Swing holds key to England hopes, says Thorpe

Published: Monday, August 20, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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LONDON : Graham Thorpe believes England's ability to cope with the swinging ball will have a major bearing on whether they win the third Test against India at The Oval.

England haven't lost a home Test campaign for six years, a run spanning eight series wins and three draws, since their 2001 Ashes defeat.

But that record is under threat after India's seven-wicket second Test win at Trent Bridge put them 1-0 up in the three-match series.

India -arm quicks Zaheer Khan and Rudra Pratap Singh have been a major thorn in England's side this series, the duo having taken 25 wickets between them in the two Tests so far.

Khan was especially impressive at Trent Bridge, winning the man-of-the-match award following a Test best return of nine for 134.

Former England batsman Thorpe, who played the last of his 100 Tests two years ago before making way for Kevin Pietersen, said it was vital England neutralised the pace pair's threat.

"It's a proud record," Thorpe told AFP at the Great British Beer Festival at London's Earl's Court exhibition centre on Tuesday where he was promoting a new 'Nightwatchman' ale devised by England's Matthew Hoggard in conjunction with brewers and England sponsor Marston's.

"If they play the swinging ball well, then they've got a good chance," the 38-year-old -hander, whose record of 6,744 Test runs at an average of nearly 45 with 16 hundreds made him arguably the best England batsman of his generation, added.

"Zaheer Khan and RP Singh have bowled very well against our batting line up so if we can get runs on the board we can win the match but we're going to have to play very good cricket."

Thorpe, whose 18-year first-class career was spent with Oval-based Surrey before he retired in 2005, said giant England quick Chris Tremlett would be an important player at the south London ground, where the Test starts on Thursday, although much would depend on the pitch.

"Tremlett's going to play a big part and the wicket will as well. They can produce two different sorts of wickets at The Oval: if they've rolled it hard it can have bounce in it, but it has tended over the last few years to be what I would call a tennis ball bounce.

"It's a little bit slower but actually there's enough bounce in it for the big guys to get something out," explained Thorpe, who in July was appointed assistant coach of Australian state side New South Wales.

India's win in Nottingham was tarnished by excessive sledging on both sides, England's jellybean stunt and the sight of fast bowler Shanthakumaran Sreesanth unleashing a beamer at Pietersen and delivering a no-ball bouncer, where he overstepped by several feet, to Paul Collingwood.

But Thorpe said he expected both sides to focus on the job in hand at his old home ground. "I think both camps would have been told to reel themselves in a little bit.

"The other thing is if England get sucked in it will detract from their ability to play good cricket and the only way they can win at The Oval is by playing good, hard cricket.

"I'm all for playing the game hard but if it starts detracting from your own performance then that becomes a problem."


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