Bowlers' inconsistent approach suggests inappropriate advice

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The Independent Online

It would be lovely if a simple mechanical adjustment had had to be made in order to transform the England bowlers from the ill-disciplined bunch on view for most of the first day, into the efficient performers of the second morning. A change of break pads or a new clutch can turn an old banger into a competitive motor car. The game of cricket can seldom be put to rights with such clinical adjustments.

Naturally a good deal will have been said after the first day's play. Although Michael Vaughan is not a captain who drives his men in the same way as his predecessor, Nasser Hussain, he will surely have had some harsh things to say.

The coach, Duncan Fletcher, and the bowling coach, Troy Cooley, will have had their two-bob's worth too. The bowlers will have been feeling a pretty strong sense of shame, or at least they jolly well should have done.

They will have slept on all this and, lo and behold, they came out yesterday and did exactly what they should have done for most of Thursday.

Length and line was there; the batsmen were not given interminable opportunities to play the ball away with punishing power off their legs.

Added to which, there was a buzz about the side in the field for they were altogether sharper. They had a bit of luck too, with the decision that saw Mark Boucher out caught behind and the running out of Jacques Kallis. But when a side is playing good cricket it often makes its own luck.

This all begs the question of what was going through the minds of the England players at the start of the match. Eleven individuals chosen to represent their country should, in the best of all possible worlds, go out there and never give less than 110 per cent.

They should automatically understand what is required of them and the experienced players and the back-up staff should leave the younger players in no doubt if they appeared uncertain.

The England dressing room will have been depressed when Vaughan lost the toss, but all cricketers have many times been on the losing end there. It should have taken only a few seconds for them to have become even more determined to go out and make the opposing batsmen struggle.

England were again unable to get their act together in the field after lunch on this second day when Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini were allowed to added a crucial 52 for South Africa's last wicket. Why do England find it so difficult to put together even two good sessions in succession?

They should all strive to remember what it was that made them click as they did for the first two hours of the day and try and reassemble precisely the same frame of mind every time they go out to field. One can still only wonder about the advice they get from within.