Barbados body language
Barbados - Apologies to those who clicked the headline expecting an examination on beach life around Bridgetown – this is all cricket.
A tour of Thursday’s news conferences provided an interesting insight into the approach and mental state of three sides, at the top, middle and bottom of the World Cup Super 8 table.
In the blue corner, appearing at the team hotel first thing in the morning, was a tired-looking Andrew Strauss, back in the England side for the last two games after being dropped at the start of the tournament.
When he stood in as captain last year, Strauss became known as a bit of a cliché merchant, and his assertion that it is time for England to “take the handbrake off” ticked that box. However, after several weeks in which England have insisted their struggles to comprehensively beat smaller sides have no bearing on their ability against bigger teams, a little more honesty has crept in.
Strauss admitted England were far below their best as they laboured hard for a four-wicket victory over Bangladesh.
“There is no hiding from the fact we haven’t fired as a unit. There have been some very good individual performances and partnerships, which are crucial to winning,” he said.
“But whenever we have done that we have allowed ourselves to get in a tough position again. We recognise it, we’re disappointed about it and we’re trying to fix it.”
The careworn look on the faces of many of England’s players is in contrast to their approach in the early stages of the World Cup, when they were flush with confidence from the one-day series win in Australia and clearly relaxed as a result.
Strauss admitted: “If we could beat South Africa next week there might be a slightly better feeling in the camp.”
In the baggy green corner, fresh from his last training session at the Kensington Oval before taking on Ireland, was Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting, who really looked on top form, taking questions with a smile.
His side struggled to recover from adversity during one-day series at home and then in New Zealand at the start of the year but are right back on track.
Rather than using the “potential banana skin” line that just about every other international captain has utilised before facing smaller nations, Ponting, whose side have already dealt ruthlessly with Scotland and the Netherlands during this tournament, was more forthright.
“If an opportunity arises to go in for the kill, win the game and win it, well then we’ll go for it,” he said.
“This is another opportunity for us to impose ourselves on this event and show everybody else how good a team we are and how much in order we’ve got our game at the moment.”
Australia had a session with British rowing legend Sir Steve Redgrave on Tuesday, where they talked about dealing with the pressures of being favourites.
Throughout John Buchanan’s time as coach, they have looked outside the game for ideas and motivation in their quest to get better and better.
And in the other green corner was Ireland captain Trent Johnston, who has looked tired all tournament but continued to incite his side to energetic, challenging performances.
“If you’re not up for a game against Australia you shouldn’t be playing cricket,” said the Aussie-born bowler.
To beat the world champions, he admitted, “we will have to play our of our skins, probably 10 or 15% better than [in the group-stage win] against Pakistan.
“We’re going to give it our very best and if that’s not good enough, well, it’s Australia against Ireland, professional against amateur.”
No handbrakes, no banana skins, but no pressure of expectation either.