Cricket: Trombonists, then a blast from my brother

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The Independent Online
SCOTLAND SHOWED us on Sunday that there will be no room for complacency in this seventh World Cup. A four from their first ball was a great way to start and 181 runs is no bad total in your first appearance in the tournament. Their bowlers used a decent line and length and made us work hard for our runs. My score of 67 was pleasing, if a bit scratchy, but personal performances are not something we can dwell on. It is how we function as a team that now has to be our top priority.

With no disrespect to Scotland, had we been playing one of the leading sides in the competition there is little question that we would have lost. We gave away too many extras, we dropped catches and our batting was nervous.

In his role as captain afterwards, my brother Stephen said our fielding had been atrocious and the batting had left a lot to be desired. I can only agree and, unless we smarten up our act in all departments, we are going to struggle against the more experienced sides.

Having said all that, we are still only one game into a tournament lasting five weeks and potentially 10 matches. We are still finding our feet and there is certainly no sense of alarm in the camp. The bottom line is that we got the result we needed against Scotland and we still intend to go all the way.

Our next match on Thursday will see us playing in Cardiff against our Antipodean neighbours and rivals New Zealand. It does not matter what sport our two countries are competing in - rugby union, rugby league, football or cricket - the encounters are always closely fought affairs and Thursday will no different. In a way, you could compare our relationship with the Kiwis with the English relationship with the Scots. There is also plenty of friendly animosity.

To add some spice to this week's game New Zealand are coached by an Australian, Steve Rixon. We used to play together for a while with New South Wales and I can vouch for the fact that he is a very competitive individual. He is a tough character and hates losing.

I saw the New Zealanders beat Bangladesh yesterday on the television and I thought they did what they had to do. There is no doubt that Steve, who knows our players almost as well as his own, will prepare his side well.

The onus is on us to start producing the kind of cricket we know we are capable of and there can be few better incentives than trying to beat the Kiwis, whose good form in the last six to 12 months cannot be taken lightly.

They will probably go into the match with conditions in their favour. The slow, seamish wickets will resemble conditions in New Zealand and it will be a truer and sterner test for us than the Scotland match and should give us some idea of where we stand.

Hopefully we will not see a repeat of the, albeit minor, pitch invasions we saw over the weekend. Our game, and India's match with South Africa at Hove, both saw crowd overspills. While we must keep the whole thing in perspective, we have to be aware that it only takes one lunatic to turn a seemingly harmless situation into a genuinely dangerous one.

This is not an issue about just one set of fans. The Scottish supporters were brilliant, singing and knocking out tunes on their trombones. That is the kind of thing that might make the World Cup a real carnival. Watching the Bangladesh fans on the television yesterday gave the same impression. Their side may get beaten, but they will have some fun watching them being beaten. Every run or wicket is being cheered as if it was a match winner.

England meet Kenya in Canterbury today on the back of a good opening win against Sri Lanka on Friday. Alan Mullally bowled beautifully in that match, as he did on the recent tour of Australia. You always know that in his 10 overs Mullally will hold things together and, along with Darren Gough who bowled well early, could be one of England's most dangerous weapons. Alec Stewart's return to form will do the English no harm either.

More than anything, perhaps, England's win was necessary for confidence. As I wrote on Saturday, I think that the Sri Lankans, despite being the holders, will struggle. For England to beat them in such a workmanlike manner was still a fillip, as defeat would have been disastrous.

England can now go into the match against Kenya unburdened by the extra pressure of looking for a first success. The Kenyans showed against Zimbabwe that they have a few players who can whack the ball around, but England's relative class should prove too much.

The weekend's other games went as expected. India were in contention against South Africa for much of the match, but Lance Klusener finished them off. The strength of depth in the South African batting, combined with the side's ability to take pressure, could be what marks them out from the rest.

In the match between Pakistan and the West Indies at Bristol both sides had a genuine chance, with the ball dominating the bat early on. The Pakistani bowling was too strong in the end, however, and will be a danger to everyone facing it.

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