JUSTIN LANGER criticised England's failure to play positive cricket yesterday in their drawn match with Western Australia and claimed it was a symptom of the problems in the county game.
The Australian Test batsman, who scored 1,448 first-class runs for Middlesex last summer, was upset when the tourists, set 282 for victory in a minimum of 63 overs, decided to use the time for batting practice. Against an inexperienced line-up England reached 192 for 4 at the close.
"What's the point of playing the game if you don't play to win?" Langer said. "You get plenty of time in the nets, so you may as well play to win - I'd expect any side to try and win a game, never mind an international side."
The Sheffield Shield champions, resuming on 170 for 1, began the day as they finished the previous night by battering the England attack as Langer and Ryan Campbell added 40 runs in the opening nine overs.
Langer was caught in the deep for 41 by Mark Ramprakash but Campbell, 117 overnight, continued his onslaught and drove Angus Fraser for four successive boundaries en route to a brilliant 146 off just 147 balls. His innings included 23 fours until he was caught in the deep by the substitute fielder Peter Such to earn Robert Croft his second wicket.
England, deprived of Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart before the match through injury and without Mark Butcher after a nasty blow to the head while batting on Sunday, were reluctant to chase the generous victory target.
They lost Dominic Cork, opening in place of Butcher, to the second ball of their innings and from then on England were content to use the time for practice. Graham Thorpe, continuing his rehabilitation after missing most of last season with a back injury, hit an unbeaten 64 and John Crawley top-scored with 65 to intensify the competition for the final two places in England's Test batting line-up.
David Lloyd, the England coach, said: "I have always said that I want competition for places. It's got to be a competitive side to get into. If you're doing well you're in and if you're not there's somebody knocking on your door and it's a good situation that we're in."
Western Australia won toss
WESTERN AUSTRALIA - First Innings 334 for 8 dec (S M Katich 106, J L Langer 85, M Nicholson 58 no; D Gough 4-74).
ENGLAND - First Innings 321 (N Hussain 118, M R Ramprakash 81; M Nicholson 7-77).
WESTERN AUSTRALIA - Second Innings
R J Campbell c sub b Croft 146
*J L Langer c Ramprakash b Croft 41
S M Katich not out 24
M G Dighton not out 27
Extras (lb2, nb1) 3
Total (for 3 dec, 64 overs) 268
Fall (cont): 2-210, 3-220.
Did not bat: S R Cary, K M Harvey, S Jurgensen, M Nicholson, B J Oldroyd, C Rogers.
Bowling: Gough 8-1-42-0; Cork 14-5-46-0; Croft 21-5-68-2; Mullally 8- 1-29-1; Fraser 7-1-49-0; Ramprakash 6-0-32-0.
ENGLAND - Second Innings
J P Crawley c Katich b Nicholson 65
D G Cork c Nicholson b Cary 0
*N Hussain c Katich b Jurgensen 28
G P Thorpe not out 64
M R Ramprakash lbw b Oldroyd 14
W K Hegg not out 11
Extras (b4, lb5, nb1) 10
Total (for 4, 65 overs) 192
Fall: 1-2, 2-88, 3-121, 4-162.
Did not bat: M A Butcher, R D B Croft, D Gough, A R C Fraser, A D Mullally.
Bowling: Jurgensen 10-4-26-1; Cary 5-3-11-1; Nicholson 14-3-45-1; Harvey 5-2-15-0; Oldroyd 23-5-56-1; Katich 8-1-30-0.
Umpires: D Harper and T Prue.