Don't write India or South Africa off, Nasser Hussain warns England skipper Alastair Cook

England's middle order batting crisis worries cricketer-turned-commentator as hosts eye Champions Trophy glory in seaming conditions.

Updated: June 17, 2013 19:13 IST
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Cardiff: Alastair Cook may not be bothered about England's opponents in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals, but former skipper Nasser Hussain has a word of caution for the 28-year-old captain.

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After England beat New Zealand by 10 runs in a rain-hit match at the Sophia Gardens here on Sunday, Cook said: "We don't mind who we play (in the semis). We're glad we're in this (Champions Trophy last four). We had the quarter-final in one way today and now we look forward to the semi-final, whoever that may be, and look forward to playing well." Cook got the Man of the Match award for his chancy 64 studded with three 'lives'. (Also read: Cook not wary of facing India in semis)

Former England skipper Hussain though is not too sure of England's batting solidity. The home team lost five wickets in 12 balls as England collapsed from 159 for five to 169 all out in 23.3 overs of a 24-overs-a-side contest. But for a third wicket stand of 75 from 66 balls between Cook and Joe Root (38), England hardly looked in total command.

Hussain, one of the respected critics of the game, is worried. Writing for the Daily Mail, the former England skipper said: "What England's performances in the group stage have shown is that they are a force to be reckoned with when the ball is moving - either through reverse-swing or off the seam.

"I'm not sure which semi-final scenario they'd rather face: India at Cardiff, with the ball jagging around, or South Africa on a flat one at The Oval, where it may turn a bit or reverse if conditions are dry. Either way, don't write them off."

The ball swung and seamed at the Sophia Gardens on Sunday. England will love to carry these conditions everywhere but Hussain warned that too much of short stuff can be counterproductive. (Read: England vs New Zealand match report)

"England aren't keen to go to a fuller length, because that can make it easier for the batsmen to drive. But there are times when they overdo the short stuff, and when a batsman knows what is coming, then you know you're losing the battle," Hussain wrote.

But Hussain's biggest concern is England's batting where except Ravi Bopara, no one has really fired.

"Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott keep laying platforms for the rest, but it's only really been Ravi Bopara who has cracked on when England have needed late runs, which he did against both Australia and Sri Lanka.

"It's time for the likes of Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler to put their hands up. They showed what they were capable of in the third one-dayer against New Zealand at Trent Bridge the other week. Now they need to get stuck in here," Hussain said.

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