England can challenge Australia: Rixon

Published: Monday, December 20, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia are crushing all comers in world Test cricket but Australiaformer New Zealand n coach Steve Rixon says England will give them a run for their money in next year's Ashes series.

Australia beat Pakistan by 491 runs in the opening Perth Test well inside four days on Sunday after two wins over New Zealand and their first series victory in India for 35 years in October-November.

Since the start of the 1989 series in which Allan Border's team regained the Ashes from England, Australia have won 102 Tests and lost 33, with 40 draws.

In 13 Tests this year Australia have won nine, drawn three and lost once, to India.

Rixon said Monday that England are now the only team with a chance of competing with Australia.

"I like what I see. Everyone's seen some changes in their mentality," said Rixon, who has coached New South Wales, New Zealand and now English county team Surrey.

Rixon credits fellow Australian Rod Marsh, who recently resigned after three years as head of the English national academy, with helping to lay the foundation for a succesful side.

"It's starting to look like a good side that's prepared to try to win games of cricket. That to me is a major turning point," Rixon said Monday.

He said they could set Australia some unaccustomed problems in next year's Ashes series in England.

"They certainly have the armoury to be competitive if they have the mentality to back that up," Rixon said.

"I like Michael Vaughan's leadership -- he's a very calm, collected player, and I think he's holding them together well. I still think Australia's got their measure, but they're going to have to play good cricket."

Rixon said the dominance of Ricky Ponting's Australian team is more than merely cyclical.

"I think they've moved the game to a new level," he said, adding that "at the moment there's no one that's brave enough to take Australia on. They play a better mind game than anyone in the world. And they've got the tools to back it up."

Rixon said the key to Australia's success was the strength of the infrastructure below it.

"If the base is looking after itself and you've got a good strong domestic competition, you've normally got a pretty competitive international side," he said.

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