You make your own luck – and we need to start

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The Independent Online

No doubt about it, now. It is essential that all future England captains are sent to Las Vegas, where there are thousands of coins, and learn how to win a toss. They could practise day in, day out until it starts to land the right way up.

No doubt about it, now. It is essential that all future England captains are sent to Las Vegas, where there are thousands of coins, and learn how to win a toss. They could practise day in, day out until it starts to land the right way up.

According to the most elementary statistic in a game full of them, there is a 50-50 chance of winning every time a team's captain goes out to toss at the start of the match. So, at the very least, these things must even themselves out. It looks as if England may have to wait until the Royal Mint runs dry. Thirteen tosses out of the last 14 have been lost, nine in a row against the Aussies.

You need the rub of the green sometimes, and you need it quite often when you are up against the number one side around. This sort of thinking will unquestionably get me labelled as a whingeing Pom, or worse, a whingeing Pom who was born in New Zealand. So be it.

England, when they might have needed a smidgin of luck, have been denied it for most of the time. In its way, the toss embodies that. It is not everything by a long chalk. Indeed, we have had so much experience of calling wrongly or seeing the opposition call it rightly that we should have become accustomed to it by now. And did we not, after all, get two famous series victories in the winter, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, by winning three matches in which we called for the incorrect side every time?

So we are professional enough and hard-nosed enough to come back from that type of setback. But on these pitches, which have a bit of early moisture in them, and which then dry out later to something much flatter, against a well-rounded Australian side, it makes it harder work.

You make your own luck in this sport but in this very match we have, agonisingly, seen potential catches offered by Australian batsmen fail narrowly to go to hand, another English batsman dismissed by an unspotted no-ball, an lbw appeal upheld against an England batsman when a close shout against an Aussie player was turned down. And this after we had to stop and start three times on the first day. It keeps their bowlers fresh, it means your batsmen must get into the groove against a ball not getting old as quickly as it would have done without the stoppages.

Well, you just have to get on with it, to plough a different furrow, to wait for the breaks to come and, more importantly, to believe that they still will. I know that England have not become a crap team overnight but then, that's another thing, some of the team in the Second Test are not the personnel that might have been envisaged a couple of months ago. Injuries have hurt our team.

All this has led not only to matters going well for Australia in this series temporarily but to another English revival. Yes, knocking the team appears to have been revived as a media sport. True, we have had not enough first-innings runs on the board in either of the first two matches (for some of the reasons, see above) but that is two matches.

For 18 months, England slowly but surely made advances, so that we were gritty and did not give leads up lightly. Two poor shows and everybody is on our backs again, telling us how frightfully awful we are. And this, they have already conceded, against a bowling attack which is freely described as the best there has ever been. Well, if that's the case, what do they expect?

Having said all of which, it is hard for a bowler to come out and try to bowl to the sort of total England mustered in the first innings here (187, to be exact). The way these Aussies play, the force that is with them, they will attack that from the off and soon put a dent in it, going along at four runs an over. They are vulnerable, they can be rattled, but to do that a total nearer 350 is needed. The disconcerting thing for bowlers is having to change your game plan – quite often, actually. You need to get wickets but you also have to curb their more exorbitant attempts at run-scoring. That balance can be difficult to achieve.

This period now, not just this match but the ones to come, will tell us a bit more about this squad and our ability to cope with adversity. We all have to stand up to be counted.

There is still room for light relief, though. No more than on Friday night when we came off the field and the dressing-room television was showing Colin Montgomerie being interviewed after finishing his round in The Open at Lytham.

I had just bowled 22 overs against Australia, my new-ball partner Darren Gough had bowled 15 and we were being targeted. Monty was saying how tired he was after his round of 18 holes. Yeah, sure. Oh, how we cried for him.

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