Cricket: Australian panache pays off

Stephen Brenkley sees young England learn a lesson in tenacity
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The Independent Online
IT IS a cast-iron certainty that at least some of the players who represented England Under-19s so diligently if unsuccessfully yesterday will go on to play senior one-day internationals and Test matches. The odds indicate, given the recent state of evolution, that they will do so with scant success.

One day in the not too distant future the eager but professional teenagers who looked so assured, so proud, so gutsy at Chelmsford - until, the Australians seized the game by its scruff in the last 10 overs - will wake up to headlines which contain the words collapse, hopeless and sack.

It has become a truism: England can match the world while they are growing up but when it comes to the senior stuff they muck it up. Last year they became world Under-19 champions. Three of that side are still playing.

The inability to bridge the gulf will shortly become the stuff of research papers. What precisely happens to these lads? Are they sucked into a defective system (the Championship, that is) whose faults they cannot help but copy? Have some of them already been sucked in? Does the level of cricket suddenly become much tougher? Is the coaching they receive as young men of sufficient merit to stand them in good stead later?

If answers had been found to those questions, England would stand atop world cricket now. They have been a long time in coming and they were not necessarily on hand in the second one-day international against Australia. England had won the first on Friday with a composed, meticulous performance. It had seemed they might be short of runs but they gritted their teeth and bowled Australia out of it.

For long enough yesterday it seemed as though something similar was abroad. England had made 234 for 9, which may not have seemed enough, yet it looked plenty when Australia were 152 for 6 with 39 overs gone.

But Alan Rowe and Nathan Hauritz put on an unbeaten 84 in 11 overs, won by four wickets with five balls left, and batted with, dare one say it, a typical antipodean swagger.

One-all and one to play is not a dire position but England were a touch wanting in the field when the screw was being turned and the bowlers lost their line enough to allow the Australians to be adventurous. England's innings had at least been built on collective effort, although it lacked a major individual contribution.

The highest score was made by Giles Haywood of Sussex, and his innings was commendable because he came in at 139 for 4, which soon became 139 for 5 as he was involved in a run-out. He played the ball on its merits but also recognised the need to push on. His tally of 56 from 63 balls with three fours and a six met precisely his side's needs.

The Australians fielded like panthers. Their catching was far from impeccable but their throwing at the stumps was fast and accurate. It cost England three run-outs in all.

The reply started auspiciously for England when Richard Logan took a wicket with the first ball of the innings. Indeed, only Luke Williams seemed to stand between England and victory.

He took four successive fours off Graeme Bridge, hit nine others in all and when he went for 93 off 131 balls, bowled by the persevering Chris Liptrot, that seemed to be that. Not so.

There was much of authority about England but the mini-Test series starts on 17 August and it does not bear thinking about that the Aussies may be here only for the Ashes.

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