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Another embarrassing outing for England

Ted Corbett

Mitchell Johnson picks up for wickets.

ADELAIDE: After England had been bowled out for 110, Andrew Flintoff the captain, leapt to the defence of Duncan Fletcher, the coach. "Duncan has been fantastic," Flintoff said. "Every player in the dressing room knows that he owes something to Duncan. He has done great things for the side and we realise what he has done for us."

However, more calls for Fletcher's resignation can be expected in the next few days. England was beaten by nine wickets in the seventh one-day match in the tri-series — its fourth defeat in five games.

Worst humiliation

In four days it has been bowled out for 120 by New Zealand and 110 by Australia. It is the worst humiliation in the 35 years of its one-day international history. Fletcher actually went to the extent of apologising to the people back in Britain for the side's performance but I understand there are no plans to replace him before the World Cup.

Unless there is an amazing recovery in form during that tournament, it is likely that Fletcher's position will become untenable and that he will decide to go. The defeat by the Kiwis, close rivals for the other place in the final, was bad enough but on Australia Day, a national holiday, with 27,068 spectators desperate for a close contest, this beating by Australia, already the 5-0 winner of the Test series, was a much greater blow.

There was booing when the toss meant England batted first while an official groaned "Oh no" and a few watchers left at the tea interval. This crushing result was expected but after 15 overs, with the score 70 for two, it looked as if England might at least put up a fight. It was not to be.

Collapse

Three more wickets fell by the time the score reached 81 and the last five for seven runs in seven overs. There cannot be any excuses. It was the second use of this pitch but it had no malice and Mitchell Johnson, the young left-arm paceman, who took four wickets for 45 in his ten overs, will never have an easier haul as one batsman after another gave away his wicket.

Mal Loye, the 34-year-old opener, once again set the score moving with a six but sloppy shots accounted for the first five batsmen. Paul Collingwood will not want to remember the moment but his push to mid-off from the off-spin of Andrew Symonds was the worst. Even Ian Bell, who top-scored with 35, was out in the 16th over at 72 to a soft catch to covers. England appeared to have no battle plan and we were treated to the extraordinary sight of the new wicketkeeper Paul Nixon turning down runs during his stand of three for the last wicket so that he could "protect" Monty Panesar.

Nixon was also out to a simple caught and bowled for four. After his score of 31 not out in a Twenty20 match, the Australians have discovered his weaknesses. The 110 was the ninth lowest score by England in one-day matches and the fourth lowest against Australia.

The Aussies rattled off the target — 111 is the England devil number — in just 24.3 overs for the loss of Adam Gilchrist, run out by a long throw from Liam Plunkett, playing in his first important match after 82 days in Australia as a net bowler.

The Australian captain Ricky Ponting said this victory was a tribute to the way his side had improved as much as the way England had deteriorated. "There is no question that they are struggling," he said.

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