Old faults return to haunt hosts

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The Independent Online

Australia have had two and a bit innings in this series so far, and in that time England have missed no fewer than 14 chances. On it's own this is an horrendous statistic, but it goes inescapably with the overall pattern.

Australia have had two and a bit innings in this series so far, and in that time England have missed no fewer than 14 chances. On it's own this is an horrendous statistic, but it goes inescapably with the overall pattern.

In the mid-Eighties it was an Ian Botham-inspired England who had things their own way in The Ashes series. In those days, believe it or not, it was the Australians who were dropping the catches. Like England now, they were not scoring the runs or taking the wickets either.

When your cricket is consumed with self doubt, as England's is after a ghastly series of one-day games and now two hideous Test matches, and Australia's was then, this is what happens. The odds against any of these 14 chances being taken were enormous – these present Australians may well have snapped up all of them.

Confidence is everything. Australia are used to winning and have clearly been able to keep that recent blip of a 2-1 series loss in India in a rational perspective. If anything, it has turned them into an even stronger and more resilient side. India will find it harder next time.

While Australia understand their excellence and thrive upon it, England are, as a result, as uncertain as ever. All the old doubts and failings have returned to haunt them. It is not just the simple matter of redoubling the amount of fielding practice and intensifying the routines. If it was, it would be easy.

If they had been playing for Yorkshire, Craig White, in the gully, would have hung on to Mark Waugh's cut when he had made 59, and Gough would have swallowed that return catch from Steve Waugh when he was 14. Yorkshire are leading the County Championship with something of a flourish.

For Surrey at The Oval, Mark Butcher would have picked up that catch at first slip from Adam Gilchrist from the seventh ball on Saturday morning. Likewise, Ian Ward at cover, Butcher again, in the gully and Michael Atherton at first slip if he had been wearing Lancashire's colours.

England's dilemma is not going to be answered overnight or in the next seven weeks of this series. They are up against a side which has been nurturing inferiority complexes in their opponents for some while now and they will continue to do so for this series. It takes more than a couple of matches to change a state of mind – as England know all too well.

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