Can England stop the Australian juggernaut?

Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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If there is any game which has bigger stakes than a India-Pakistan clash, it has to be a without a doubt a England-Australia face-off and on Tuesday, Michael Vaughan's in-form team would have everything going for them as they lock horns with their ashes rivals in the first ICC Champions Trophy semi-final tie at Edgbaston.

Notwithstanding the awesome summer, England has enjoyed so far, they would in their hearts of hearts know the wretched record they possess against their traditional rivals, something they would like to set it right on Tuesday.

Fourteen straight losses to World Champions Australia would hardly inspire any confidence in any side but these bunch of guys in the English side are teeming with confidence following their successes on the Carribean safari and later in their own backyard against the Kiwis and Windies.

Strictly speaking, Australians are still the red-hot favourites to clinch the issue on Tuesday. Of course, one is not hell-bent on undermining England but feel this way for the simple reason that the Aussies have just too much firepower in their ranks to repulse any enemy attack.

No doubt, Andrew Flintoff is in a rich vein of form at the moment, and his dream run with the bat and ball is ensuring that England are looking on even-kneel with Australia as potentiality of the two sides are concerned. Flintoff is England's trumpcard and he has to turn in another of his sterling performances on Tuesday if England has to outsmart the Kangaroos.

Even quickie Steve Harmison and old warhorse Darren Gough have looked incisive and had hardly been taken to the cleaners in the early stages of the match. That's where I reckon the game will be won or lost.

It is a known fact that openers Hayden and Gilchrist are both destructive players and can cut any bowling attack to ribbons. Their aggressive bent of mind coupled with muscular shots on both sides of the wicket only ensure they seize the initiative early on and never allow the bowlers to settle down.

The seaming conditions in England may help the England seamers to some extent but one can be rest assured that Hayden and Gilchrist will pull new tricks out of their hat to unsettle the Poms.

If Gough, Harmison and Co and can choke up the runs early on; Australians could be in for a bumpy ride. However, Ponting, Martin and Symonds are all in fine fettle and that's primarily the reason why they doing so well as a team.

The good thing about the Australians is that they play as a well-oiled machine and never believe in counting on individual brilliances. Even when their main players are injured or out because of poor form, the ones drafted in would invariably pull their weight.

Australia would be better off fielding a four-pronged attack. The return of tearaway Brett Lee is a must. The Aussie thinktank would do well to supplant emerging allrounder Shane Watson with Lee for Lee has enough of big match experience. Kasprowicz alongside veteran Mcgrath and Gillespie are redoubtable proposition for any side let alone England.

Having said that a down to the wire tussle cannot be ruled out. That's what the home fans or for that matter everyone turning up for the match will earnestly hoping for. Let's hope the crowd get their money's worth.

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