All hands on deck for foundering England

The remarkable scenes witnessed at the Oval and Trafalgar Square following England's dramatic victory in the Ashes will ensure that 2005 is looked on as a successful year for Michael Vaughan and his team. But England's annus mirabilis is set to finish on a horribilis note if they continue to play as they have in the last two one-day matches against Pakistan.

There have been distractions - the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award and the claustrophobic security in Karachi; there have been reasons - England are without Michael Vaughan, Kevin Pietersen, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones; and there has been some very disappointing cricket.

Yet England, amazingly, are only 2-1 down in the series and could still return home as winners in a week's time if they win the final two games of the tour. It is highly unlikely, judging by the gulf in class that exists between the two sides and the body language of the England squad as they travelled from Karachi to Islamabad, but it is possible.

If England are to pull off a major surprise, they will need to improve every facet of their cricket. Paul Collingwood attempted to put a positive spin on things yesterday when he suggested that the team needed to do a number of things "one per cent better than they were" but batting, bowling and fielding only adds up to three in my book and Pakistan appear to be about 50 per cent better than England at the moment.

Each member of the squad may have an eye on next Thursday's flight home but several members of the team have plenty to play for in the next five days. The players listed above will return to the one-day squad selected for India and an equivalent number here may find themselves running around a cold, empty county ground in April rather than a throbbing stadium in Goa.

The most competitive battle will be between Matthew Prior and Geraint Jones. Vaughan's knee injury gave Prior the chance to impress at the top of the order, where he has played three promising innings, but England will not play two wicket-keepers in the same team when the captain returns.

Jones has kept well here but he is yet to pass 20. England initially selected Jones ahead of Chris Read because of his ability with the bat and he could find himself being replaced by a potentially better batter.

Ian Blackwell is also in need of a decent score in the remaining two games. His left-arm spin has been respectable but the soft manner in which his two innings have ended highlights why has not established himself in the team.

It was hard not to feel sorry for James Anderson on Thursday. He bowled well for nine overs but the 10th was slogged for 23 by Inzamam-ul-Haq and Abdul Razzaq. Liam Plunkett is still at the "showing potential" stage of his career but the positive impression he has made on the tour has pushed him ahead of Anderson. Simon Jones and Chris Tremlett will be available for selection in India and Anderson needs to remind the selectors what he can do.

But it is not just the individuals who need to improve. England's planning is in need of reform. If England are to be realistic contenders for winning the 2007 World Cup, they need to be capable of chasing down totals of 300.

Pakistan made a decent effort at overhauling England's 327 in the first one-dayer, and at the 40-over stage they were on exactly the same score as the visitors. England were never likely to score the 354 they required two days ago, but they had little idea of how to set about the task. Duncan Fletcher and Matthew Maynard, England's coaches, have as much work to do as the players.

* India will leapfrog England in the ICC Test world rankings if they avoid defeat in their final Test with Sri Lanka in Ahmedabad, which starts tomorrow. The Indians will be confident after taking a 1-0 lead in the series with a 188-run victory in the last Test at New Delhi.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?