England's losing streak continues

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England's beaten cricketers arrived at Heathrow yesterday unable to shake off that losing feeling - their baggage on their return flight from Johannesburg had gone missing.

The container carrying the personal luggage of Mike Atherton's side had been directed to the wrong terminal and it meant a two and a quarter hour hold- up before the bags were returned to their correct destination.

After a 12-hour journey beginning in Port Elizabeth, it was hardly the end to the tour that England's squad needed.

Ray Illingworth, the manager, and eight players transferred to Manchester and Leeds airports unaware of the mix-up, while Atherton, the England captain, declined interviews, saying: "No, it's been a long flight."

England lost the five-match Test series 1-0 and went down 6-1 in the one-day internationals to Hansie Cronje's team.

Atherton's first sight on emerging through customs was a man dressed as a rabbit - Live TV's "News Bunny" giving him the thumbs down.

England have just over a week in which to recharge their batteries before setting off for the World Cup in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which starts on 14 February.

Darren Gough was the one England cricketer who returned home on a high, "relieved" at rediscovering his best bowling form just in time for the World Cup. Gough is a happy man after at last shaking off the injury problems that have dogged his career since it took off spectacularly in Australia last winter.

Constant foot problems during the summer, following the stress fracture which cut short his Australian tour, were followed by a hamstring injury in South Africa which cost him the chance of playing in the last two Tests of the series.

When the one-day series began on 9 January Gough was by no means certain of his World Cup place. But a steady improvement in form means that Gough will go to Pakistan and India on 3 February as England's most effective bowler behind Dominic Cork.

Australia World Cup squad, Sporting Digest, page 23