Strauss warning to England's under-achievers

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The Independent Online

Captain Andrew Strauss today provided a veiled warning that England's one-day team are playing for their futures at the Champions Trophy.

Although Strauss continues to back the current 15-man squad, shorn of its two best players Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen through injuries, further convincing defeats following the series loss to Australia will no doubt make certain individuals uncomfortable.

England originally considered naming their winter tour parties for assignments in South Africa today but have now delayed selection until their departure from this tournament.

"Obviously the performances of the Australia series and this Champions Trophy will be on the selectors' minds," said Strauss. "We are not sure entirely which way we are going to go on that at the moment but guys have got three more opportunities to show what they can do. Hopefully more than three."

An Australian captain would naturally have talked about wanting to take stock after five matches - a stretch which would incorporate semi-final and final in this tournament - but England's travails in limited-overs cricket are so deep-rooted it is hard ever to look beyond the group stages.

For this mini-World Cup, Strauss' team face hosts South Africa, in-form Sri Lanka and New Zealand, a team they have defeated just four times in the past 17 completed one-day internationals.

He added: "One-day cricket has been an ongoing concern for us for a number of years now, and we are talking about decades rather than a few years.

"But I am increasingly excited about making big strides in one-day cricket and in order to do that we need to have a real look at what we have been doing in practice and in the middle.

"It is a good project to be involved in and moving forward as a group.

"It is going to take a bit of time but in the meantime I still maintain we are capable of beating anyone. We just haven't had the consistency over a number of years and we need to improve that.

"I don't imagine for one minute there are going to be wholesale changes like picking nine or 10 guys who haven't played for England before. I don't think that is helpful.

"Generally these guys have been the guys who have performed most consistently in county cricket.

"There will be a few who are knocking on the door and rightly so but there is always that temptation to think that magic cure is somewhere lurking in the counties.

"The reality is that the cure lies within the group of players and how we approach our cricket and how we practise and all that sort of stuff."

The remedy is obvious to most observers of the 6-1 thrashing by the Australians - score more runs.

The bowling unit was all too often left with nothing to bowl at and fast bowler James Anderson served up the harsh truth for the batsmen when he said, "I don't want this to sound horrible but they can't do much worse. They know exactly what they have to do and the whole thing about one-day cricket is that your top six get the bulk of the runs.

"It was a really disappointing series and we just don't want a repeat of it. We know we have a lot more talent in the side than we showed and we want to show people we can beat some of the top teams in the world."

England's recent displays have been littered with lame chipped catches and catastrophic run-outs, which in turn have resulted in groans around the stands, commentary box and even the dressing room.

So what does one of the bowling unit think when he sees another tame dismissal?

"To be honest, it doesn't really matter what I feel, it is the guy out in the middle that has done it and the batters know if they get to 20 or 30 they should be going on to get at least 80 if not a hundred," Anderson added.

"We have been missing a big score and in some of the games if it wasn't for Strauss we wouldn't have got near some of the totals we got.

"It is frustrating but we know they are not doing it on purpose, they're trying to win a game of cricket for England - we have just not executed it very well over the last few weeks.

"We received a hell of a thumping but the fact we have got away from England and can kind of start afresh a little bit, under a new set of circumstances, with new teams to play against, will just help us turn things around."

Strauss concurred with the change of scene inspiring a change of fortune.

"An event like this only needs a couple of guys to stand up and put in good performances at the right times and suddenly you are right in the mix for the final," he said.

England took part in their first full training session ahead of Friday's opener this afternoon, with Stuart Broad and Luke Wright both taking part following minor niggles.