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The XI biggest tactical blunders

Rob Smyth on moments of misjudgment or folly that horribly backfired

Rob Smyth

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1 Batting too slowly
Lord's 1979
This was batting straight from a Grolsch advert: the caution exhibited by Mike Brearley and Geoff Boycott in the World Cup final (129 off 38 overs) left England needing 158 off 22 when Brearley was out. Hard enough at the best of times, let alone getting your eye in and with Joel Garner's yorker spearing in from the heavens. Big Bird stomped all over England with 5 for 4 in 11 balls and, 25 years on, England are no closer to winning a World Cup.

2 Putting Australia in
Brisbane 2002-03
So close to the edge did Nasser Hussain reside during his gloriously emotive reign as England captain that there could be no half-measures - and this was a total shocker. The decision was bad, the logic behind it - hopefully to have Australia around 300 for 6 at the close - even worse. It was a classic example of compromising a strength to cover a weakness and England's diabolical performance reflected the paralysing fear that had gripped the side.

3 Number crunching
World Cup 2002-03
Mark Boucher was the one with blood on his hands when South Africa crashed out of their own World Cup. With one run needed to keep them ahead against Sri Lanka under Duckworth/Lewis, he calmly played out a dot ball. But several came under the blood curse: the coach and captain who misread the charts, 12th man Nicky Boje who gave Boucher wrong information, and of course mathematicians the world over.

4 Bouncing Patterson
MCG 1988-89
The Melbourne Test: revelry, Christmas cheer and death threats. Just before the close of the fourth day's play Steve Waugh bounced Patrick Patterson. He has had brighter ideas. At stumps Patterson rampaged into the Australian dressing room and promised to kill them all out in the middle the next day. He did not quite manage that but, in a frenzied spell of 5 for 39, he came uncomfortably close.

5 Picking on Ambrose's wristbands
SCG 1992-93
Rags do not come any redder. Dean Jones always fancied himself as a bit of a matador but he got it badly wrong when, in a World Series final, he asked Curtly Ambrose to remove his white wristbands. "He was definitely trying some form of camouflage," Jones said. "I didn't think much of it at the time." Ambrose did. He took off his wristbands and tore Australia asunder with 5 for 32.

6 Enforcing the follow-on
Kolkata 2000-01
A tactic damned only by hindsight. With the possible exception of Mark Taylor, we would all have done what Steve Waugh did: India were at rock bottom - 1-0 down and 274 behind. Then came one of the most stunning comebacks in cricket history and, from being a shoo-in for that long-awaited win in India, it all fell apart for Australia. It was a wrong Waugh never got to right.

7 Going for the 100
Johannesburg 1995-96
Sometimes the box seat can get a bit too comfortable. South Africa were so preoccupied with Brian McMillan getting a century at Johannesburg in 1995 that they lost the plot. They could have given England six sessions and 10 overs to survive; instead they gave them five sessions and four overs. It was an indulgence - McMillan even came off for light - that ushered a ragged England away from the point of no return. And it haunted South Africa for all 643 minutes of Mike Atherton's vigil.

8 Promoting the tail
Chandigarh 1995-96
Victory was in sight: eight wickets left, 43 runs needed off 54 balls. But a World Cup semi-final does funny things to the brain and Roger Harper and Ottis Gibson, little more than glorified sloggers, were inexplicably promoted by West Indies. Australia, smelling the fear, brushed them aside, then choked the proper batsmen. West Indies lost by 5 runs; there was less panic in Towering Inferno.

9 Goading Lillee
Brisbane 1974-75
At the start of England's Ashes tour Tony Greig staged a one-man campaign to get on Dennis Lillee's nerves. First he bounced out him out - prompting Lillee to storm into the Australian dressing room and announce: "Just remember who started this thing, but we'll finish it." Then, in the course of a brilliant century, Greig started to goad Lillee ("that's four, fetch that") and cockily shadow-boxed his bouncers. Greig could handle himself; England - battered, bruised and beaten by Lillee and Jeff Thomson - could not.

10 Playing the seamers
Calcutta 1992-93
When in Rome, do as bloody-minded Englishmen. On a Calcutta dustbowl England picked four seamers and one spinner. Worse still, that spinner was Ian Salisbury (not in the original party) ahead of Phil Tufnell (the chosen matchwinner). The result? England hammered. Worse, Tufnell never recovered from the battering his confidence took: he came into the tour with four five-fors in 10 Tests. He took only one in his final 32.

11 Forgetting Smith's name
Edgbaston 2003
One suspects that nothing would have made Nasser Hussain happier than to wake up one morning, look in the mirror and see Steve Waugh staring back at him. In 2003, in a bungled attempt at Waugh-esque mind games, he called South Africa's Graeme Smith `what's-his-name', and introduced him to the match referee as `Greg' at the toss for the first Test. It was condescending and costly: Hussain, suddenly humbled, resigned and Smith scored 621 Test runs in the next nine days.

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