England becoming their own worst enemies

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The Independent Online

For the first 12 overs of the Australian innings, Darren Gough and Andy Caddick mended their ways from Edgbaston. They bowled to a full length and to an attacking off- stump line, just as Glenn McGrath had done earlier in the day with such devastating effect. In the fifth over Australia were 27 for 2 and under pressure.

It is the natural inclination of players like Michael Slater and Mark Waugh to go for their strokes whenever they smell even half a chance. For half a dozen overs they were frustrated by some excellent bowling and they had to fight for every run. The ball was swinging and by bowling to a full length the bowlers were giving it every chance to move around.

For all that, it was strange that Caddick, bowling at the Nursery End, should have concentrated on trying to swing the ball into the right-handers.

He should surely have been more prepared to mix it up and, with the help of the slope, to try and move the ball away from the bat – always the more classically dangerous delivery. None the less his excellent control frustrated Slater, who in one over played a pull through midwicket and a hook, neither of which he controlled and which could so easily have got him out. Strokes born of frustration.

Then, after Gough and Caddick had been relieved by Craig White and Dominic Cork, England's policy appeared to change. The ball was now being constantly banged in halfway down the pitch and often to a split field with the result that the pressure evaporated.

Runs were now freely on offer. Mark Waugh was tucking the ball away off his legs much as he wanted and occasionally he launched himself into a glorious drive through the covers. His innings was in a different class to anything else which has been played so far in the match and yet one could not help coming to the conclusion that it was made easier for him than it should have been.

The folly of it all was underlined almost every time the ball was pitched up for it was then that the batsmen had problems. Was it all part of a misconceived plan or was it simply incompetence or was it caused by a lack of direction from the captain?

England then had the unexpected bonus of Slater's wicket when he played a pull at Caddick's first ball of a new spell. Now the Waugh twins had to be separated, but before long both had been dropped; Mark by a diving White in the gully and Steve by Gough off his own bowling. England don't half make it difficult for themselves.