Cricket: England success built on ruthless streak

By Michael Brown

Behind the affable exterior and well-rehearsed lines, there's a ruthlessness about England cricket that has got them to the top of the tree.

They are arguably the world's best side at the moment - they are No 2 in tests and one-dayer internationals and No 4 in Twenty20 cricket which is superior to South Africa's numbers - and aren't afraid to make difficult decisions that could backfire.

Ashley Giles was recently appointed coach of the one-day and Twenty20 sides and already he's jettisoned batting coach Graham Gooch (he will still work with the test side) and replaced him with Graham Thorpe. Giles, who is a former England selector, has made it patently clear what he expects from his players and, it seems, no one is allowed to underperform for too long in any format of the game.

Wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter and bowler Jade Dernbach have been dropped and a reluctant Tim Bresnan left at home to try to refind some pace after elbow surgery 12 months ago.

Even Stuart Broad, who for most of last year was one of the world's leading seamers, was dropped during the victorious test series in India because he went wicketless in three innings.

It's a situation New Zealand can only dream of.

"We have got a lot of strength in depth at the moment," Giles said. "We showed that by taking a relatively inexperienced bowling attack to India for the one-dayers and leaving some really good players behind. That's a key for us. We need to look after our good players really well, keep them hungry and keep them on the top of their game. We talk about [Broad] being left out of sides. He's got a major part to play in all three forms of the game for us. It's a good position to be in."

It's why England will go into their tour of New Zealand as favourites. They arrived in the country last night and will have a few days to adjust before tackling New Zealand in the ANZ three-match series of Twenty20s, one-day internationals and tests. They face a New Zealand XI in Whangarei in two warmup Twenty20 games early next week before next weekend's first Twenty20 international at Eden Park.

The Black Caps' best chances of success will come in the limited overs matches and they have renewed confidence after their historic 2-1 one-day series win in South Africa. Despite this, Giles knows his country expects.

"The expectation is always there when you coach any side but particularly England." he said. "We are not silly. [New Zealand] will be difficult to beat on their home turf.

"We don't want to get dragged into anything around how they are playing their cricket. We will do our homework well on the opposition but we need to focus well on what we are doing. But it will be tough. Any side that goes to South Africa and beats them in one-day cricket is going to be tough in any form whether it's T20s or one-dayers."

Broad will captain a Twenty20 side missing some of the big names of England cricket. Controversial batsman Kevin Pietersen is being rested for the third time in seven months before coming out for the test series and others like Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Graeme Swann will join the squad in time for the three one-dayers.

This year's Champions Trophy in England and the home-and-away Ashes series with Australia loom as priorities but they won't want to drop their game against a country in trouble. It's not what a ruthless outfit would do.

England Twenty20 squad: Stuart Broad (c), Jonny Bairstow, Danny Briggs, Jos Buttler, Jade Dernbach, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb, Stuart Meaker, Eoin Morgan, Samit Patel, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes, Luke Wright.

England tour

Feb 4: New Zealand XI v England XI, Whangarei, 5pm (T20)

Feb 6: New Zealand XI v England XI, Whangarei, 2pm (T20)

Feb 9: New Zealand v England, Eden Park, 7pm (1st T20)

Feb 12: New Zealand v England, Seddon Park, 7pm (2nd T20)

Feb 15: New Zealand v England, Westpac Stadium, 7pm (3rd T20)

Feb 17: New Zealand v England, Seddon Park, 2pm (1st ODI)

Feb 20: New Zealand v England, McLean Park, 2pm (2nd ODI)

Feb 23: New Zealand v England, Eden Park, 2pm (3rd ODI)

Feb 27-Mar 2: New Zealand XI v England XI, Queenstown Events Centre, 10.30am

Mar 6-Mar 10: New Zealand v England, University Oval, 10.30am (1st test)

Mar 14-Mar 18: New Zealand v England, Basin Reserve, 10.30am (2nd test)

Mar 22-Mar 26: New Zealand v England, Eden Park, 10.30am (3rd test)

- APNZ

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