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Cricket: Fred & Co could still rule world; BUT THERE'S NO NEED TO PANIC NORTHANTS' RICHARD DAWSON, WHO WAS IN THE ENGLAND PARTY THAT TOURED AUSTRALIA IN 2003, TALKS EXCLUSIVELY TO MERCURY SPORT.

ENGLISH cricket is in disarray Down Under right now and the current form of Freddie Flint-off's men in one-day cricket has been totally dire.

An embarrassing performance against New Zealand has quickly been followed by an abject display against the Aussies - can this triangular tournament get any worse?

Many people will view this statement as complete nonsense, and some might even ask for me to be sectioned, but I still believe England will be the dark horses at March's World Cup - and could even lift the trophy!

I know England have a handful of games to regain their form and confidence.

But, more importantly, I think coach Duncan Fletcher's team have all the ammunition required to challenge the Aussies in the West Indies.

Ideally all the batsmen would currently be posting big totals, while each bowler would be chipping in with wickets or at least depriving the opposition of runs - but there is still time to get things right.

So far only a couple of England players are performing consistently in Australia and to anywhere near their potential - this is certainly not because of a lack of effort.

In one-day cricket, and especially international one-day cricket, it can be difficult to play yourself out of a bad rut both individually and as a team.

When the games come around so fast, it can be just as easy to get into a losing habit as into a winning one.

Unfortunately Australia currently have the bit between their teeth while England appear to be in the doldrums.

Regardless of the team's result, each individual needs to be taking any positive aspect he can from his own performances. The only way you can pick yourself up is by trying to look on the bright side of life.

It does not help the England cause that two of their biggest players are out injured - skipper Michael Vaughan and, arguably, the best one-day batsman in the world, big-hitting Kevin Pietersen.

Losing players of their calibre is obviously going to be a setback to any team going into a big competition.

The only silver lining to this obvious black cloud is the experience guys such as Ed Joyce and Mal Loye are currently picking up. It is hard to expect new players coming into a batting unit, which is very low on confidence, to perform to their best straight away.

In this Commonwealth Bank Triangular series England are not only playing against the old enemy, Australia, but they are also up against the Kiwis, who are no mugs.

New Zealand have an excellent captain in Stephen Fleming and some very experienced players - there is no shame in losing to the Black Caps.

Although we have not really performed with the bat against either the Australians or New Zealand, our bowlers have come to the party at the right time.

The three seamers - James Anderson, Jon Lewis and Flintoff - are putting us in winning positions and if they keep doing that we will start winning games sooner rather than later.

With spinners Jamie Dalrymple and Monty Panesar keeping it tight at the other end, the bowling side of the game is looking in good shape. Certainly the return to form of Anderson has been the highlight of the one-dayers so far.

A confident and on-form Anderson is a world-class performer - especially in the absence of the experienced Steve Harm-ison. He has the ability to take early wickets, which is a great plus for England's chances.

And Flintoff continues to be the heartbeat of the team with both bat and ball. In the last two weeks we have seen glimpses of the Freddie of 2005, who struck fear into every batsman he faced.

He may not have fired against the Aussies on Friday but it's tough trying to play aggressive cricket when the side is five or six down and you're batting with the tail.

Apparently Fletcher had asked his side to work on partnerships with the bat and regroup if England lost three quick wickets - this plan didn't go according to the script.

It's unfortunate that Vaughan got injured just after taking back the captaincy because Flintoff's batting certainly picked up when he lost the captain's armband.

But don't panic just yet. I still think the future is bright for England ahead of the World Cup.

The return of Vaughan and Pietersen will be a massive boost before the World Cup.

Pietersen is a real catalyst for the team and we have definitely been missing him in the batting line-up. On his day there is no more destructive batsman in the world.

With the names of Vaughan, Flintoff, Pietersen and Anderson on the team-sheet England have a side that can make an impact in a knockout competition like the World Cup.

If England can find a way to fulfil their potential with the bat, with their red-hot form with the ball they can give any team a run for their money and win the World Cup.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 28, 2007
Words:829
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