England have eyes on top of the world


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The Independent Online

England have now won seven one-day internationals in a row. Win another today against Australia at The Oval and it will equal their record of eight, which they have managed three times before.

Win three more after that and they will have the series 5-0 and be ranked as the world's top one-day side. But that is to get ahead of ourselves. Australia hold the top position at present and, as everybody keeps insisting, there is a reason for that. They have won 10 or more consecutive matches on six occasions.

The home victory at Lord's on Friday was close but thorough. In its way it contained all the components of unswerving one-day cricket.

The batting was given a solid start with wickets being kept in hand, allowing scope for a late onslaught which was perfectly executed by Eoin Morgan.

Thereafter the bowlers did what has come to be expected. There were times when they were punished but they maintained their composure and kept to their plans. The relentlessness would wear down most opponents as it wore down Australia. If you were to be picky (and pickiness is vital given the close-run nature of limited-overs cricket), the fielders missed the stumps with direct throws too often.

According to the speedo-meter, the fastest bowler at Lord's, and perhaps the fastest bowler in the world at present, was Steve Finn.

The 19-year-old Australian Pat Cummins was clocked above 90mph but Finn was quicker than that and looked it, though it is pretty certain that batsmen do not have time to gauge the precise nuances.

Unlike some of his forebears (Fred Trueman springs to mind, as does Shoaib Akhtar, for whom speed was an end in itself) Finn tries hard not to idolise pace. He said: "I didn't take much notice – they bowled quick and they bowled really well but I am not fussed about the speed. I didn't run in and think I wanted to bowl quick. It was nice to turn around and see it at 90 miles an hour, but it is not something that plays on my mind."

But truly rapid bowling still tingles the spine like nothing else in cricket – unless it was the sight of Morgan hitting a Cummins 90mph special straight back over his head.

It is already possible to envisage Finn and Cummins going head-to-head in the next few years, perhaps in the back-to-back Ashes series to be played next year.

Finn first has to reclaim his place in the Test team. He is undoubtedly a better bowler now than when he was last in the starting XI and it undoubtedly helps, as it did on Friday, that there are another three accomplished operators around.

He said: "At the end of our marks everyone talks to each other, everyone passes on their own information that they have found has worked for them in the over before and it is a great unit to be involved in because everyone shares their information. You have to hunt as a pack and bowl as a unit to get results."

Bowling at high speed in the final few overs of a one-day innings may also benefit Finn and England.

The most eye-catching display in the opening match was provided by Morgan with a beautifully controlled piece of powerful hitting.

He has done it before, but the measured nature of it takes the breath away. Finn, who knows Morgan as well as anybody as they have come through age- group ranks with Middlesex and England, put it appositely.

"How he comes up with some of those shots I have got no idea. He is a little wizard."