Saturday 25 August 2007 

Encouraging Signs Of A Fight From England

There weren't many predicting a 1-1 scoreline after two matches of the NatWest series, but it makes a refreshing change for England to still be in with a chance after two gutsy performances in Southampton and Bristol.

Something had to change after the woeful display in the World Cup and to a certain degree the loss against the West Indies. It is as if, with the Twenty20 World Cup on the horizon, England have collectively shifted into another gear.

All of a sudden, Ian Bell looks like a bona fida one-day player, Alastair Cook and Matt Prior are giving England the sort of flying starts that are so desperately needed and with Ravi Bopara and Dimitri Mascarenhas and even Stuart Broad down the order, there is virtually no tail to speak of.

What it means is that England now look far more likely to get into winning positions in games - that means plenty of runs on the board and not many wickets down by the 30/40 over stage.

What was also impressive was they way in which during the run chase at Bristol, England at one stage looked like they might fold for a middling score of around 250 all out, but they refused to give in, and in the end ran India a lot closer than they would have been comfortable with.

It's impossible to know exactly what has inspired this turnaround, but perhaps with Owais Shah waiting in the wings, the batsmen suddenly realised this was their last chance, and under extra pressure, for a change, they have responded with strong performances.

The return of Andrew Flintoff has no doubt had a big effect - cynics might still see him batting above Bopara and Mascarenhas as a touch optimistic, but it is with the ball with which England need him to deliver more than the bat right now.

Five wickets against India in Bristol was just the tonic, and confirmation of just how much of a force he is in the international arena.

The one downside was the omission of Monty Panesar, given how impressive the Indian spinners were and how unimpressive his replacement Chris Tremlett was.

As the circus moves on to Edgbaston, those of us who predicted heavy wins for India, are having to rethink. This England team appears to be turning the one-day international corner, and for once, India find themselves in a contest.

John Pennington
© Cricket World 2007