England must get out of their comfort zone

Reporter: Matthew Chambers
Date published: 10 February 2009

LIKE a carefully prepared set piece on a Hollywood blockbuster, the England cricket team was a disaster waiting to happen in every sense.

But even set against the standards of big budget movies, the results were spectacular at the weekend for Andy Flower’s boys.

Not for this England team a weak capitulation against the world’s best fast bowling — the sort of collapse that characterised the side during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

When Curtly Ambrose got the scent of blood in 1994 you had to marvel at his brilliance. Figures of six wickets for 24 runs helped the West Indies bowl the hapless tourists out for just 46.

While the inclination to collapse like a house of cards in a force nine was again present in the first Test in Jamaica in 2009, this was something entirely different.

A total of 51 all out, against a team which has won two of its last 30 Tests? How on earth do you explain that?

Firstly, it would be unfair to belittle the efforts of an improving West Indies side. Their poor record disguises some notable signs of improvement of late, particularly in the one-day game, and in Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul they have around about the same number of top-class batsmen as England.

Jerome Taylor bowled quick, full and straight for his match figures of eight for 85 and gigantic off-spinner Sulieman Benn looked the part (certainly more so than the ailing Monty Panesar).

Like a reveller spilling out of an all-you-can-drink nightclub at 3am, England severely lacked focus and the hand-eye co-ordination in the second innings left a lot to be desired.

It wasn’t supposed to happen, but they were completely outplayed.

The collective weight of recent failures seems to have crushed the team’s spirit.

As shown in recent series’ by an inability to defend record-breaking run chases against South Africa and India, when the chips are down this is a side that no longer knows how to fight.

Maybe the fact that no less than 13 backroom staff are accompanying the squad on tour has an effect on the mentality. If there’s always someone else doing your bidding off the pitch, it is probably hard to get the right frame of mind as an individual to fight your corner on it.

Back in 1994, England responded to the mauling by winning the next Test with an unchanged side.

This time they face an even bigger challenge.

For a similar result to occur this time the team needs a good shake-up — if only as a way of escaping the comfort zone that has all-but eroded the once-vicious competitive streak which did so much to wrest back the Ashes in 2005.

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