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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 September, 2004, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
England a work in progress
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport at The Oval

On the greyest autumn day imaginable, England's summer of celebrations came to an ignominious end as West Indies conjured a thrilling win from an almost impossible situation.

Vikram Solanki
Solanki is still to replicate his county form in internationals
Until the epic partnership between Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw that won the match, however, England had played as well as they ever have done in one-day kit.

The three icons of the English game - Andrew Flintoff, Marcus Trescothick and Steve Harmison - performed with a zest that belied the physical toll their bodies have taken over recent months.

Michael Vaughan's bold captaincy was a tonic on such a bitterly cold day. His aggressive field-placings for Brian Lara, for example, were a major factor in the great man's demise.

And despite losing a toss that could have proved so crucial, England consistently refused to play second fiddle to a vastly-improved West Indies side.

So many sides, reeling at 148-6 in a showpiece final, would have wilted - but not this England XI.

The stark truth, though, is that they lost from an impregnable position, and must think again as they prepare for the 2007 World Cup.

Alex Wharf
Glamorgan bowler Wharf was wicketless throughout the tournament
Before the final, Andrew Strauss had made it clear that the team was still a work in progress.

He has a point - they may be good enough to beat Sri Lanka and Australia in conditions alien to most of the opposing teams.

But there are a few weak links which could be exposed in the future.

Take Trescothick's partner at the top of the order - Vikram Solanki, who has had three spells as an England batsman.

His first appearances were as a youthful novice who batted in the middle order and filled in a few overs of off-spin.

Since then he has been used as an opener but has only reproduced his county form sparingly.

Much has been said about the quality of his fielding and how it complements Paul Collingwood's brilliance.

But he has made errors in those areas square of the wicket, mistakes he would rarely make in a Worcestershire shirt.

Vaughan's overall batting record leaves much to be desired.

Even in his 86 against Australia he seemed to lose his way in the latter part of an otherwise excellent innings.

There are two places in the bowling ranks, meanwhile, which need to be re-assesed.

Darren Gough
Gough may find this is the time to end his international career
One concerns Alex Wharf. Initially selected as somebody who could bowl 10 overs and provide some quick runs, he had an excellent debut against India.

But he went through the Champions Trophy worryingly wicketless, and has not yet shown whether he can bat effectively at this level.

Finally, the selectors have to consider the veteran Darren Gough.

He has claimed he will "walk away from the game" when he considers he no longer merits his place in the side - and that point has seemingly come upon us already.

Of all people to get stage-fright in a final, Gough, with his oceans of experience, should have been the least likely candidate.

But by serving up a stack of wides and half-volleys he clearly contributed to West Indies' victory in the final.

As the whole of the England side now realise, it can be a cruel game.




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