Batting exhibits no confidence and no sign of a plan

Henry Blofeld is less than impressed with his first sighting of England on tour
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The Independent Online
After being in Zimbabwe for 12 hours I was left in no doubt that the England players and management have been exceedingly put out by the criticism which has been levelled at them so far on this tour.

Twelve hours later, during the lunch interval, I realised not only that the criticism of their batting, at any rate, had been more than justified and that, in all probability, they had not yet heard the half of it. Theirs was a dreadful performance in conditions which will certainly have come as no surprise to them.

Although their abysmal start against Mashonaland was followed by two victories against a poor Matabeleland side, the philosophy within the England party seems to be that with short tours and so little time to acclimatise the results of the early matches do not matter as long as the players are building up their form.

The weakness of this thinking is that failure to win, not to say losing matches, can become habit-forming. A touring side needs quickly to convince itself, let alone others, that it can win. A couple of resounding victories against weak opposition at the start does wonders for self-confidence, a quality which is frighteningly short in England's batting line-up at present.

The batsmen were all but bailed out by the bowlers who did a wonderful job and were shrewdly handled by Mike Atherton. But this must not be allowed to cover up the truth which was that, in manageable conditions, the England batsmen made no sort of a fist of it and seemed to have learned nothing in the last two weeks out here.

Also, there was no discernible plan for the innings. It was quickly clear that 200 would take an awful lot of scoring in the second innings and the batting should have been tailored to this end. Boundaries were always going to be hard to come by, which made it so important for the batsmen to graft away for the ones and twos.

England did not do this well and no one was more guilty than Atherton whose 29 took 76 balls. Admittedly, they were up against as good a fielding side as I have seen and a balanced attack of six bowlers who all knew exactly what they had to do, although they are hardly world-beaters.

It was a dangerous pitch on which to drive when the front foot was not right to the pitch of the ball. Three batsmen were caught driving when they were not quite there and at least two others were lucky not to be. It was unintelligent batting and showed how vulnerable this aspect of England's game is.

One great bonus was the splendid performance of Chris Silverwood in his first one-day international. The Yorkshireman bowled with life and control as he banged the ball into the pitch from his great height. He took the first two wickets to fall and put a brake on Zimbabwe, finishing with 2 for 27 in his 10 overs. It was a performance which promised much for the future.