Peter Roebuck: A colossus last time, Flintoff has been a marginal figure

England have been unable to withstand an onslaught from a motivated team determined to mount one last great campaign. As a result, an eagerly awaited contest between supposedly well-matched sides has turned into a debacle. To watch the Champions Trophy was to encounter Englishmen unaware of the task they faced against an opponent strengthened by the emergence of Michael Hussey and an improved pace attack. Australia had learnt from their loss in 2005 and ever since had been playing formidable cricket.

Of course the gap between the sides has been exaggerated. Nothing much has gone the underdogs' way. Defeat has many fathers. Nevertheless, England have played feebly. Over the last few days the teams might have been playing on different pitches. England's batsmen prodded suspiciously as the ball moved around and occasionally crept. Previously the Australians had whacked the ball around with increasing abandon.

Inevitably, the captains have been in the spotlight. Heavily criticised in 2005, Ricky Ponting's judgement of players and field placements have been rewarded. Andrew Symonds responded to his support with a rousing innings. Likewise, the Australian captain's willingness to goad Brett Lee inspired the speedster's best spells of the campaign. Ponting and John Buchanan deserve considerable credit for this efficient execution.

Andrew Flintoff has been unable to lift his bedraggled outfit. A colossus last time around, he has been a marginal figure. Not that he has ever complained or lost his innate sportsmanship. But the bluff Lancastrian appears ill-suited to the cares of captaincy. Comparisons with Ian Botham are inevitable. Flintoff is half the cricketer, five times the man and a more mature leader. Tactics are his weak point. He does not feel the pulse of a match.

Yesterday England crumpled against an opponent primed for the kill. They batted without conviction. Not even the belated promotion of Kevin Pietersen could change the mood. Instead he drove loosely at a dying delivery and lost his stumps. Not that scoring runs was easy against a relentless attack backed by clever fields. The Australians pitched the ball a yard further up and were rewarded with disturbed stumps and leg before decisions as the ball misbehaved. Between them Clark, Lee and Glenn McGrath hardly bowled a bad ball.

Yet the last word lies with the local hero. Shane Warne had toiled almost alone in 2005. Often he found himself bowling to the opening batsmen. Now he has been almost his old self, spinning his side to victory with virtuoso performances. Here he turned his leg-breaks sharply, varied his pace and laughed as the batsmen groped.

Nor did the great showman omit to send down a few reminders of his expertise. From the recesses of his memory he produced the ball that announced his greatness on this ground all those years ago, a beautiful, disguised, desperately difficult ball that cuts though the air and skids malevolently across the turf. In 1992-3 Richie Richardson fell foul of the delivery. Now a lesser soul, Sajid Mahmood, was baffled. Warne had struck again. It was not a bad way to say goodbye.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review