Haunted by the lost opportunities

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The Independent Online
England have not played well in Zimbabwe. To suggest otherwise would be wrong. The results tell the story. The team know they have performed below expectations.

Reflecting on the cricket we have played in the past month, the particularly disappointing aspect has been the loss of matches we had got ourselves in a position to win. Maybe at those times our discipline has been lacking.

It is a team game and each member must discharge his responsibility towards the team. Personally, I still look back on the first Test and Bulawayo and think perhaps I should have won it for the side.

The tour has taught us valuable lessons in that respect. The importance of taking advantage of the opportunities you have created has not been, must not be, lost on us. But for all the recent setbacks we are still a team. We are disappointed but we still believe in each other, we still desperately want to do well for England.

We understand that people back home in the depths of winter may be perfectly justified in criticising some of our cricket, though it should not be forgotten that we were as close as could be to winning one Test and were denied the chance to pursue victory by the weather in the second. But any suggestion of a lack of pride and commitment and passion in playing for England is simply wrong. It is the pinnacle for us all.

There is enormous respect in the squad for our captain, Michael Atherton. He is a player of the highest class who is temporarily out of touch. Nobody here believes that he will not soon be making big runs again.

It was quiet in the dressing room after we lost the one-day series on New Year's Day. Zimbabwe won it but we did more to lose it. We discussed it. That is important. We were aware that things had not gone according to plan. The significance of defeats have to be understood but by talking about it you are planning to avoid them in future.

We knew that we deserved our failings to be pointed out. I was not happy with my own contribution in England's innings. It is my job to be positive at the start, to get us quickly out of the blocks in those first 15 overs. If my attacking shots had worked it might been different. But they didn't. Maybe I was slightly too extravagant. That night I stayed in my room and began watching the film Judge Dredd. It says something for the film that I went to sleep during it but that was probably the best place for me. And then came the third match. Another disappointment. But this was not humiliation. We knew that their total was not easy to chase but also thought it was well attainable. Then, Eddo Brandes transformed the match with a truly incisive spell of swing bowling.

On this last leg of the tour, my room mate has been Andy Caddick. It has been a frustrating time for him because he has not been playing. There is nothing worse, but he has stayed remarkably upbeat. It comes back once more to the team ethic. I can't stress that enough. And this is a team which continues to have a sense of conviction. We are positive.

England will learn from the Zimbabwean leg of this trip but we must resist dwelling on it. New Zealand looms for us now and there is still a lot of cricket to be played this winter. Perhaps it has not gone as well as it ought to have done but we are good enough players to turn the corner. We must now regroup and make the most of the winning positions. That is what we intend to do.