Dominic Cork: Nerve-racking ties were just what England needed

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The Independent Online

I don't know what was said in the England dressing room halfway through their game against South Africa, but whatever it was it needs saying a bit more often as this World Cup progresses. Having scored only 171, England could have caved in. And, with that amazing loss to Ireland still fresh in the memory, I'm pretty sure a lot of cricket followers expected Andrew Strauss's team to roll over and die in Chennai. But whether it came from the captain or coach Andy Flower, I'm certain there would have been some plain talking along the lines of: "Right, we're representing the country and we either defend this total or the chances are we'll be going home soon."

Thankfully, the words hit the spot and the bowlers rolled up their sleeves to produce a performance that should do the whole camp a power of good. But now we need to see more of that from England and, clearly, there is still plenty of room for improvement. I'm in Barbados at the moment, on pre-season tour with Hampshire, and I can tell you that even out here we were in a state of shock after the defeat by Ireland.

Because of the time difference it's a case of playing catch-up a little bit with the subcontinent nine or ten hours ahead of the Caribbean. So when I heard that England had been taken apart by O'Brien I assumed it was Niall, who has had a decent career in county cricket. But, no, it was his brother, Kevin.

I'm sorry, but there is no way in the world, never mind in the World Cup, that England should have lost to Ireland. And despite what Graeme Swann said about people being over-critical so soon after praising the team for their display during that tied game against India, I think the players have to accept that if you lose to the Irish you deserve all the stick coming your way.

But as it happens – and, of course, it is easier to say this now than a few days ago – losing to Ireland may have been just the shock to the system that England needed. And, similarly, winning a low-scoring nerve-tingler against South Africa could do them even more good than romping to a straightforward victory. Coming out on top after you've been staring down both barrels is a terrific confidence booster because it convinces everyone that the team can emerge triumphant from any situation.

Losing Stuart Broad is a big blow, particularly after he bowled so well against South Africa, and the absence of Kevin Pietersen means England must come up with Plan B for the top of the order. From now on, though, they must make sure they are up for every ball of every game.

It is no good taking your foot off the pedal, even for a second – and if anyone thinks that the next game, against Bangladesh on Friday, will be comfortable, then think again. It will be tough against opponents fighting for their World Cup lives – probably very tough on a slow pitch with plenty of overs of spin.

But let's hope England are now on the march. Jimmy Anderson bowled much better during the South Africa match, and I think the move to play Ravi Bopara, rather than Paul Collingwood, was a great decision. The time is right to give Ravi a good run in this competition.

England now have a wonderful chance to reach the quarter-finals and once you are at the knock-out stage, pretty much anything can happen.





African opposition left smarting again

I'm pleased to report that England managed to complete a double over opposition from southern Africa on Sunday. A few hours after Andrew Strauss's team did the business in Chennai, I was able to take a short break from Hampshire's pre-season training in Barbados to play golf on one of the island's wonderful courses. Far be it from me to go into great detail, but suffice it to say that my county team-mate – and former Zimbabwe all-rounder – Sean Ervine finished second. Yes!

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