Old boy Gough lifts hopes of next generation

England are ending their winter determined to accentuate the positive. This is a well-worn policy of beaten teams, and Johnny Mercer, the great American songwriter whose lyric propounded the idea 60 years ago, should have insisted on royalties. On the other hand, he could have become a sports psychologist.

England are ending their winter determined to accentuate the positive. This is a well-worn policy of beaten teams, and Johnny Mercer, the great American songwriter whose lyric propounded the idea 60 years ago, should have insisted on royalties. On the other hand, he could have become a sports psychologist.

In England's case there is plenty to be positive about despite having already lost the Standard Bank Series with one match to play in Centurion today. It is a dead game in a seven-match series played over a fortnight that has begun to stretch into infinity.

England won the first, the second was tied, South Africa won the next three and the sixth was abandoned because of rain in Durban on Friday night. International matches do not come much deader but, like the others, it will be played in front of a full house. If the 50-over format is tired - and when South Africa were scoring 49 successive singles on Friday, it seemed moribund - the public have yet to find out about it. But they will.

England's solitary doubt is Darren Gough, who has a virus and may thus be deprived of his 148th one-day appearance. It is possible that he might have been rested, but since he has been far and away the tourists' best bowler in this series, that would have been a risky policy.

Gough has dragged his international career back from the edge of extinction in the past fortnight. In the West Indies early last year and in the ICC Champions Trophy final later on, he looked spent. But with a combination of guile, cussedness and the eternal virtue of a good line, he has come back.

It is not about to get easier for him at 34 and at reduced pace, but he has surprised several people, including some of his colleagues.

Gough's bowling has been the second-biggest positive, the biggest having been Kevin Pietersen's extravagant batting in the face of open hostility by his erstwhile South African compatriots. Pietersen's technique and philosophy may be questioned, but his mental robustness is beyond reproach.

Accentuating the positive also means eliminating the negative. Thus, the wayward form of Stephen Harmison and James Anderson should be expunged from memory, in the hope of a brighter tomorrow.

It should also mean the end of the experiment of using the wicketkeeper Geraint Jones as a one-day opening batsman. As Mercer also said: "Don't mess with Mr In-Between."

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