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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 January, 2005, 10:54 GMT
Introspection needed despite victory
Geoffrey Boycott
By Geoff Boycott
Former England batsman

Michael Vaughan is greeted with adulation by fans after a victorious series
Vaughan's men need to be commended because they won, and winning is good no matter how it is achieved

England set out to win the Test series in South Africa and they did just that.

On that level, it was a good performance.

It was important to win so we can go into the Ashes against Australia this year as winners and with confidence high.

But any congratulatory message has to be delivered with a note of caution, because England were well below their best.

There is no doubt we were given some outstanding performances by the likes of Andrew Strauss, Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard.

I couldn't split Strauss and Hoggard for the man-of-the-series award, but their combined brilliance only papered over the worrying cracks that emerged in the team.

Strauss held us together when our batting was pretty wobbly at times, showing character and technique when others went missing.

Hoggard was fabulous. Not only did he have to be a strike bowler, he had to do a lot of donkey work because Steve Harmison didn't perform at all.

On top of that, he won us a Test match by bowling South Africa out in two sessions in Johannesburg. With some of the best deliveries he will ever bowl in his life, Hoggard made an unlikely win possible.

Andrew Strauss
Strauss showed yet again that he is England's most in-form batsman

Great as these two players were against South Africa, we need to get our big guns firing again because we can't beat the Aussies with just two players on their game.

Harmison looks mentally shot, low on confidence. He doesn't know where the ball is going and we have to get him back.

He is staying on for the one-dayers, but that wouldn't be my decision. Batters out of form probably need more time in the middle, but Harmison looks like he needs a rest.

I would send him back to England so he can unscramble his mind. England are choosing to bowl him in the hope he comes right, but I'm not so sure.

But it's not only Harmison who needs attention. Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe played just two decent innings each in the whole series, and England need more from them.

Poor shot selection was a recurring theme, not just from these two but from most of the batsmen, including Flintoff.

Too often England perished to injudicious shots - hooks and pulls - early in their innings, and they need to study what went wrong so it doesn't happen again.

England seem to get themselves into jail and then out of jail

The early summer back home will be vital. Our batters need to bat themselves into form for their counties and against Bangladesh, who are no more than a club side.

If we had played anything like our best, I have no doubt we would have beaten South Africa 4-0 - that's how much faith I have in the true ability of this England side.

Vaughan's men need to be commended because they won, and winning is always good no matter how it is achieved.

As they have done several times in the past 18 months, England came out on top after getting themselves into trouble with some ordinary cricket.

England seem to get themselves into jail and then out of jail. I'm not sure that's the sign of a good side or an inconsistent side.

But the indiscretions they got away with against South Africa will be punished against the Aussies. We won despite our faults simply because we are better than South Africa.

We are not, however, better than Australia.

They will bring with them the best spinner in the world in Shane Warne and the two best seam bowlers, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie.

I don't want to be too critical of a winning side, but England do not need me to tell them that they need to improve if they are to challenge the best team in the world.


SEE ALSO
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