Bowlers epitomise England's new spirit

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The Independent Online

The bowling was terrific. England's four-man seam attack, having set a benchmark in that remarkable second Test at Lord's, now showed that it was able to live up to it. The intervening one-day series was not the distraction it might have been.

The bowling was terrific. England's four-man seam attack, having set a benchmark in that remarkable second Test at Lord's, now showed that it was able to live up to it. The intervening one-day series was not the distraction it might have been.

In fact, after the poor showing in the first two one-day games, Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Craig White got their act together. It was as if someone had tapped them on the shoulder and told them to remember what bowling to a tight length and line had done for them at Lord's.

The bowlers picked themselves up and went on to win the competition. Now, helped by the return of the ultra-competitive Dominic Cork, they clicked into gear at the start of this third Test as if the second had only been a day or two ago and not almost five weeks.

Of course, players thrive on the confidence of their success. But too often in recent years England's bowlers have won an isolated Test in fine style, but 10 days later, when they have come to the next match, have bowled as if the earlier one had never happened.

The importance of the discipline which had brought them the earlier victory had been forgotten. Their concentration had wandered. Perhaps this was the result of a couple of easy county games and perhaps because their minds had not been refocused by those in charge in the dressing-room.

Now, there was a welcome meanness and singleness of purpose about the bowling. Obviously, they had seen for themselves the virtue of consistency, but the mercifully unflappable temperament of their coach, Duncan Fletcher, will, I am sure, have had a significant part to play.

There is clearly a spirit in the England dressing-room which has been missing for a long time. It is a vibrancy which has to have self-belief as its basis. This was very apparent in the fielding too, where every chance was snaffled and Graham Thorpe and Nasser Hussain came up with a couple of beauties.

Team spirit is not something which flutters in overnight. It is the end product of a long campaign where performance together with attitude and application are built up. This has been a process which had its start when Fletcher and Hussain took over towards the end of last year.

Inevitably, it has been slow-moving and there will still be hesitations and setbacks along the way. Nonetheless, the grass is moving in an encouraging direction. The introduction of Marcus Trescothick and the manner in which he has settled in to his new environment is a matter of great credit to him and also to the England management.

The dressing-room probably now has an atmosphere which is easier for, and more sympathetic to, the needs of young players, than it has had for some time. This again is a measure of Fletcher and Hussain's burgeoning partnership.

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