Just 2nd best?

Andrew Flintoff celebrates England's first win of 2007, England v New Zealand, CB Series, 3rd match, Hobart, January 16, 2007I have to admit to a certain disappointment in England’s victory over New Zealand. While it was a thrilling finish and I was certainly handsomely rewarded for my attention, I was grimly predicting a series without a win.

In a way, much more could have been taken from a tour duck then if we go on to beat New Zealand in the triangular series and loose again and again to Australia. Abject defeat might disturb the torpor which has becalmed the England selection and managment since the Ashes ’05.

The possibility of beating New Zealand with some consistency and finishing second would allow the powers to continue to say that we are actually fine, it is just that Australia are scandalously good at cricket.

I certainly would not have said so. But looking at it, there is some defense in this claim – we did just beat New Zealand who are ranked 3 places ahead of us.

We did also draw with Pakistan in the summer, ranked another three places ahead of them.

Our Test thrashing of Pakistan in August (and the Oval debacle notwithstanding, it was a thrashing) without Flintoff, Vaughan et al showed what we can do to the supposed ‘next best’ after Australia and us.

Some lessons have already been learned from the Ashes. For a start, the selection of Vaughan as Captain has finally shown that Graveny and co, if not Fletcher, have understood that this is a specialist position and one England cannot function without.

Michael Vaughan celebrates another wicket and another catch, England v New Zealand, CB Series, 3rd match, Hobart, January 16, 2007It is no coincidence that England won, Flintoff batted like the man of old and even Jimmy Anderson bowled well. These all happened after Vaughan had time to reassert his authority (and take three catches). A similar surge in form happened when Vaughan first took over against South Africa.

In the modern game there is an obsession with the all-rounder.

The endless hunt for a batting keeper to replace Alec Stewart is still going on, and Fletcher feels justified in picking Gilo over Monty for a mythical 10 extra runs.

What England have learned the very, very hard way this winter is that you cannot become a leader, you either are or you are not. Flintoff is not a leader of men. His captaincy was a costly mistake and one that should have been avoided after seeing the ability of Strauss over the summer.

Now that Vaughan is back in the team – and more importantly holding Fletcher’s lead again – we might get a better picture of how good England really are.

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3 thoughts on “Just 2nd best?

  1. England won the Ashes in 2005 because they had the right mix of killer instinct and determination to win. Many commentators more erudite and knowledgable than this correpondent have made the point that they came to Australia with a degree of complacency, of resting on their laurels and simply not getting enough match practice in. And of course Vaughan makes a much better captain.

    Since 2005, Punter and his boys have thought of nothing else than regaining the Ashes, and this started immediately by examining how they lost them in the first place, without histrionics or threats to sack the coach and/or captain.

    This year, normal service appears to have been restored, with Australia playing to win and England playing in the hope of not losing.

    Get back the killer instinct, believe in yourselves and play to win for heaven’s sake. Despite uproar over the whitewash, most honest Australian cricket fans would agree that it is more exciting to watch a closely fought series (won by Australia in the last over of the last test of course) than a walkover.

  2. I agree entirly, it was the killer instinct and flinty dertermination that saw off South Africa when Vaughan first came in, it held the squad together during the Zimbabwe debacle and crushed the Windies – leading to the Ashes. As soon as Vaughan dropped out the results tailed off.

    England are not a one man team but the only preform with a Captain who DEMANDS respect and treats them like professionals. Flintoff is everyone’s mate and drinking buddy. It was a most unwelcome flashback to the David Gower years.

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