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Youthful England finding the right balance

Posted on January 31, 2015 by Selby There have been 0 comments

It would be unfair to contrast the last days of Andy Flower's period as coach with the relatively early days of Peter Moores second stint. There was a time, under Flower, when England harnessed enjoyment and excellence to play some of the best cricket in their history. His reputation is justifiably high.

Moores, in partnership with his avuncular assistant Paul Farbrace, has revived England. He has identified players - characters as much as cricketers - who he feels can lead the rebuilding. Players with no baggage from the past and no agenda for the future other than to play to the best of their ability. The shoots of recovery are fragile at present but in Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler and James Taylor England should have the nucleus of a side that can serve them not just at this World Cup but at the next, as well.There are parallels here with Moores' first period as England coach. Even in that largely discredited reign, he made key decisions that laid the platform for some of the success enjoyed later by Flower and co. It was, after all, Moores who made the decision to entrust James Anderson and Stuart Broad with the new ball; Moores who recalled Matt Prior; Moores who backed Swann. Whatever his failings - and he would be the first to admit he is a wiser man now - he was always a decent judge of a player.

Whatever happens on Sunday, everyone in the England squad will have four days off following the match. There will be no training, no sponsorship engagements and no media opportunities.

Instead the squad, many of whom have their partners here, will be encouraged to explore this fine country. To embrace the beaches and breweries; the valleys and vineyards; the creeks and the cafes. Moores understands that, however good the dressing rooms and hotels, they become prisons if inhabited for 300 days a year.

It is unthinkable that Flower would have allowed his team such freedom. And perhaps, because of that, it became unthinkable that they would play free and fearless cricket. Whether they were jaded or fearful of the reaction a dismissal might provoke, they became a team adept at playing the percentages. It was enough to take them to the brink of the Champions Trophy, but such a team has never won a World Cup.

A team that lives on the road as much as England needs to enjoy the journey. It needs to offer an environment which is relaxed but intense, personally ambitious but selflessly supportive, fearless but focused. Moores has gone a long way towards creating that environment in the last few months.

Pietersen's memorable description of Moores as "the woodpecker" - a maddening presence whose constant intrusion upon the players became an impediment - may have been true in 2007. But there is no evidence to support it now.

It does not matter hugely who wins this match. While it is a final in theory, it is the coda that became the overture. England will take confidence simply from reaching it and both sides will know that conditions in Perth bear little comparison to conditions in Melbourne, where they meet again on February 14. All the pressure is on Australia.

In a perfect world, England would like to see Ravi Bopara contribute a little more and Stuart Broad continue to improve following his comeback. But with runs from Taylor, Buttler, Eoin Morgan and Ian Bell, with good spells from Woakes, Anderson, Moeen and Steven Finn, they have probably already gained more from this tri-series event than they could have expected. They're improving.

There is a concern about the pitch, though. Facing Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc on the same surface upon which Axar Patel, the left-arm spinner, saw his deliveries spit to head height, is not just challenging, it is potentially dangerous. Nobody wants to see a player ruled out of the World Cup with a broken finger.

The groundstaff have worked hard since the end of Friday's match to improve the surface. The floodlights stayed on past midnight as the pitch has been rolled endlessly from every angle. But those cracks are a worry and add just a hint of chance to an encounter that should be decided on merit.


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