Cricket: `I was proud and pleased with the way we approached this game'

England coach David Lloyd, after his team's 90-run surrender to the might of New Zealand A
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New Zealand A 181 & 288 England 107 & 272 New Zealand A won by 90 runs

It was a match that needed to be approached with the zeal and determination of a missionary and not, as England did, like some factory worker with one eye fixed permanently on the clock. In the end, losing to New Zealand A by 90 runs was not the worst England performance of the winter, just their most excuse-laden, an accolade that takes some beating on this tour of tall stories.

From the moment England took the field on the first day, their coach, David Lloyd, has let it be known that they had not wanted to be in Wanganui, playing a four-day match. At least not so soon after the disappointments in Auckland.

It was a point the flustered Lloyd again stressed, soon after Phil Tufnell had ensured that the game would not go beyond Sunday lunch, when he limply holed out after miscueing a careless slog at Chris Harris.

"Now we can enjoy our rest after the Test," said Lloyd, the sarcasm rolling undisguised off his Accrington tongue. "We're having a day and a half off in Wellington, which will be part of our preparation for the second Test." A comment which seemed to imply that playing a competitive four- day game against exuberant opposition was a total waste of time where Test matches are concerned.

This is not the first time Lloyd has overplayed his hand on tour. But although rest is undoubtedly important, and players do not get enough of it, England so convinced themselves of their right to have some that they were never going to win here unless their opponents handed them the game. A scenario about as likely as finding a second horse in Wanganui high street.

The players can't have it both ways, and having complained generally about how long tours keep them away from home, they cannot moan when they are condensed. In any case, countries touring England only get one day to rest and travel between matches, so England's predicament here is not being argued from unique circumstances.

Lloyd's recurring theme on rest was not the only illogical utterance, either and, in a soundbite reminiscent of the "We flipping murdered 'em," that constantly haunted him in Zimbabwe, Lloyd reckoned that England had "gained things and lost nothing," after their drubbing. And that to lose by 90 runs, having been outbowled, outbatted and outwitted, was as "good a performance as could have been expected under the circumstances. I was proud and pleased with the way we approached this game".

Quite what was good about his opening batsmen, Nick Knight and Michael Atherton, failing twice in the match, or the way England's batting capitulated against the pace of Geoff Allott and Heath Davis in the first innings, is clearly a secret between him and little green men in pointy hats.

Even Chris Silverwood's laudable six wickets in the first innings was later tempered by his wayward bowling in the second, and only Andy Caddick showed the consistency, if not the menace, required of a Test match bowler.

What is most disappointing is that the England hierarchy still do not realise that the psychology of a Test match starts long before the teams meet in the middle. What has happened here is that England have given a relatively green fast bowler (Allott) an enormous amount of confidence.

True, England have also learnt about Allott and that he does not swing the ball back into the right-hander. But he will not feel nervous either which, with just two Tests against Zimbabwe under his belt, he has no right to be and Lloyd's claim that the loss was "not damaging in the slightest," may yet backfire.

The England coach's observations were not shared by the home side's captain, Darrin Murray, who was surprised by England's half-hearted approach.

"They seemed to fire it [give it away] a bit at times," said Murray, whose side had been the first - outside of Test matches - to beat a touring team on New Zealand soil since 1983. "They just weren't prepared to dig in and fight a bit harder. We were the opposite and, once we got on top, we made sure we stayed on top."

It was the only truism of the match as England were again swept away on the last day, the only semblance of respect being a 73-run partnership between Jack Russell and Robert Croft.

It was a batting opportunity that Russell, in probably his last game on tour, was determined to make the most of. Once Croft was out, unluckily caught at short-leg as he swept the ball into the player's mid-riff, Russell treated spectators to his full idiosyncratic array of cuts and sweeps. And while others let him down at the other end, he for one, did not seem in a hurry to leave Wanganui behind.

n Danny Morrison, the hero of the last-wicket stand which thwarted England in the first Test, makes way for Geoff Allott in the New Zealand team for the second Test in Wellington, which starts on Thursday. Chris Harris comes in for Justin Vaughan and the 17-year-old left arm spinner, Daniel Vettori, replaces another spinner, Mark Haslam.



Final day; New Zealand A won toss

NEW ZEALAND A - First Innings 181 (M J Horne 64; C E W Silverwood 6-44).

ENGLAND - First Innings 107 (H T Davis 4-22, G I Allott 4-44).

NEW ZEALAND A - Second Innings 288 (C Z Harris 71, L G Howell 66).

ENGLAND - Second Innings

(Overnight: 166-6)

R C Russell not out 61

R D B Croft c Chandler b Wiseman 49

A R Caddick c Horne b Davis 12

C E W Silverwood run out 10

P C R Tufnell c Kennedy b Harris 2

Extras (b7, lb6, nb1) 14

Total (76.4 overs) 272

Fall (cont): 7-216, 8-241, 9-266.

Bowling: Allott 16-1-76-4; Davis 18-3-63-2; Kennedy 10-2-32-0; Wiseman 30-6-84-2; Harris 2.4-1-4-1.

Umpires: B Bowden and E Watkin.