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September 24, 2012
Not for the first time this year England were back in the nets trying to find a way to solve their problems against spin. The net session at the P Sara Oval was not a direct response to the demise for 80 against India - they had been scheduled for a likely training session in any case - but the events of the previous evening gave a clear focus to what was required.
Andy Flower and Graham Gooch, two outstanding batsmen of spin in their day, gave plenty of throw downs and shared plenty of advice as they have done throughout the year. On the evidence of how the current crop played Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla not all of it is being absorbed.
The middle of a tournament is not the time to be trying to remodel techniques or radically change gameplans, but if England have serious ambitions of moving beyond the Super Eight stage they are going to have to adapt quickly. Their half of the draw has been termed the easier route to the knockout stage, yet each team they face will have bowlers to exploit their major weakness.
Sunil Narine will be first, when they face West Indies on Thursday, followed by the more orthodox but no-less-effective Daniel Vettori then back to mystery with a four-over trial from Ajantha Mendis. Do not rule out Sri Lanka throwing in their wild-card, 18-year old Akila Dananjaya, either. It is those future challenges, rather than what happened on Sunday evening, that is now the focus of the England team.
"It was a disappointing performance - we're human enough to say that and realise that obvious fact," Craig Kieswetter said. "We've played spin well; we've beaten Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan in the sub-continent before. It was just a bad performance.
"We're not getting too down about it. Confidence is still high; we're still playing some great cricket and we're pretty glad we've got that game out of the way at the best time possible."
Much like Stuart Broad's assertion that England do not have a problem against spin it was not entirely convincing from Kieswetter, who top-scored in the 80 with 35 made largely before the spinners came on, but the quick-fire nature of the tournament does at least offer a chance to move on quickly. Kieswetter will also remember that England were far from convincing getting out of their group in 2010 - squeezing through without winning a game - before surging to the title.
"What's done is done. We did what we needed to do and qualified and now we're through to the business part of the competition," he said. "Now you'll see the good teams put their hands up and actually put up performances that really matter."
But can England fine a way against spin? "You've got to be more streetwise, be prepared to score ugly runs. We've got to be adaptable to the wickets," he said. "We played across the line a bit too much. We should have played a bit straighter.
"We realise that; we've highlighted it and we're obviously going to learn from that. It's probably a good learning curve to have. It didn't turn as much and we probably expected, and we played for a bit too much turn. The ball's a bit more unpredictable here - it either spins or it doesn't - it's not as predictable as in England."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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