Tuesday, 17 April 2007


The humiliating loss to South Africa was a fitting exit for an England team that had offered little to the 2007 World Cup. From the moment they failed to challenge New Zealand in their opening match England have stuttered and stumbled along, showing glimpses of quality, like nearly snatching victory against Sri Lanka and pummeling Australia for half an innings, but generally being consistently mediocre.

Poor selection and preparation has yielded poor performances from most of the team. Only Pietersen and Collingwood have played consistently well. Flintoff has bowled pretty well, but failed utterly with the bat, while Bopara and Nixon have played some fine cameos, as well as those memorable innings against Sri Lanka. Other odd good performances have punctuated the general malaise, but failed to dispell it.

Fletcher, who so brilliantly lifted England from the abyss when he first became coach, now looks bereft of ideas and the end is surely nigh. Perhaps, one more good season of home Tests is all he has left - it would be sad to see him leave now on such a terrible note.

Where England go from here in ODIs is hard to say. They have the nucleus of a good team - Pietersen, Flintoff, Collingwood, Bopara, Panesar and Anderson, but badly need more quality in key areas. Both opener slots are up for grabs, at least one of whom needs to be an aggressive big hitter (if not Trescothick then someone like him). Hopefully the forthcoming county season will yield such players, along with a genuine strike bowler, unless Simon Jones can overcome his injury problems.

The debate over the keeper will rage on, with many calling for one keeper in ODIs and another in Tests. I would prefer to see England select a keeper who can bat for both forms of cricket. My choice would be Steven Davies, though many see him as much more of a Test keeper than one for ODIs. If England do split the role then Nixon has made a good case for himself in ODIs or Prior could be given another go, with Davies in Tests.

Whatever else happens England must learn the harsh lessons given to them in this tournament and start playing ODI cricket in the aggressive manner that the best international teams have been doing for the last decade.

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