Coach's corner: Moores plays straight bat over chances of victory

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The Independent Online

There is no card school in the England dressing-room any more. Peter Moores, their coach, reports that when it is raining they make for the Indoor School at Lord's and do some "physical maintenance" (his phrase). Sore muscles are eased by the physio, but days like yesterday are especially frustrating. When it drizzles and prospects of play are uncertain, the players feel they ought to hover around ready to play without much warning. Yesterday, they hovered by the TV and watched the Cup final.

Moores (pictured below) was imprecise at the end of a day that was annoying whether you were in the dressing room or the crowd, not least because it is hard to get a fix on this Test after three days' play. Moores was asked if it is still winnable after play was finally abandoned at 5.30pm. "I don't know," he replied. Of course it is possible for any team to win any game; England might score plenty of runs quickly and New Zealand collapse – or vice versa.

"We've got to take it in stages. We've got to get some platform to get up to their score," he said. He was pleased by his side's performance with ball and bat on Friday. "I thought we did really well, and it was frustrating not to be able to push on today." It may indeed be possible to win any game, but the idea that England will win this one is already unlikely and, with that, so goes the England whitewash that was confidently forecast by the players and the press at the start of the series.

The regularity with which the players came on and off the field – five times on Friday, and one fatal time yesterday – raised questions about the enthusiasm with which England batsmen accept the light. Moores was happy with the decision of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook's decision to walk off on Friday night: "It was 5.35pm and the light had gone." But he did think it conceivable that had it not rained as well yesterday morning the opening pair would have tolerated the gloom to press on with the score.

The most heartfelt complaint about the on/off procession came from the New Zealandall-rounder Jacob Oram, who needs a five-minute warm-up before returning to the action, and did not have enough time to loosen up on Friday. But he added: "It wasn't frustrating when we went off at the end because the momentum was with them."

There were other things on Moores' mind yesterday. Matthew Hoggard had broken a thumb while facing a disobliging Steve Harmison, and has been ruled out of next week's Old Trafford Test. Chris Tremlett is injured again, having strained his back, though he might be fit for the Second Test. Moores said Harmison – "a senior England player" – would be considered as the 12th man in the squad.

Kevin Pietersen is a longer-term problem, but one that is always with Moores. Pietersen is making noises about playing in the Indian Premier League next year. He has made it a financial imperative. Moores played the Pietersen question with a straight bat: "We can't give any answers at the moment. But it's a difficult decision, an interesting decision. We need to see what's best for England, and what's best for the players." You could turn his answer into a piece of doggerel from a music-hall number: "He didn't say no, he didn't say go."

In fact, Moores, an energetic 40-year-old tracksuit manager, was cheerful at the end of a long day. When it was pointed out to him that since he succeeded as coach two Lord's Tests have been severely interrupted by rain, he politely but firmly refused to take personal responsibility.