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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 15:31 GMT
England's worrying pattern
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Vaughan and Flintoff ponder defeat in Dambulla
Played 14
Won 9 (All when batting second)
Lost 4 (All when batting first)
One no result (v Zimbabwe, Headingley - rain)
Michael Vaughan had no hesitation in electing to bat first after winning the toss prior to England's debacle in Dambulla on Tuesday.

Perhaps, however, he should have studied the statistics of his tenure before making up his mind.

Since he became England's 24th one-day captain, it has become the norm that whenever England bat first they lose, and whenever they bat second they win.

The overall record is pretty convincing, and it includes a run of six consecutive wins prior to Dambulla.

But none of those wins came after his team set a target.

Instead, in venues as diverse as Bristol, Lord's and Chittagong in Bangladesh they have come after his team have fielded first before rattling past a target.

Floodlights appear to make no difference - England winning three and losing three of the day-nighters they have appeared in.

They have lost to Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Sri Lanka in that time, and beaten Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Bangladesh.

Even Zimbabwe triumphed when England batted first
Even Zimbabwe triumphed when England batted first

So it really is a peculiar statistic that they cannot get it right when asked - or having chosen - to bat first.

But doing it the other way round they are totally invincible, for the time being at least.

They win so very convincingly when batting second that one wonders why Vaughan is not tempted to do it every time if he wins the toss.

Witness the two run-chases at The Oval during the long, hot summer.

Against Pakistan, having lost the first match of the three-match series, they bowled out their opposition for 185.

But instead of gingerly accumulating in chase of their target, England, with Marcus Trescothick in his pomp, romped home in 22 overs.

When they played South Africa there on an even hotter, sunnier day, they had to chase 265.

But Trescothick and Vikram Solanki both hit rapid centuries at the top of the order and the match was soon heading in only one direction.

The momentum was really with England when both teams moved onto Old Trafford.

Paul Collingwood
Do players like Collingwood naturally prefer chasing a target?

But the home side were unable to defend 223 despite the advantage of bowling under floodlights.

On a secondary issue, England lost the first one-day international against Pakistan before winning the series 2-1.

They also lost the opening match of the triangular NatWest Series to Zimbabwe, before ultimately beating South Africa in the final at Lord's.

England fans should not, therefore, panic unduly after the defeat in Dambulla.

And to see a team perform quite as magnificently as Sri Lanka did after a four-month break from international cricket posed a further question.

England were supposedly well prepared for this tour after thumping Bangladesh.

But one of cricket's current bete noires is that there is far too much cricket on the calendar.

Sri Lanka's players, both young and old, looked as fresh as daisies on Tuesday.

They caught everything, ran like greyhounds and hardly bowled a bad ball.

England, on the hand, looked slightly jaded - a worrying sign with two more one-day internationals and three Tests to pack in this side of Christmas.

Links to more Sri v Eng stories


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