England fall to new low Down Under

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The Independent Online

It is debatable which of England's pitiful batting displays at this ground was worse: the capitulation against Australia in the second Ashes Test, when Andrew Flintoff's side were dismissed for 129 on the final morning; or yesterday's abject performance where a limited but motivated New Zealand side bowled them out for 120.

Actually, when you sit down and think about it, it is quite a simple decision. A great Australian bowling attack led by the brilliant Shane Warne were at their very best when England fell apart at the Test. Though undesirable, the collapse was understandable.

The débâcle witnessed here yesterday, which resulted in New Zealand romping to an emphatic 90-run victory, was totally unacceptable. England may well be without their captain, Michael Vaughan, and several of their leading players but the lack of gumption shown by supposedly talented batsmen with aspirations to play in the World Cup was frightening.

On this occasion England did not have to pit their wits and skill against bowlers of the quality of Warne, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Stuart Clark. All they had to do was score 211 runs in 50 overs against a competent and disciplined attack. It was a task that ought to have been achieved, but they failed miserably.

Flintoff attempted to put on a brave face at the end of the game but it is hard to work out where his and Vaughan's team go from here. The defeat and the award of a bonus point to New Zealand - an extra point is given to the winners if they reach their target in fewer than 40.1 overs or restrict the opposition to less than 80 per cent of the first-innings score - mean that England have to win their final two matches against the "Black Caps" to qualify for the finals.

Matters would change if England were to win either of their two remaining games against Australia, but there is probably more chance of Jade Goody appearing in a Bollywood film than that.

"The pitch was a little bit tricky but you can't put it down to that," admitted Flintoff. "It was not a 120 all-out pitch. Ed Joyce showed that you could bat on it and he played really nicely for his 47. But the rest of us were below par. We are better players than we showed.

"Every game that we go out and play now is a big one in the context of the competition. It continues to be a tough trip, but we have to remain confident. We have to go out there believing we are good players and that we can score runs. It is not through a lack of trying or wanting that we are in this position. The lads practise hard in the nets. We are good players and we will score runs again, hopefully on Friday."

Australia are unlikely to show England any sympathy on Australia Day, and nor should they. England do not deserve sympathy. All they merit is a kick up the backside.

England never looked comfortable in pursuit of 211. Andrew Strauss was attempting to play big shots when he should have been looking to bat for 35 to 40 overs. It is Malachy Loye's job to get England's innings off to a productive start, but this failed to happen when he edged a persistent James Franklin to Stephen Fleming at slip.

Strauss quickly followed when he played across a straight ball from the same bowler and was trapped in front. And the left-arm seamer accounted for Ian Bell in his next over when he pushed limply at a ball angled across him and was caught low by Fleming.

Joyce began slowly but gathered confidence as his innings progressed, even as wickets fell regularly at the other end. Fleming's good work continued with two excellent pieces of captaincy. It would have been easy for him to place fielders on the short leg-side boundary for Daniel Vettori, but he kept them up, a tactic that confounded Paul Collingwood and Flintoff. Each tried to hoist the left arm spinner over the leg-side and each lost his wicket.

Paul Nixon, Joyce and Jamie Dalrymple all fell timidly with England's score on 107 before Shane Bond wrapped the game up by taking wickets with consecutive deliveries.

When England walked off the ground three hours earlier, having dismissed New Zealand for 210, they will have believed that a second victory was theirs. Flintoff led the way with a magnificent bowling display and took 4 for 21. The England captain was given good support by the remaining members of his attack, although he will have been disappointed to see the opposition recover from 67 for 5. That New Zealand did was down to an intelligent innings from Jacob Oram, a big man who can hit a cricket ball a long way.

But he batted with patience before launching a late onslaught. It was in the 40th over he decided to open his broad shoulders, and his powerful strokeplay allowed the Kiwis to add 89 runs in the final 11 overs of their innings. On 86, with a first one-day hundred looming, the left-hander became Flintoff's third victim, but by then New Zealand had scored more than enough.

Scoreboard from Adelaide

New Zealand won toss

New Zealand

*S P Fleming c Nixon b Flintoff 20

N J Astle c Collingwood b Anderson 1

P G Fulton c Collingwood b Lewis 24

R L Taylor c Collingwood b Panesar 15

C D McMillan lbw b Collingwood 2

J D P Oram c Strauss b Anderson 86

ÝB B McCullum b Flintoff 30

J E C Franklin run out 14

D L Vettori c Nixon b Flintoff 2

S E Bond b Flintoff 2

M R Gillespie not out 1

Extras (b2 lb3 w6 nb2) 13

Total (50 overs) 210

Fall: 1-5 2-37 3-55 4-61 5-67 6-187 7-191 8-194 9-196.

Bowling: Lewis 10-1-31-1; Anderson 10-2-47-2; Flintoff 10-2-21-4; Collingwood 8-0-40-1; Panesar 9-0-44-1; Dalrymple 3-0-22-0.

England

A J Strauss lbw b Franklin 19

M B Loye c Fleming b Franklin 8

I R Bell c Fleming b Franklin 2

E C Joyce c Gillespie b Vettori 47

P D Collingwood lbw b Vettori 10

*A Flintoff c McCullum b Vettori 9

ÝP A Nixon c McCullum b Oram 6

J W M Dalrymple c Fleming b Vettori 0

J Lewis c Fleming b Bond 5

M S Panesar c Astle b Bond 6

J M Anderson not out 0

Extras (lb5 w1 nb2) 8

Total (37.5 overs) 120

Fall: 1-21 2-30 3-31 4-76 5-92 6-107 7-107 8-107 9-120.

Bowling: Franklin 7-2-17-3; Bond 9.5-1-32-2; Gillespie 5-2-25-0; Oram 7-1-17-1; Vettori 9-0-24-4.

New Zealand win by 90 runs.

Umpires: D J Harper (Aus) and I L Howell (SA).

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