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July 12, 2010
As ripostes go, England's response to their embarrassment at Bristol on Saturday was emphatic and to-the-point. A hefty total of 347 for 7, twin hundreds in an innings for the first time since 2007, and a record second-wicket stand of 250 all added up to the sort of thumping finale that was needed at the end of a puzzling eight-match campaign.
In the past fortnight, England overturned the mighty Australians with some of their best limited-overs cricket for a generation, only to lose their focus so badly in the middle few matches that they ended up surrendering their 100% record against the minnows of Bangladesh. It was a string of results that indicated that England are capable of becoming a formidable unit, but at the same time, it provided a salient reminder that they are a long way short of being the finished article just yet.
"We all felt we had a point to prove after what happened in Bristol, so we wanted to finish the series on a high and play like we had done recently," said Andrew Strauss, who led from the front with a career-best 154, much as he had done after another memorable English embarrassment - their 51-all-out debacle in Sabina Park two winters ago. "Certainly I felt we let ourselves down a bit, and I was very keen we came back strong in this game. It was a satisfying day and it was nice to win the series.
"Everyone felt disappointed about what had happened," he added. "But it was also about learning lessons and moving on and not dwelling on it, because though it was a poor performance, I truly believe it was an aberration. It's not something we've been doing too much lately. There are no excuses on our part, but we've got to strive to eradicate it."
While there is little point in reading too much into a match that never came close to being a contest, England did nevertheless finish the series with a few interesting permutations to consider in their one-day line-up. Though they went through the Australia series with the same 11 players, the clamour for selection has intensified since the Bangladeshis came back into town.
First it was Ian Bell, whose nerveless 84 not out steered England clear of trouble at Trent Bridge; now, with his foot injury pushing him to the sidelines, Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara have both re-emerged as contenders, alongside the spirited Ajmal Shahzad, whose aggressive efforts with the ball were everything that James Anderson's limp contributions had failed to be in six of the previous seven matches.
Though Strauss insisted that Anderson had been omitted as a matter of squad policy, rather than through any lack of form, he was unstinting in his praise for Shahzad, who might have claimed more than two wickets had it not been for a slight hamstring niggle. "I'm really impressed," he said. "He looks like a wicket-taking bowler, he brings the stumps into play, and it's a shame he picked up that injury today. He's another guy who's desperate to prove himself.
"Things have clouded over a little because these guys have come in and done so well," he added. "But it's great having a lot of guys competing for places. The likes of Belly, Trotty, Ravi and Ajmal are all saying this shouldn't be a closed shop, and moving forward, we need a squad of players because we can't just rely on the same eleven. We are going to need a squad at the World Cup, and it's a good thing we've got a lot of guys saying: 'I'm ready to be picked, I'm dying to be picked'. We're in a much better position at the end of the series than the start of it."
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