One step forward, two steps backward

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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It was like watching the England 20 years ago. There was little change in their attitude towards limited overs cricket and it seemed it had reconciled itself to a defeat even as Michael Vaughan made a mess of the toss by deciding to bat.

England's decision to take the first strike was incomprehensible.

The wicket at Barbados is known to help the bowlers initially and it proved an unwise move as South Africa grabbed the opportunity and struck early blows.

It was disappointing to see England succumb without a fight in a match that was supposed to decide the course of its future in the tournament.

There was something missing as far as England was concerned and it was certainly a reflection on their attitude and ability to fight.

There was hardly an attempt to improve.

How can a team depend on just one or two individuals in a situation where the effort has to be collective? England has not changed its approach at all and looks like a team out of place when comes to competing with the big guns of international cricket.

At no stage did England appear to be looking at making South Africa earn a place in the next round. Three maiden overs cannot be an encouraging sign and it only led to creating more pressure as England struggled to come to terms with the challenge. South Africa was allowed to establish their dominance early and the course of the contest became quite predictable.

England's problems multiplied in the Super Eights. Andrew Flintoff was off-colour and Vaughan was not able to motivate the team. It can be very difficult to defend a target of 155 in such a crucial match and England learnt their lesson the hard way.

South Africa was quick to plug their loopholes and they were not averse to take the field without Makhaya Ntini, one of the their trusted performers. The idea was to enter the arena with men best qualified to snuff England out and the team grew under the leadership of Graeme Smith in this match.

The victory was a proof of South Africa's ability to handle pressure. The same could not be said of England. The one-day talent of England is mediocre indeed and the team can actually boast of only three quality cricketers in Vaughan, Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen.

The English have to seriously think of getting the best combination because someone like Paul Collingwood needs conditions to thrive. He is not the kind of batsman I would think twice before bowling at, but Pietersen and Flintoff belong to a special category. England was not in the game at all and the comfortable victory for South Africa was well earned.

South Africa gained a lot by adopting positive tactics. It was clear that the team wanted to win. They used the conditions to their advantage and it was some brilliant work by Andrew Hall that set up the platform for such a convincing victory for South Africa. It was a wonderful exhibition of swing and reverse swing by Hall, the best in the tournament so far.

South Africa's fielding was once again the strong point and Smith too led impeccably, getting the best out of a team that was low on morale a few days ago when they lost to Bangladesh.

The South African reply was on expected lines and the batsmen showed fine thinking by attacking the English bowlers, never allowing them to settle down.

I think the result went according to form. South Africa was the better side and also well prepared. Smith and his men knew they were close to qualifying and had to give their best in this vital match. They clicked at the right time and this is what matters most in a team game. You can't always rely on individuals to show the way.


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