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CRICKET: Flintoff is the star.

Byline: MYLES HODGSON

NASSER HUSSAIN will direct his young side to analyse the reasons for yesterday's defeat by India and take heed of the lessons to be learnt as they attempt to evolve into World Cup challengers.

England deservedly got the plaudits for their victory in Cuttack last week, the vibrancy and energy of their performance giving real hope they could emerge from last summer's disappointments against Australia and Pakistan to compete on equal terms in South Africa next year.

But yesterday England's batting display evoked memories of last summer's triangular tournament after they were dismissed for a lowly 217, a total India eclipsed with 3.2 overs to spare despite a stirring late rally inspired by Matthew Hoggard.

As they prepared to make the journey to Kanpur, venue for the fourth encounter in the six-match series on Monday, captain Hussain believes yesterday's setback could help their long-term objective almost as much as the stunning victory earlier in the week.

"This is going to be a long road," stressed Hussain. "We have been poor at one-day cricket for a while and we're trying to put that right - and nobody else can do that but us.

"Just because we had a good win in Cuttack doesn't mean we're suddenly favourites for the World Cup. It's a long road and improvement will only be gradual, but obviously we have to start showing signs of improvement, which we have done in lots of departments."

That is certainly the case in both the bowling and fielding departments, where England excelled for most of the match yesterday, even though both Hoggard and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff came narrowly close to over-stepping the boundaries of acceptable behaviour with angry confrontations with Indian batsmen.

Hoggard gave a send-off to left-hander Nayan Mongia, the middle wicket in a superb spell of three for seven in six deliveries, while Flintoff was spoken to by the umpire after an angry exchange with Virander Sehwag.

Hussain, though, insisted England did nothing wrong and claimed: "I've been absolutely chuffed with Flintoff on this tour. His attitude has been

magnificent - he was absolutely knackered towards the end there. At one point I saw him have a word and I just went up to him and told him he was probably on his last warning. I told him 'no more of that' and he said I was right and that was that.

"We don't let our heads drop, we always stick in. Just because we did one of our disciplines averagely, it doesn't mean the other two have to fall apart and we just give up."

Anil Kumble, India's stand-in captain after Sourav Ganguly was ruled out with a hamstring strain, concurred with Hussain's view and admitted: "I don't think there was too much aggression out there, it was normal for a one-day international."

For all the talk about England's discipline, however, Hussain conceded his side had "no excuses" for the defeat, adding: "We had the best of the conditions and we just kept losing wickets.

"There's a little bit more bounce in this wicket and those of us who have been here a long time, and are used to the low wickets, it caught some of us by surprise - but it was still a 250 wicket batting first.

"In all three games we've competed, but to bat like we did wasn't quite good enough."

CAPTION(S):

HAPPY MAN: England skipper Nasser Hussain says his side are getting better with every match
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 26, 2002
Words:577
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