Cricket: Spirited England guard against complacency

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The Independent Online
England will take on Australia in today's second Texaco one-day international at The Oval with their confidence galvanised by victory and their sinews hardened by a satisfying first skirmish. Indeed, so well executed and polite was their performance at Headingley on Thursday, that Mark Taylor's side must have felt they had been mugged by Oliver Twist and not Bill Sykes.

However, rusty though Australia appear at the moment, there is nothing more revengeful than a kangaroo with its jockstrap in a twist, and England must not allow themselves, as they did after leading New Zealand 2-0 during the winter, to concede their position by being complacent.

"We know we're playing a top team," said the England coach, David Lloyd, yesterday. "It's been a terrific start for us, but there is still a long way to go."

Hailing a rounded and well-planned team performance for the reasons behind the victory, Lloyd placed special emphasis on the inclusion of what he calls "two- and three- dimensional cricketers", ones who can bat, bowl and field like demons. "It gives us aggression, flair and flexibility," he added.

One who fits that particular mould perfectly is Adam Hollioake. In only his third limited-over international, the Surrey captain not only performed all three with distinction, but had the added pressure of doing it in front of his parents, who had flown over from Perth to watch.

Hollioake, an impressively reassuring presence on a cricket pitch, clearly intended to savour the moment as long as possible, and could not be tempted to join in the team celebrations until after the Beeb's hour-long highlights had finished. Even when he did, the casual revelry that greeted him spoke volumes about this England side's attitude.

Unlike previous occasions, there was none of the hysterical partying of a team surprised by their victory over the old enemy. Just a few beers to toast a job well done.

Mind you, such is the temporary quality and fast forward blur of one- day cricket that neither victory nor defeat can be dwelt on for too long.

Australia know this better than most, for they play more one-day internationals than anyone else. For that reason their play at Headingley made hardly a single concession to the conditions. They have a fatalistic approach towards this type of cricket for they know, that like those who await No 11 buses, it will not be long before another opportunity comes along.

They also know that The Oval, with its big boundaries and true pitch, is more likely to suit them than Headingley. They may even get away with cobbling together a fifth bowler, unless Michael Bevan is prepared to try out his injured wrist or Brendon Julian is brought in to reacquaint himself with familiar surroundings.

England will also consider making the odd change as well, and if the pitch is dry, the left-arm spin of Ashley Giles could well replace the seam of either Phil DeFreitas or Dean Headley. If he can do even half the job Robert Croft managed on Thursday it will be a selection well made.

Croft is maturing and burgeoning with every outing. At Headingley he even had the confidence to change his grip on the ball when the cold took its toll. If he was compromised it did not show as he bottled up the Australian middle order.

Whatever the changes, Lloyd is keen that his players still observe the rudiments of the game. "We're looking to pick strong characters these days," he said. "We've enough self-doubt as a country and were trying to put together a team the public can identify with.

"I believe we're doing everything right, structure-wise. Now we've got to perform."

ENGLAND (possible): M A Atherton (capt), N V Knight, A J Stewart (wkt), G P Thorpe, G D Lloyd, A J Hollioake, M A Ealham, R D B Croft, P A J DeFreitas, D Gough, A F Giles.