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July 17, 2002
Cricket was the winner is the usual platitude trotted out when you have just lost a great game, but I think it might be apt in the case of the NatWest Series final at Lord's last Saturday. It's never good to lose matches like that, but I reckon it has to be said that India won it rather than England losing and, as a result, it was a fantastic game to watch. So India won, cricket won, and the England boys will be pig-sick that they didn't win having put 325 on the board.
It has to be said that England had got into a great position to win, but then were undone by that partnership between Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif. England might be a bit worried that they couldn't defend that huge total but sometimes it's just the way the game goes. You'd like to think that we could defend 325 so perhaps there are one or two things to be looked at but in general I thought England put in a good performance throughout the series.
There have been a lot of good qualities to be seen. England's fielding has been great, Ronnie Irani has come in and done well, the batting has always looked as if it was going to get runs, so I think we can take a bit of comfort from the last couple of weeks. If there is a little cause for concern it's getting the right balance and formula on the bowling side.
What really impressed me about the Indians in that match was the fact that they did it without a major contribution from Sachin Tendulkar. It was a lot of runs to get without a ton from the little genius, but they kept their belief right down the order. I did like the look of Yuvraj Singh. I was glad it wasn't my bowling he was smacking around because he looks a real find for them.
Now attention turns to the Test series where I think it will be the same old story. I think we can get plenty of runs against India but it's just a question as to whether we can break down a very strong batting line-up. I think it should be a good series with the bat prevailing. Four high-scoring draws could be the order of the day unless there's a little flash of inspiration from someone to unlock the door.
England have claimed a powerful batting line-up for some time but now it's performing well on a regular basis. You've got the likes of Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe to come back in, so it's shaping up rather promisingly. Hopefully those who have done well during the NatWest will be able to take form and confidence with them to the different type of cricket.
I know it's always said that there is little connection between the two forms of the game, but in some ways I reckon the gap is getting smaller. And I don't think there'll be much of a gap between the two sides. We should win at Headingley, they might start favourites at The Oval; Trent Bridge and Lord's will likely be flat. But it should be a great spectacle to watch with the batting power around, meaning that the bowlers could take a bit of a pounding.
I always enjoy watching the Indian batsmen, apart from when I'm bowling at them, because there's something really appealing about their wristy strokeplay. England's bowlers will have a real test on their hands to combat them but, as I say, someone nips in with a five for 30 out of the blue and suddenly we could be in the guinea seats.
Phil Tufnell appears courtesy
of Paragon Sports Management
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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