Aussies better after Ashes shock, warns Hayden

Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Perth:Australia's shock Ashes series loss to England in September could well have been a blessing in disguise, Test opener Matthew Hayden said here.

Hayden, who finished fifth in the Australian batting averages with 35.13 after the five-Test series, said South African captain Graeme Smith had been right to point out Australia were not the same force they had been.

Smith's comments were one of the first salvos in a so-called war of words leading up to the first Test between the two countries starting in Perth on Friday.

"He's (Smith) right in a lot of ways," Hayden said on Wednesday.

"(But) the loss of the Ashes gave us incentive straight away because straight away we had to look within ourselves and look within our games and come up with answers to turn around individual form and team form as well.

"We have been affected by that because we have had changes in our personnel which has given other people opportunity and those (people) have been successful to this stage as well," he said.

"It's been good for our game but it wasn't an easy stage for us and I think, pretty much as always though, out of adversity comes opportunity and we've looked forward to that."

Hayden said Australia had no option but to see the 2-1 series defeat by England as a long-term benefit for the team.

"I think you've got to look at it like that otherwise you lay down and die," he laughed.

"We've had to move on. It does affect the group when certain members of the side leave -- that's just the way it is.

"We are a very close team. We spend 11 months a year together so at the end of the day it does hurt if someone gets the nod to leave."

In the wake of the defeat the Australians dropped middle order batsmen Damien Martyn, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich from the Test team. Hayden himself has been left out of the one-day team.

Seasoned domestic Sheffield Shield players Michael Hussey and Brad Hodge have stepped into the side with remarkable early success.

"It's got a very hardened look about the middle order now because of that experience," Hayden said.

"You just can't buy experience. Every venue you play at you have to have had several innings there and it does make a difference.

"It's the home advantage which sides look forward to.

"In Michael's case and Brad's case they are just terrific cricketers that have played for a long period of time and been successful in a really-wonderful first-class competition."

As for the "war of words" in the lead-up to the first Test at the Western Australian Cricket Association Ground, Hayden said it was nothing more than a bit of fun for both teams and certainly didn't help to motivate the Australians.

"Not really. It's great for you guys (the media)," he said. "It's fun for us as well so that's pretty much how we take it."

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