Hopes of a new beginning are swiftly dashed

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The Independent Online

The authorities here are keen to stage a reunion for all former England Test cricketers during a Test match. Last year, it was planned for the fourth day of the first Test against New Zealand which ended in three days.

The authorities here are keen to stage a reunion for all former England Test cricketers during a Test match. Last year, it was planned for the fourth day of the first Test against New Zealand which ended in three days.

They failed to learn from this experience and the old players had all been invited to forgather again on the fourth day of this first Test against the West Indies. If those at Edgbaston are brave enough to risk it again on a fourth day, they should remember to have a word in the ear of the groundsman - and perhaps the England selectors, too, although there may not be much those poor chaps can do.

It was not a good pitch for a Test match, although nothing like as bad as that in 1995 when the West Indies won in two and a half days. It was too moist to start with and the bounce was too uneven to go on with.

By losing the toss, England were on the worst end of it, too, but that must not be allowed to provide an alibi for yet another shabby performance which showed again the desperate state English cricket has reached. It seems already all our hopes that this season was going to see a new beginning for the England side have been dashed.

Nasser Hussain has described the Edgbaston fiasco as a one-off match. One would have thought it all seemed too sickeningly similar. At 37 years of age, Courtney Walsh - now he is a one-off - found a pitch with which he has been all too familiar in all those years in county cricket. He bowled within himself, obeying the first principles of line and length, and using his know-how to make the ball move both ways off the seam in the first innings.

In the second, the same sideways movement was not there but in its place was the apprehension in the batsmen's minds that the odd ball might lift uncomfortably. A look at the bruises on Jimmy Adams's fingers underlines the point. In both innings, Walsh broke the back of the England batting.

When it came to it, England did not have a single batsman with the guts, the technique or the mental toughness to fight it out as the West Indies captain had done. He faced 299 balls with a singleness of purpose England appeared so spectacularly to lack.

Adams does not possess any magical qualities - he has an impressively solid technique, limitless concentration and any amount of bloody-mindedness. Yet these attributes appear to be beyond the reach of the present generation of England's batsmen.

If after this awful result some kind-hearted gentleman from the England and Wales Cricket Board comes forward to tell us that more kids are playing cricket at the Under-15 level than ever before, I shall scream and send for a straitjacket.

This Test, like the second against Zimbabwe, showed that English cricket is rotten because of a lack of the disciplines which should be a natural accompaniment to talent at this level. When Mark Ramprakash, Hussain, Nick Knight, Graeme Hick and Andy Flintoff, to name a few, come to look at their performances - and the bowlers, too, with the noble exception of Darren Gough - they should have a fit. If they do not, it really is time for the Funny Farm.

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