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England proved one or two points as they won the NatWest Challenge with two victories to one over India: they are not complete no hopers at the one-day game; they can win batting first; the skipper can make runs in a limited-overs international. But, for all the progress made, some of which came unstitched during Sunday's 23-run defeat in the third game at Lord's, they have yet to dispel concerns that they cannot win without Andrew Flintoff.
England's talisman was absent on Sunday after returning to the north-west to be with his girlfriend who is on the point of giving birth.
Steve Harmison, with four wickets, led a rout that reduced India to 204 all out. But when it came to England's turn they were quickly in trouble as fine seam bowling reduced them to 27 for three.
The sight of Anthony McGrath walking out to replace the irreplaceable was one to cheer Indian hearts, and shortly after, at 29 for four, they cheered his wicket. Hopes of an unlikely victory were briefly raised as Ashley Giles and Michael Vaughan put on 92 for the seventh wicket but when they both fell in the same Harbhajan Singh over the game, with England's mini one-day revival, was up.
* There is nothing quite like being proved right and if Bernhard Langer on Monday morning has something of a self-satisfied smile on his face then few could blame him. Luke Donald, one of Langer's two captain's picks for next weekend's Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills in Michigan, on Sunday displayed exactly the sort of form that the German will be looking for when he takes on the Americans.
Starting the day one shot adrift of Ryder Cup team-mate Miguel Angel Jimenez and level with Sergio Garcia, it was Donald who went off on a birdie charge that led him to a final score of 19-under to earn him a second tour title in a month.
* Given the sudden descent of Real Madrid into anglophile madness over the summer, it was only a matter of time before another high-profile son of John Bull was linked to the Spanish blue-bloods. No surprise either that the first player mentioned, by Spanish sports daily AS, is Steven Gerrard, whose loyalty to Liverpool surely cannot stand more than one further season of mediocrity. Strangely the article that claimed Gerrard was Real's number one target for next summer made no mention of David James.
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