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ENGLAND'S STICKY WICKET

13-03-2007

Cricket's World Cup begins today, and as ever when an English team are in competition, there's unrealistic hype about our chances. Forget it, says Steve Beauchampe…

...I'll go for Australia. Along with South Africa, Sri Lanka and India for the semis, with NZ to run these four close. The loss of Shoab, Mohammed Asif and their mature leader Shaharyar Khan will prove too much for Pakistan (and they're almost as bad a fielding side as England).

West Indies, unlike England, are just good enough to be described as inconsistent, but despite the presence of Lara and Chris Gayle, they can be expected to implode.

For England, Nixon increasingly displays all the worst traits of Alec Stewart, but though the comeback in Australia was both welcome and unexpected and Pieterson's return may help the raise the totals, if not the team ethic, so much else is embarrasingly bad.

A weak top order, one dimensional bowlers (especially in the prevailing conditions), abject fielding and throwing, injury worries to key players (Vaughan, Pieterson), dreadful wicketkeeper (why no Read???!!!) are all major negatives. Collingwood, Flintoff, possibly Joyce, Vaughan's captaincy and Panesar's enthusiasm are plus points but it's way short of what's required to make an impression.

As for the Aussies, they always come good when it matters. It does and they will.

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