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July 9, 2010
After a flying start to his international career, encompassing a maiden ODI hundred in Bangladesh back in March and a Man-of-the-Match performance in the World Twenty20 final against Australia two months later, Craig Kieswetter is currently enduring a rather leaner spell at the top of England's limited-overs batting order.
In the recent series win against the Aussies, he was limited to 69 runs in five innings, and followed that up with 32 from 40 balls against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday. But with England's one-day fortunes unequivocally on the rise, he is unconcerned about his relative lack of personal success, and believes that the confidence currently swirling around the squad is sure to rub off on him before long.
"I have been able to experience a lot in a short international career," said Kieswetter. "I have probably had a dream experience. I have played against Bangladesh, been part of a winning side at a World Cup and created history. I have really enjoyed what I have been part of and have contributed at certain stages. I know cricket can bite you and it is not possible to get a hundred in every innings. I also know I don't have to be perfect in every innings, but being able to contribute with bat or gloves is all I can ask.
"Australia are the No. 1 international one-day side in the world, and it was a fantastic experience playing against them," he added. "They had four or five top-quality bowlers running in at you, so it was a step-up to be playing a top three team in the world and that was my first experience of playing in a series against one of them. I didn't get the runs I wanted to, but I learned a lot from the five games and I feel I am constantly improving."
England's six-wicket win over Bangladesh has put them well on course for their fourth ODI series victory in a row - a run of form that they have not equalled since their all-conquering Ashes tour in 1986-87, and one which looked inconceivable while England were being drubbed 6-1 by the Aussies in last September's ignoble contest. According to the captain, Andrew Strauss, the team is on the brink of a major breakthrough in the 50-over format, and that is an assertion with which Kieswetter agrees.
"We feel confident in the dressing room, and we feel we are going to win every game," he said. "That is a good feeling to have. That is down to the hard work we have put in and the direction Strauss and [Andy] Flower have been giving us. We feel confident but we know we can't rest on our laurels. We are confident in the fact there is a World Cup coming up, a Pakistan series and an Australia tour. We know the next few months is a great chance to showcase how we can keep improving."
One of Kieswetter's key objectives between now and then is to cement his partnership with Strauss at the top of England's 50-over card. The pair have shown glimpses of what they might be able to achieve in harness, notably during a century stand against Scotland last month, but their latest 74-run stand against Bangladesh was marred by some less-than-convincing running between the wickets.
"We are trying to strike up a partnership," said Kieswetter. "Last night we batted nicely together albeit with a few dodgy runs in there. I think I have got to realise I am not batting with another 22 year-old. I am batting with an old man at the other end and we will have to see about our running. It will take a while but we do dovetail quite nicely, so we will try to build up a partnership. I've just got to hit it through the in-field before I call him through for a single."
One surprising aspect of their stands to date has been the frequency with which Strauss, who once described himself as a bit of a "stodgy" batsman, has set the tempo with Kieswetter trailing in his wake. His approach has been a far cry from the carefree thwacking that characterised his 20-over alliances with Michael Lumb, but Kieswetter admits that he is still adapting to the different requirements of the two limited-overs games.
"It has been interesting," he said. "Standing in the field for 50 overs is a test in itself because that is more than a whole Twenty20 game. I think it took the first few games to get used to it again and getting overs into the legs is tricky, but I have played 50-over cricket for Somerset so now I'm feeling good and pretty happy as well with where I am.
"For me it is just about trying to go out and play my shots," he said. "If I rein it in and try to be too tight and not play my natural game that is when I get stuck. Last night I went out to play with a bit of flair and tried to enjoy myself, and I really did. I felt I was hitting ball nicely. My movements were good at the crease and I was really happy with what I was able to contribute.
"I am not looking at too many areas at the moment. I don't want to change too many things right now. I want to make smaller changes just to improve my game by one percent at a time."
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