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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
England pay for poor preparation
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport, Bridgetown, Barbados

Reviews of the 5-0 Ashes Test series whitewash earlier this year laid blame mainly on poor preparation and selection for England's woes.

Does the same apply to the World Cup, after defeat by South Africa on Tuesday ended their hopes of reaching the semi-finals?

And how can a team that beat world champions Australia in three successive matches on home soil in February now appear so poor?

Andrew Flintoff
Was Andrew Flintoff too tired and jaded to be at his best?

Scratch the surface of England's one-day side and you quickly expose the Commonwealth Bank Series as a blip.

Australia, complacent after heavy early victories, had already begun extra fitness training and hence were below their best.

And those four wins made up a quarter of England's victories over the last 18 months.

While the short-term preparation for the World Cup looked well thought-out, long-term planning has been completely lacking from England's one-day side.

Over the last 18 months, comprising 42 games, 36 players have gained caps.

In case the task is too much for next week's pub quiz, here are some of the more difficult-to-remember ones: Tim Bresnan, Alex Loudon, Kabir Ali and Shaun Udal.

Many were brought in for a look then discarded when they failed to impress. Most of them were county all-rounders, not selected specifically for either batting or bowling.

Meanwhile star Test spinner Monty Panesar was not even given a chance until January.

Going into the match against South Africa, Panesar was England's second-most economical bowler - behind Andrew Flintoff - and had taken seven wickets from as many games.

There are arguably only two players among that 36 not in the World Cup 15 who would be in the Caribbean in a perfect scenario.

Pace bowler Steve Harmison retired from the one-day game came after he struggled for form with the white ball and endured a difficult Ashes tour, but he could have been a valuable asset at his best.

Mal Loye
Mal Loye was one of many players to be tried and discarded

Marcus Trescothick's stress-related illness prevented him from taking part, although he is the only full-time opening batsman capable of exploiting the early fielding restrictions as most sides do.

Many lobbied for the inclusion of Mal Loye, whose attacking style only came off three times in seven matches in Australia.

That would probably have meant dropping Andrew Strauss, who endured a difficult winter in Australia in both Test cricket and one-day internationals.

As it happened, when the World Cup started, Strauss was initially axed from the starting line-up to accommodate Kevin Pietersen, with Ed Joyce keeping his place.

But Strauss has 14 one-day half centuries to his name, and did not need to be thrust into the cauldron of a Super 8 match against Australia having missed all four matches against non-Test nations.

This is the first time since the four-year cycles of the Ashes tour and World Cup fell into synch in 1999 that England have managed to get past the first round.

Throw in a packed English summer in 2006 and October's ICC Champions Trophy and it is little surprise that players have looked jaded.

In the same period, World Cup semi-finalists New Zealand played just 20 ODIs, and five Test matches - around 40 days less just in terms of playing, let alone travel and practice.

Then there is the effect of the Ashes whitewash itself. England were not just beaten but broken by Australia.

The one-day series win and a well-orchestrated build-up left them in good spirits going into the opening game of the World Cup.

But a dispiriting defeat to New Zealand opened all the old wounds and it was downhill from there.

SEE ALSO
Vaughan insists he will not quit
17 Apr 07 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
11 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Cricket World Cup 2007 schedule
20 Jul 05 |  Cricket


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