One-day blunders leave newcomers exposed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

No Lancaster bomber over Lord's this weekend. And no pigs flying above the old ground, either. Anyone who thought a newish face or two might spark a miraculous NatWest Series turnaround was sadly disappointed yesterday as Australia soared into a 4-0 lead.

So where do England go from here, apart from to Nottingham and then Chester-le-Street for matches five, six and seven in what has become an exercise in trying to avoid the whitewash? Straight on to South Africa, silly, for the Champions Trophy.

"Unfortunately this series is over," said captain Andrew Strauss, who probably wishes it was finished, in every sense of the word. "But we've got three more matches to try to build some momentum for the Champions Trophy."

At least Strauss and his far from merry men will not be weighed down by great expectations later this month as they seek to end England's 34-year wait for a first global tournament triumph - and with resources stretched see-through thin by the absence of both Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff.

Yesterday was not a good day for searching out some fresh, green shoots of hope. Joe Denly and Eoin Morgan both missed out with the bat while Adil Rashid was given little room for manoeuvre by an inadequate total of 220. Barring fitness issues, though, this is the squad Strauss must lead to Johannesburg a week tomorrow.

"That batsmen will come right at some stage, I've no doubt about that," said the captain, who again top-scored by making 63 but insisted he was "as culpable as anyone" for failing to press on. "A few of the guys are low on confidence at the moment. But the cancer, the thing that you really want to avoid, is getting more and more negative because that's not going to get you anywhere."

Without Pietersen and Flintoff, the spotlight burns even brighter on the novices in this top six. Both Denly and Morgan have plenty to commend them but coming into England's 50-over side has been a tall order for as long as most people can remember because, unlike the Test team, no-one gives the newcomer much confidence that everything is under control. And, boy, there have more than enough newcomers in recent times.

For example, since the last Champions Trophy, in India, three years ago, England have played 66 one-day internationals - and tried 12 openers, including the latest combo of Strauss and Denly. Mal Loye, Ed Joyce, Alastair Cook and Phil Mustard are among those who have come and gone so it difficult to be too optimistic about Denly's chances of success.

Still, he should be given at least three more innings against Australia and then England's Champions Trophy group games - against Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand - to strut his stuff. But one suspects that Morgan will be back among the reserves once Paul Collingwood returns from a spell of rest and relaxation.

Yesterday, the Irishman looked like what he is: a batsman struggling for form. In great touch for Middlesex earlier this summer, Morgan went cold while playing a bit part during the World Twenty20 and has never properly warmed up again. Really, the selectors should have eased him to one side last month - and picked either Jonathan Trott or Ian Bell - when they named their 15 for NatWest Series and Champions Trophy just before The Oval Test, but the desire for continuity proved stronger than facts and figures.

Still, maybe Australia will now show a bit of sympathy. Or maybe not. "You only have to look back a couple of weeks to when we lost the Ashes," said five-wicket star Brett Lee. "I'll leave it at that."

Limited-over woes

England have won only nine of their past 26 one-day series, drawing three and losing the following 14:

2000-01 Pakistan 2-1 England

2000-01 Sri Lanka 3-0 England

2001-02 New Zealand 3-2 England

2003-04 Sri Lanka 1-0 England

2004-05 South Africa 4-1 England

2005 England 1-2 Australia

2005-06 Pakistan 3-2 England

2005-06 India 5-1 England

2006 England 0-5 Sri Lanka

2007 England 1-2 West Indies

2007-08 New Zealand 3-1 England

2008 England 1-3 New Zealand

2008-09 India 5-0 England

2009 England 0-4 Australia*

* Four of seven matches played

Daniel Kellard