Vaughan blames 'cancerous' defeatism for batting disasters

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan has compared the atmosphere in the England dressing room when the team are batting to a cancer that spreads rapidly through the side. Vaughan, England's injured captain, who is unlikely to play against New Zealand tomorrow due to a hamstring strain, has looked on helplessly while his team have been dismissed for 155, 120 and 110 in their last three Commonwealth Bank Series matches.

The woeful batting has left England bereft of confidence as they approach tomorrow's must-win match here. New Zealandwill be reinvigorated after hitting 335 in a narrow defeat to Australia yesterday, but England need to win the day-night encounter if they are to have a chance of qualifying for the finals against Ricky Ponting's side.

"Getting England out of this position is probably my biggest challenge as captain," Vaughan said. "This is not a great position for us to be in. I thought we started the series quite well. We put in a decent batting display in Melbourne, chased down New Zealand's total in Hobart and fought hard with the ball in Brisbane.

"But the two batting displays in Adelaide came out of the blue. It was cancerous, you could feel it happening in and around the dressing room. Against Australia we were 70 for 2 and in line for 220-plus but then you lose a wicket, then another and you can just sense in the dressing room there is another wicket waiting to happen. It is something we have to cut out."

Vaughan accepts that England's fragile state of mind is due to the batterings the team received from the Australians over the last two months. He believes the side's batting problems are down to mental, rather than technical, shortcomings too.

"At the end of a long, hard tour like this it is a mental problem," Vaughan said. "It is something the players have to sort out before the game against New Zealand, which is a huge game for us.

"We have to look at ourselves individually and work out what is going wrong with our thought processes in the middle. It is our thinking that is getting us out a lot of the time. Once people start owning up to their thought processes and admitting mistakes you can move forward. It won't happen if players keep things to themselves.

"Is it playing Australia in high-pressure games that is causing problems? We'll be looking at the guys for a tough performance and seeing who can stand up and lift themselves after a really disappointing week.

"We've had a good chat and a good practice session, but it will come down to individuals sticking their hand up and getting ready for a big, big challenge. We have to get confidence from our practice sessions and take that into the game. There is no way you can get your confidence fully back after the performances in Adelaide but we can go some way to doing that in practice.

"It is crucial we get momentum. We cannot keep performing to the standards of the last week and expect to go to the World Cup feeling good. We have to raise the standard over the next three games, two of which are against New Zealand.

"We showed we can beat New Zealand a couple of weeks ago and we can do that again. The whole focus of the next couple of days is making the players realise that the level of their performance has to improve.

"There were a lot of hurt players in the team after Friday's match against Australia. In the eight years I've been associated with the side I've never seen a team so low. Hopefully, they will take that hurt into Tuesday's game and use it to prove a few people wrong."

Vaughan is unlikely to play at the WACA and, despite the need to see him captaining England again, his rehabilitation from a torn hamstring should not be rushed. James Anderson and Jon Lewis are set to regain their places, and Ravi Bopara could make his international debut at the expense of Ed Joyce.

Tom Moody has emerged as a possible replacement for Duncan Fletcher as England coach after telling Cricket Australia that he did not want to be considered for the position of Australia coach. Fletcher is under pressure and there is speculation that he will relinquish his position after the World Cup.

Moody, the former Australian all-rounder, is Sri Lanka's coach and was tipped to return home to replace John Buchanan after the World Cup. But he also has connections in England, where he lives with his English wife and family when not coaching Sri Lanka.

"I may stay with Sri Lanka or it could be somewhere else, domestically or internationally," Moody said. "That [an English wife] doesn't mean I am any more likely to take a job in England than in Australia just because I'm an Australian."

Peter Moores is the favourite to replace Fletcher, but Moody's reputation has grown after a successful spell with Sri Lanka.

* South Africa completed a five-wicket win in the third and final Test against Pakistan to win the series 2-1. The hosts began day three at Newlands in Cape Town on 36 for 2 in pursuit of only 161 and achieved that thanks to a 117-run partnership between Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince.

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