New Zealand 'specialists' show the way for England

New Zealand 266 West Indies 159 New Zealand win by 107 runs
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John Bracewell believes England's selectors need to return to picking specialists if they wish to become a competitive one-day team.

John Bracewell believes England's selectors need to return to picking specialists if they wish to become a competitive one-day team. The New Zealand coach gave his advice after watching his side thrash the West Indies by 107 runs in Saturday's NatWest series final at Lord's.

This victory allowed Bracewell to add another accolade to his ever improving curriculum vitae. The 46 year-old's thorough and innovative approach to coaching, helped Gloucestershire win seven one-day titles during his five seasons at the county, and this win allowed New Zealand to maintain their 100 per cent record under his guidance. Since Bracewell took over as the national coach in December 2003, New Zealand have won each of the three one-day competitions they have played in.

"We have shifted back to specialisation," said Bracewell, when asked about the secret of his success. "We are lucky in that we have two guys like Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram, who are specialist all-rounders, and they make one hell of a difference to our side. They make it so much easier for us to organise ourselves. But we look to let the batters bat, to pick a specialist wicketkeeper and to play our king-pin bowlers.

"Stephen Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones give England a bloody good bowling combination. They beat us up during the Test series and perhaps need to utilise them in one-day cricket. If England can get these guys on the park [injury prevented Flintoff and Jones bowling in the NatWest series], they can then attack in both aspects of the game and not just with the bat. On the majority of one-day wickets that we play on today this is what you need to do." One of England's problems is that they have only one player who could be described as an all-rounder. Flintoff highlighted how important he is to Michael Vaughan's side when he scored consecutive centuries at Bristol and Lord's, but his fitness record suggests there will always be periods when he is unable to bowl. Bracewell believes this is a direct result of the county system.

"It is harder for England to produce all-rounders than any other country," he said. "It is because of the amount of cricket they play. If you are a good cricketer and you work out that you want to play the game for 15 years, something has to give. It is a big ask when you are continually asking a player to perform both skills every day.

"Most other countries play a third of the cricket you play here and because of this, you get guys in New Zealand and South Africa who want to be involved in everything. In England they think, 'Jesus, I have got to bowl again tomorrow and then they expect me to bat'. There are huge up-sides to the cricket set-up here - the whole world sends their players over here to gain experience and cricket knowledge. But this is the downside of playing the amount of cricket you do - getting up every day and doing both skills is bloody hard work and it doesn't encourage all-rounders."

On Saturday, New Zealand's all-rounders played a minor role in their triumph; it was the specialists who led the way. The Kiwis' total of 266 was built around a run-a-ball opening partnership of 120 between the captain, Stephen Fleming, and Nathan Astle. Hamish Marshall and Craig McMillan also made valuable contributions and while these four were at the crease, New Zealand looked set for a score in excess of 300. But Brian Lara's team fought back well in the second half of the innings and claimed the last seven 'Black Cap' wickets for 49 runs in 58 balls.

The weather has prevented this tournament gaining any momentum and the fact the teams had to leave the field on several occasions spoilt the final as an event. There have been excellent crowds at every match, but there has been only one good game, when the West Indies beat England at Lord's.

Too much has depended on the toss and before Saturday the side batting second had won every game. This trend would have encouraged Lara, and the West Indian captain would have fancied the chances of his team passing New Zealand's total.

And the West Indies were moving along nicely before two wickets fell to run-outs. It is no coincidence that the best fielding side won this tournament. In one-day cricket, run-out opportunities come along and it is often the team which takes these half-chances that walks off with the trophy.

The loss of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Devon Smith placed the West Indies middle order under huge pressure and this was exploited by Daniel Vettori. New Zealand's left-arm spinner has had a disappointing tour but he finished on a high with career best figures of 5 for 30.

The disparity between England's Test and one-day form surprised Bracewell. He felt that England's lack of athleticism played a part, but the major difference was the way in which Vaughan was allowed to use Harmison.

"For England, the difference between playing Test and one-day cricket is big," he said. "In the Test matches they could keep bringing Harmison back, but in this cricket he is limited to 10 overs." But the New Zealand coach was full of praise for England's bowling attack. "In the Test series the English team bowled at us as well as any Test team has bowled, as a unit, in the last five years," he said. "They came at us constantly and hard. Every time we got on top they came at us even harder and this affected us.

"Harmison is outstanding - he has found international length. For so long he didn't have it - he was a two-length bowler, but now he has found that middle length where as a batsman you do not know whether to go forward or back.

"Getting a good bowling attack together only happens so often. They do not always come about through planning and development, sometimes they just fall out of trees and you have got to use them when you have them. At the moment England have got them and they are starting to use them. They are in better shape than the last time they took on Australia, and hopefully they will be strong when the Ashes series comes along next summer. Cricket needs it."