Cricket / First Test: Batsmen underline confidence gap between sides

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The Independent Online
ENGLISH cricket is in a muddle; at the moment; the side has been deserted by the luck it so badly needs and many of the wounds have been self-inflicted. Confidence is at a low ebb and this was a most pronounced difference between the sides yesterday. Australia lost in the winter, too, narrowly to the West Indies, that will have disappointed rather than shocked them. They have come to England certain they will beat a side who lost so hopelessly in India and Sri Lanka.

The Australian batsmen will have had misgivings during the first few overs, but the pitch was no great help to the bowlers. A generous supply of half-volleys will have done no harm to morale and it was the

approach of the batsmen which underlined the confidence gap.

Mark Taylor never wastes any time establishing squatter's rights on a pitch and from his first ball batted like a man who knew he had a long job ahead of him. There was no fuss, he is the least histrionic of batsmen, and he batted as if he was expecting to play a long innings.

Michael Slater in his first Test gave much the same impression as he revealed a good technique and an excellent temperament. David Boon may have made only 21 but he looked so reassuringly confident.

Over the last six months most of England's batsmen seem to have been in a semi-permanent state of jitters. It was impossible to avoid a comparison with the calm deportment of Australia's first three and the more nervous, uncertain and unconvincing antics of England's counterparts this year. If only confidence was not such an important and elusive will o' the wisp.