Hussain positive despite defeat

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The Independent Online

Nasser Hussain hailed the emerging talent of England after the weary winter schedule ended with defeat in the final Test against New Zealand here yesterday.

Both Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff made impressive strides and the wicketkeeper James Foster has begun to show signs of progress after an inconsistent start.

England, though, having led the series from the outset with their victory in the first Test at Christchurch and dominated the drawn second Test in Wellington, headed for home today feeling aggrieved that their efforts did not result in greater reward.

But, just like India before Christmas when they failed to win in Ahmedabad and Bangalore after impressive performances and slid to a 1-0 series deficit, they were unable to translate their superiority into results. It means they return still searching for their first series victory since Sri Lanka over a year ago, but having unearthed several young players who will feature strongly in their future.

Hussain was pleased with the progress made by Hoggard, Flintoff and Foster. "The young lads have progressed immeasurably," he said. "Players like Flintoff, Hoggard and the young lads that are coming in and doing well... it has got to be good for English cricket.

"Their heart and effort and the way they have stuck to the plans have been very good and they probably deserved a lot more from this series. If it was just down to heart and effort and attitude, but there are other things and this New Zealand side are very resilient as we've always known.

"They are a very similar side to us, they're hard to break down and in a three-match series we have to be at our best to beat sides. We were just off for maybe two hours in this game and we got nailed."

They began the final day probably as underdogs, with New Zealand declaring overnight to leave England a victory target of 312 in a minimum of 105 overs. Deciding attack was the best form of defence on an increasingly inconsistent wicket, the tourists actually worried New Zealand with the pace of their innings and had progressed a third of the way to their target in only 27 overs before the wicket took control.

Soon after Nathan Astle removed Mark Butcher, who fended a sharply-lifting full-length delivery to point, two more wickets fell in the next eight deliveries and from that moment on England were struggling to save the game and the series.