

"He has improved as a bowler in the last year, done really well against India and should be in the side."

Despite Botham's claims, England made only four changes from their last Test side - the same as India.

Also, in fairness to Fletcher and the other selectors, England were trying to move towards one squad for both forms of cricket when they made their original choices for this tour.

Only Kabir Ali, Jimmy Anderson and Blackwell, of the one-day party, did not come from the Test 16 put together in early January, but injuries and unavailability have necessitated major changes.

As for Hoggard, there had to be a strong case for playing him yesterday - given his starring role with the red ball during the drawn Test series.

England clearly took the view, though, that the Yorkshireman was last into the one-day squad (their fifth and final replacement following Steve Harmison's shin injury) and therefore had to bide his time.

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