The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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England can learn from positive intent

International Cricket Council regulations do not permit me to comment on my fine for breaking our dressing room door at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday, but the incident is indicative of the frustration at our inability to win the series 5-0.

Although we had already secured the Ashes, we were desperate to complete a clean sweep and the fact we were not able to confirmed it is a difficult assignment.

As to why we failed to finish the Test series with a win, well there were factors on both sides that came into play.

For us, there was an element of fatigue as we played our eighth Test match in 12 weeks spread over three countries. We were jaded after more than two days in the field in Melbourne and to then come to Sydney, lose the toss and go straight back out for 4.5 sessions was hard work.

Even if only sub-consciously, with the series already won and thoughts drifting to the VB Series and the World Cup, there had to be an element of dead-rubber syndrome. The passion and desire was still there as we love playing for our country, but it was tough to maintain the intensity and maybe that came through in some of our cricket.

From Englandís perspective, put simply, they played well. I said previously that I expected them to play better once the pressure of trying to win the series had been lifted and that is exactly what happened, first in Melbourne and then in Sydney.

They started to enjoy themselves and, as at Melbourne, they also started to try to bowl us out. Rather than two slips, a gully, third man and a deep square leg out for the hook shot, they posted three slips and two gullies and the bowlers responded.

I hope that positive intent is something England take away from this series as it was evident when they batted second time around through Vaughan and Trescothick. Both are boundary hitters and they came out looking to dominate. That has to be the way to play against us.

The fact the partnership failed to fire during the series was key to our success. Vaughan had success looking to play aggressively but Trescothick, although he wanted to play that way, didnít have the confidence to back himself. It meant we were able to dictate terms early in their innings more often than not and as a result they were rarely in a position to set a platform for a large first innings score.

The absence of Warne and McGrath from our attack was obviously important in our failure to complete the whitewash. That goes without saying. If you take around 900 Test wickets out of any side they will face a challenge to maintain their penetration.

All the same, if we had held our catches either side of lunch England would have been four wickets down for 80-odd and the match might have taken on a different perspective.

As the summer has gone on our catching has not always been as sharp as in past series and that has been thrown into sharper focus by the way everyone seems to be talking about the World Cup and how the best fielding side is likely to win it.

I am not so sure it will come down to that. I prefer to think that it will be the side who have an in-form batting line-up that will be hardest to stop, especially on the smaller southern African grounds. We saw that when we were in South Africa last year: we chased down massive targets in Durban and Port Elizabeth and there seemed little they could do to stop us.

The other key to winning the World Cup could be having a fit squad, something that we have seen in this Ashes series. England came here with players that were physically crocked and paid for it; now the boot is on the other foot and we have McGrath, Warne and

Gillespie out for the resumption of the VB Series.

That will hurt us in the short term but on a positive note, if it means all three are fit, fresh and firing by the time we start the defence of our title in February it might not be so bad after all.

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