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Last Updated:  Friday, 7 February, 2003, 13:48 GMT
Rested and ready to go

By Paul Collingwood
England all-rounder

For almost all of the guys in the England party, especially those who played both the Tests and one-dayers in Australia, this has already been a long tour.

We really don't fear any side in this tournament, even Australia

But we had a bit of time off in the Sun City resort once we arrived in South Africa and we are all now, mentally at least, refreshed and ready to go again.

I left home on 14 October - the day before the England Test team - to play a bit of grade cricket before the one-day series.

Playing six months of pressure cricket takes its toll, as does constantly living out of a suitcase.

It would have been nice to have a week or so at home before this tournament but the fixture list didn't allow it so we've just got to get on with it.

The importance of gaining two convincing warm-up wins against provincial opposition cannot be over-stated.

Of course we should win games like these but we failed to do that in Australia, first at Lilac Hill in the first match of the tour and then at Bowral before the VB Series began.

After a tough time in Australia it was doubly important to start well, to just remember how to win, and there is already a buzz amongst the squad as a result.

It didn't take me long to get my eye in during our first match, at a club ground in the Eastern Province township of Motherwell, where I managed 78.

But the pitch was a bit slow and low. Harare apart - no comment - I've no doubt the Test arenas we are about to play on will be faster and bouncier.

It was great to have Craig White and Andrew Flintoff - two top-class all-rounders and two guys who have not played much in the last few months - proving their fitness in those friendlies.

Andrew Flintoff
Andy Flintoff's return to fitness has boosted team morale

Andy really lifts the mood off the pitch - he's a real joker and he helps get you through the tough days.

Both of them will make a big difference, but the rest of the team is concentrating at the moment on the other technical things that we can get right.

Recent results have shown that the middle order has trouble jumping that final hurdle to wrap up a victory when we are chasing, despite fantastic starts from our openers.

We have also been working on our fielding, where we just aren't hitting the stumps enough - it works in practice but not in match situations.

In both cases it's mostly a matter of beginning to believe in ourselves.

We really don't fear any side in this tournament, even Australia.

On their home pitches, with the crowd behind them they are a daunting prospect, but we put in a couple of good performances against them in matches we should have won.

We just have to take it one step further and finish the job.




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