Cricket: How criticism can be a catalyst for unity

IN CASE anybody thinks differently, it is worth pointing out that the England dressing-room was full of profoundly disappointed men after the Second Test defeat against New Zealand. History had been made. It was the first time in more than 60 years of trying that the Kiwis had won at Lord's.

We knew we had played badly, we knew we deserved to lose. After the match was over, after the deeds which led to our downfall had been committed we had an honest, open meeting. There was no point in hiding, there was no hiding place. The second innings in which we needed 172 to make the opposition bat again had contained some ill-judged strokes.

Both Alec Stewart and Mark Butcher would probably play different shots if they had their time again. I certainly would. I had got myself in, I was feeling settled if a little perplexed by the New Zealanders' defensive tactics. Then I received a wide one outside off stump and thought it deserved punishing. I went for it and edged behind. Maybe it was too wide, it was a misjudgement and I have to admit that.

So it was a sombre mood and in its wake the defeat has brought castigation and derision. That is part of playing sport in the public eye, under the spotlight. Any honest assessment of England's performance both in the first innings and second innings at Lord's would have to conclude the obvious: we did not score enough runs to put the opposition under pressure.

There are one or two observations that should be made. Batting in a Test match is a question of balance and tempo. In Australia last winter England were bombarded with criticism for not being more assertive in taking the attack to the Aussies. At Lord's, before we set out to cut the deficit, we decided that we would do so by selective attacking.

After the new-ball overs the Kiwis' tactics became somewhat introverted. Suddenly, they did not play as if they had a commanding lead. They were containing. This heightened England's difficulty but we played some shots. Now these proved to be ill-advised because we got out. But this balance factor remains a delicate one.

On the one hand we might be expected to attack, to play shots, on the other we are mindful that it is a five-day game, that innings can be eked out through sheer graft. Balance and tempo.

At Edgbaston, England won with a deliberate policy of attack and it came off. The side were heroes, now we are villains. It was noticeable at Lord's last Saturday night as Aftab Habib and I were batting. The position was obviously perilous, England were three wickets down and up against it and we were cautious. Sections of the crowd slow-handclapped. Balance and tempo.

Batting is a knife-edge occupation. There is an element of risk in every shot you play. Half-volleys can be nicked to the keeper. It is the fine judgement that we got wrong last weekend. The criticism is bound to have an effect on the side in some form and might infuse doubts in some. But it must also, as I have stressed before, act as a catalyst for uniting the side.

England played badly but they have to remain positive, to go to Old Trafford seeking that balance once more - prepared to play six good balls in a row or 18 good balls in a row and hit the bad one when it comes along.

It might also be pertinent to remember on the eve of the Third Test that it is 1-1 in the series, that despite the criticism that has been levelled at England, there is still plenty to play for, the team are not behind. That, I reckon, is a crucial point in assessing the damage so far.

It would have been useful for all the England batsmen to have a Championship match after the Second Test and before the Third. For batsmen playing for England that can be a good combination: Test, Championship, Test, Championship. But the peculiarities of the fixture list have not allowed it.

None of the batsmen who played at Lord's - which is not to say, of course, that they will be the batsmen who are selected for Manchester - has had a chance to play a long innings in a four-day match since. This is not exactly helpful. Nasser Hussain's Essex are playing in one of the three Championship matches but, of course, Nasser is not fit. His broken finger last Saturday had an effect on the team, of course it did. So early in his tenure it was a rotten accident. He is batting so well we must hope he is fit. But we can cope without him. As for the replacement captain, should there need to be one, well if Michael Atherton were to be selected in the side and asked to lead it, I don't think any player would object.

Finally, a word for New Zealand. They are a solid unit with some decent bowlers who got it where it counted at Lord's. But they can be beaten and it is England's job at Old Trafford to ensure that they are. It will be interesting to hear the reaction then.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game