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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 April, 2005, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
England still on learning curve
By Paul Grunill

Over the past five years, everything has been geared towards turning the England women's team into World Cup winners.

Clare Connor
England's players were thorough in their preparations

The 2000 competition in New Zealand was a significant low point as a dispirited side failed to reach the last four.

John Harmer, a World Cup winning coach with Australia, was recruited to begin the rebuilding process.

And two years ago the job was handed on to Richard Bates, who set about adding a more tactical nous into the mix.

Sports psychologists, physios and dieticians all played their part as England progressed under their increasingly astute skipper Clare Connor to become the second ranked team in the world.

To lose to Australia in the semi-finals of the World Cup in South Africa will therefore come as a huge disappointment to Connor and her team.

So is it now a case of back to drawing board?

Definitely not, according to former England all-rounder Kathryn Leng, who believes the team will emerge stronger for the experience.

"It's definitely forwards from now," Leng told BBC Sport.

"The girls worked so hard to get there and sacrificed a lot personally to spend a lot of time away from home training.

"It's disappointing but there are a lot of positives to come out of the game. I was really impressed by their professionalism.

Kathryn Leng
There are great positives with the fielding
Kathryn Leng

"I remember when I was in the thick of it all we'd lose to Australia by 200 runs. If you put it into that perspective, they've done really well."

A disappointing aspect of England's World Cup campaign was suffering defeats to all their main rivals, losing to India and New Zealand in the first round group phase prior to facing Australia.

There were mitigating factors against the Kiwis by the absence of injured Charlotte Edwards and Lucy Pearson being able to bowl only one over because of a shin injury, her last competitive action of the tournament.

But England beat them on home soil last summer and were confident of doing so again.

"Batting-wise it's all about getting partnerships together.

Arran Brindle
Arran Brindle was one of England's successes in South Africa

"In the games they lost there may have been one strong partnership in the whole innings, and that's probably where we've lost out," said Leng.

She also believes playing in the tournament out of season did not help England, even though they had four warm-up games in South Africa before the start of the tournament.

"There's only so much scenario training you can do inside. It's match practice which is the key to building partnerships and batting together."

Youngsters like Jenny Gunn, Isa Guha and especially, according to Leng, Katherine Brunt can only improve as they gain more international experience.

And with England and Wales Cricket Board figures showing that at least two million girls have played some form of cricket at school, the talent pool should not be short of numbers.

Continuing to tap into and nurture that talent is the challenge facing the England women's team before the next World Cup comes around.


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