Cricket: A different game of tactical awareness

Henry Blofeld suggests that England are showing impressive short- game acumen
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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S one-day cricket in the Caribbean has been as well-ordered and disciplined as their Test cricket was loose and disorganised. This has been in sharp contrast to their opponents who have not yet got their minds round the needs of the limited-over game.

There is a measured certainty and solidity about the way in which England have played, just as the side has been impressively handled by Adam Hollioake. Every man has a job to do and knows what that job is. The West Indies have been happy-go-lucky to a damaging degree.

Of course, when you have won a hard-fought Test series, a handful of one-day matches may seem of only marginal importance. Conversely, if you have lost a Test series, a one-day competition gives the chance to salvage something, especially if the side have been rejuvenated by half a dozen hungry new faces. There has, though, been a clear difference in awareness, planning and techniques between the teams.

There was a rewarding sense of purpose about England's performances in Barbados. They were twice put in to bat by Brian Lara, and both times they built a commanding total and then never lost their nerve in the field even if they lost the second match by one wicket with one ball to go.

In the first game, an opening stand of 165 in 31 overs set them on their way. But the middle order did not press on and it was left to the sixth- wicket pair of Adam Hollioake and the always admirable Matthew Fleming to score between them the 40 runs at the end which proved to be decisive. This time, the new-ball bowlers did not flinch when Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert launched their usual assault and both were gone before 30 was on the board. Lara then made a magnificent hundred and, with Carl Hooper, looked to have the match won. The bowlers did a fine job, whittling away at the West Indians; a brilliant pick up by Ben Hollioake accounted for Lara; and although Rawle Lewis and Franklyn Rose took the West Indies to within reach of victory, their nerve broke at the end.

In the second match, England always had someone to stand up and be counted when it got tough after the fall of early wickets. This was in sharp contrast to the West Indies. Wallace, Lambert and Lara all set off like steam engines and came to a reckless, unnecessary end. They were clearly not playing to a plan. Hooper and Stuart Williams added 132 and had only to pick up the runs on offer to win the match. But they attempted big shots against bowling which again never faltered, and got out. But for a couple of dropped catches, the West Indies would not have won.

Nowhere has the contrast between the two sides been more noticeable than with the fielding. The taking of half-chances and the brilliant run-outs by England have high- lighted this difference. So too, has the throwing.

England throw in from the deep with the low flat throw which comes to the keeper on the long hop and arrives more quickly than the balloon throw. The West Indies have not yet worked that one out, and the excellent all- round composure of this England one-day side suggests that they might win next year's World Cup.