Hussain demands show of energy

NatWest Series: Captain is pleased with the will to win displayed in England's dominant display at Lord's

Nasser Hussain is perfectly frank about it. The reason for batting Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff at three is to have him smack the bowlers around. If the ball is seaming and England have to build an innings, then Hussain himself is the obvious choice to come in first wicket down. So, when Marcus Trescothick edged a catch to first slip off the first ball of the third over, we would have expected the captain to emerge out of the dark shadow of the pavilion. Not so. It was the burly figure of Flintoff. Four balls later, Flintoff was back in the shadows and the innings still needed building.

Nasser Hussain is perfectly frank about it. The reason for batting Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff at three is to have him smack the bowlers around. If the ball is seaming and England have to build an innings, then Hussain himself is the obvious choice to come in first wicket down. So, when Marcus Trescothick edged a catch to first slip off the first ball of the third over, we would have expected the captain to emerge out of the dark shadow of the pavilion. Not so. It was the burly figure of Flintoff. Four balls later, Flintoff was back in the shadows and the innings still needed building.

Perhaps it is a question of confidence. Hussain can't have much, and might have thought that he would benefit from coming in when the ball was softer. But Flintoff hasn't got any confidence either. The shot he played to Heath Streak was neither attack nor defence; it was a shot burdened by indecision. England were 9 for 2, and Zimbabwe had, against the odds, made a game of it.

Flintoff had failed again to meet the standard by which Hussain judges England's one-day side. He believes that two-dimensional cricketers are the essential pre-requisite to success. Since two-dimensional cricketers only appear on television or in newspaper pictures, what he means is not quite what he says. But you know what he thinks: "You can't just be a good batter or a good bowler. You need to be able to bat and field, or bowl and field," he said on the eve of the final.

Despite the underhanded, covert remarks by England's chairman of selectors, David Graveney, Flintoff's principal problem does not lie round his waistband but in his head. Yesterday, he was agile in the field. It is a pleasure to watch him stoop at speed to pick up the ball, or to dive after a driven ball. The dimension he lacks is at the crease, for he has scored only 70 runs in five attempts in this triangular series.

Hussain admires South Africa because so many of their players do two or three disciplines well. He went down the list of batsmen who can bowl, and bowlers who can bat. Pollock, Kallis, Klusener, Gibbs (then he added the name of Hansie Cronje, for good measure, the only mention he has had as a cricketer for some time). And the quality they all possess is energy.

Speaking of England's dismal start to the series, Hussain isolated a lack of energy as the missing ingredient. The one-day specialists had to be clamped on to the survivors from the Test team and it took time to restore the collective sense a winning team needs. It seems that guilt plays a part too. Hussain suggests that energy rebounds because a players feels like an idiot if they let one go through their fingers when 10 other players are diving around stopping the ball.

By those standards, England's performance in the field at Lord's was gratifyingly energetic. Judged by their mistakes, standards were high. Graeme Hick missed a difficult one-handed chance at backward point off Murray Goodwin; Alec Stewart dropped a hard chance off Andy Flower. But the only handling error in the field was a fumble by Craig White, who otherwise fielded brilliantly in the covers, diving to left and right. White's good series as an all-rounder must have established his place in the one-day squad.

Darren Gough, Andy Caddick and Alan Mullally all fielded conscientiously on the boundary, and used their strong arms to throw hard and accurately to Stewart, just as good, two-dimensional cricketers should. Graham Thorpe, who can't secure a place in the slips in one-day internationals, had another grand match at cover point. He did not repeat his spectacular performance at Chester-le-Street last week, but you felt confident that there would be no errors.

Stewart himself, having been three-dimensional as captain, keeper and opening bat, rejoined the mortals yesterday, but played like a God once more, scoring his fourth fifty in succession, and building the innings after an unsettling start. Hussain could relax. By the time he would be needed to bat, he would be able to smack the bowling around.

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