Middle order looks flimsy without injured Flintoff

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The Independent Online

England's inexperience in the middle order cost them dear. After losing their two most experienced batsmen, Marcus Trescothick and Michael Vaughan, in the first three overs of the innings, there was then a fine partnership of 82 in 90 balls between Andrew Strauss and Geraint Jones, which looked as if it would form the base of a worthwhile score.

Jones then got himself out when he was looking to force the pace more than he need have done as early as the 17th over. When Paul Collingwood was out four overs later at 102, there was a great need for the remaining batsmen to reassess the situation.

The ball was swinging and moving off the seam and the batsmen needed at this stage to decide upon a total that would be enough to give them a reasonable chance of victory and to aim for it. As it was they went helter-skelter in pursuit of as big a total as they could get and lost wickets quickly and in some cases foolishly.

At 102 for four in the 21st over they should, in the prevailing conditions, have set their minds on a total of about 220 and have batted accordingly. If this had been the need uppermost in their minds Ian Blackwell would surely have played himself in for an over or three longer before attempting to pull Dwayne Bravo over midwicket and holing out to Shivnarine Chanderpaul at short midwicket. He hit the ball hard and was out to a fine catch, but this is no excuse.

Anthony McGrath momentarily forgot his Yorkshire canniness when, shortly after Blackwell's departure, he allowed himself to be drawn into a forward defensive push to an outswinger which began wide of the off stump. At best it would have brought him a single to third man; at worst, as happened, he edged the ball to the right of second slip where Chris Gayle held a good catch.

England badly missed the injured Andrew Flintoff who bats these days with an obvious sense of responsibility. If he had been there in the middle order the approach would surely have been different and more realistic. With so many counsellors in the dressing room it is surprising too that word did not come down from on high to try and help sort out the thinking of the middle order. On these occasions there can be no substitute for experience and it made one long to see the reassuring figure of Graham Thorpe coming in at the fall of the third wicket. If he had, England would have finished with more than 147.

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