Monday, July 25, 2005

Same Old England

This summer promised to be different for England. But there was always a chance some of the old doubts would creep in; that beneath the confident exterior was lurking a psyche that simply refused to believe defeating the Australians was a very real possibility. But the capitulation in this first Ashes test has been less about psychological issues than about real cricketing weaknesses that have been ruthlessly exposed by two of the premier bowlers in the world, McGrath and Warne. This series was always going to be about how England tackled their nemeses, and they have failed their first serious test and badly at that. It all looked so different after Harmison and company had put the Aussies through the wringer on the opening day. It took only a few overs, from a man who seems to achieve every target he sets and is unafraid to publicly proclaim, for the dream to turn sour. Old failings such as fielding lapses resurfaced, even from unlikely and normally reliable quarters. There was also a singular lack of intensity in the second innings when England took the field, which may have been influenced by the deflating experience they had undergone against McGrath and his cohorts. McGrath is going to be McGrath, especially in English conditions that suit him almost perfectly. But England’s greatest problem is how they overcome the wiles of Warne, something they have never really managed to. For, if they solve that piece, they can look to contain McGrath (how?) and attack the others. It may be a little late for test cricketers to change basic techniques, but it’s never too late to learn to make adjustments. England should look at the way Michael Clarke approached Ashley Giles’ bowling (harmless as it was). They can also go back in time and may be look at some tape from India’s encounters against Warne. Bottom line is, they cannot fall into a defensive mindset against him. - NK

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