One day sideshow the ideal appetizer

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The Independent Online
One-day internationals are almost invariably dismissed by the experts as the sideshow to Test cricket. Yet this Texaco series may prove by the end of the summer to have been highly relevant to the six Test matches that are to follow. Some of England's personnel will change and the Australians are, at the moment, not an especially good one-day side. The longer, drawn- out form of the game is vastly different from the technical aspect and the Australians' main objective is to retain the Ashes - or so the argument goes.

The Australians arrived in England with the usual fanfare of propaganda and, if the words of Mark Waugh, for one, are to be taken at face value, not expecting to have too much to do if they were to keep the Ashes.

But a great deal of work has been going on in England behind the scenes to try to rebuild England's cricket. No one knew for certain what the outcome of all this would be and the Texaco Trophy was the first occasion on which it could be put to the test.

Suddenly in the last few days Englishmen have found that they have at last a competitive side to support and the Australians have discovered that they have an unexpected fight on their hands. But - and most important of all - after their success in these three one-day games the England players are once again believing in themselves and their ability to win, which means that their confidence is high.

Of course, Test cricket is a different, more demanding game but confidence is a will o' the wisp which does not easily distinguish between the various forms of the game. England's cricketers will start the Test series at Edgbaston the week after next knowing that Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne can be handled, that the Waugh brothers are not invincible and that Australia are beatable.

It may well be that Ben Hollioake will not be chosen for the Test series, yet it was hard not to feel that his astonishing innings, a medley of uncomplicated youth, careless rapture and a remarkable natural ability, came as the biggest shock of all to the Australian psyche.

They were pummelled almost into submission by a young man who began life as one of their own. When Hollioake was out, not a single Australian applauded him and one wondered if his offence had been to have been born Australian. But by then the Australians had wasted a chance of scoring over 300 and shutting England out of the game. And it was England's persistence and refusal to give up which had brought this about.