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Friday, 25 February, 2000, 20:13 GMT
Hussain seeking 'next level'

England's tour was short on success

England's tour party returned from an indifferent winter tour with skipper Nasser Hussain insisting his side had made progress.

Hussain and his players flew into Heathrow fresh from a 3-0 triumph over Zimbabwe in another one-day tournament.

We cannot be expected to challenge the Australia and South African sides on an even basis yet

Nasser Hussain
But the victory over Test cricket's worst nation was little consolation for the disappointment of losing the Test and one-day triangular series to South Africa.

"We've taken some big forward steps and showed that on our day we can compete with any team in the world," said Hussain.

"But there is still lots of work to do if we want to improve the quality of our Test cricket.

"We cannot be expected to challenge the Australia and South African sides on an even basis yet.

"We've got to move up to the next level."

Darren Gough Players like Darren Gough are exhausted
England's next opponents are the shell-shocked West Indies team.

The side are reeling after Brian Lara stood down following one of the worst run of results in West Indian history.

There is also controversy over the appointment of new coach Roger Harper.

But England's Zimbabwe-born coach, Duncan Fletcher, said the West Indies would still prove very strong opponents.

"Whoever their captain is it would be a big, big mistake to think they are a weak side," he said.

The West Indies are still a strong cricketing side, and we are in for another demanding series

Duncan Fletcher, England coach
"Their recent form is obviously not as good as we have come to expect. But the West Indies are still a strong cricketing side, and we are in for another demanding series."

By then the England team will, for the first time, will be largely made up of players contacted to the national side rather than their individual counties.

Next Wednesday the England and Wales Cricket Board announce the 16 players to be given central contracts.

The players will form the core of the England and Fletcher will have first call on their services ahead of the counties.

Graeme Hick: Sealed victory in Zimbabwe
Fletcher has confirmed the 16 are likely to include players not originally selected for the winter tour Test party - suggesting Graham Thorpe, who decided not to tour, and Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick, who were both dropped, could all be included.

The renaissance of Hick, whose played several match-winninginnings in Zimbabwe, was one of the main positive outcomes of the tour.

"I said if we came back with one or two of our new players having held their own at the top level I would be happy," added Hussain.

"There have been some notable successes on this tour, and others have certainly showed signs of ability. It's important we stand by them.

"However, we have to pick a mix of young and experienced players.

"Centralised contracts does not mean the England team is a closed shop. I'd be surprised if we didn't bring back a couple of quality names."
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See also:
20 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Hick seals series success
25 Feb 00 |  Cricket
Vacant West Indian throne
16 Feb 00 |  Cricket
Miller chosen as fourth selector
25 Feb 00 |  Cricket
Post-mortem after Lara quits
22 Feb 00 |  Cricket
I'm going nowhere, says ECB boss
23 Feb 00 |  England on Tour
Tour ends in washout
Links to other England on Tour stories are at the foot of the page.