England look for the power and the glory


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The Independent Online

Advice about power hitting in tight situations was in greater supply yesterday than bail-out funds to Greece.

It was probably as much apparent use.

England lost a Twenty20 match they should have won against Pakistan on Thursday because of superior bowling, not defective batting. Nor was it the inexperience of the middle order that made it impossible to chase an extremely comfortable seven runs an over for the last five overs.

Sometimes it happens like that and the same players will have the chance to atone in the second match against Pakistan tonight. The same players will also be asked to defend the World Twenty20 title in Sri Lanka this autumn.

Graeme Swann, who was in the middle as England's innings petered out eight runs short, said yesterday: "I think it's a learning process but it would be very easy to say, 'Oh, we're inexperienced and we're learning,' because once you get to international cricket you've got all the skills and all the shots in your armoury. It's just a matter of making it happen in the middle.

"Personally, I feel it was because Pakistan had the same two people in for the last 10 overs and boundaries are easier to hit once you've been in for a while. We lost key wickets just when we'd set the game up, which made it hard for guys just going in."

Still, it was easy to heap opprobrium for the unforgivable crime of being naïve on the likes of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Buttler was caught playing a scoop shot to his fourth ball; Bairstow failed to find the boundary from any of the 21 balls he faced. But it is worth noting that Buttler and Bairstow are from the first generation of players to have been brought up on Twenty20 cricket. They have not had to adapt to its demands, it is simply part of their culture.

Buttler was not fashioning a fancy shot, he was playing a stroke, albeit to a cunning Umar Gul slower ball, that was as natural to him as the cover drive was to Wally Hammond. Bairstow, it could easily be said, failed to fashion anything remotely unconventional and paid the price.

Yet this was the same player who against India at Cardiff last September, with England up against it, struck 41 from 21 balls, including three sixes. It was as misguided to lionise him then as it was to disdain him the other night, though the former was more understandable than the latter.

Buttler would be silly to ditch the shots that have taken him into the England team; Bairstow has to remember what it was that went right for him on his opening night at Sophia Gardens. But all this may be good for their development.

They are learning quickly that part of the deal when playing for England is to have your game scrutinised and pored over like the Vat man going over a tradesman's accounts. They may not like what is turned up but they have to get on with it or get out.

There is an exciting look about this England team, helped by Kevin Pietersen's suddenly blazing form at the top of the order. The young men field as though their lives depend on it as well. Swann said: "All it took with Kev was something to click and go out and press the 'who cares?' button. 'Who cares what happens, let's go out and bat like I can and smack it.' He is the most impossible batsman in world cricket to bowl at when he bats like that. I'm glad he has pressed that button." Buttler, Bairstow et al need to keep pressing the same digit. It will work for them.

Possible team: SCJ Broad (capt), C Kieswetter (wk), KP Pietersen, RS Bopara, EJG Morgan, JL Bairstow, JC Buttler, SR Patel, GP Swann, ST Finn, J Dernbach.

Perera finishes off Australia to put Sri Lanka top

Sri Lanka chased down 280 with four balls to spare to clinch a three-wicket win over Australia in their one-day match in Hobart yesterday and take top place in the Tri-series tournament.

Fired by 85 from captain Mahela Jayawardene and 80 by Dinesh Chandimal, the tourists were ushered to victory by a cameo from all-rounder Thisara Perera, who blasted an unbeaten 21 off 11 balls. Perera smacked a six and four in consecutive balls to leave his team needing three off the final over and Nuwan Kulasekara then hit a boundary.

Earlier, Peter Forrest's maiden international century – 104 off 138 balls – steered Australia to a competitive total. The result still leaves the Australians ahead of India in the table.