Resurgent Poms seek happy ending to dismal tour

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Melbourne:The upset win over Australia in the first tri-series final has a resurgent England firmly believing they are poised to salvage something from the wreck of their Australian tour.

Against all odds, the English continued their remarkable late tour form reversal when they secured a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals on the back of Paul Collingwood's brilliant batting and fielding here on Friday.

The second game is in Sydney on Sunday and an English victory at the Sydney Cricket Ground would be an upbeat end to a disastrous tour previously marked by poor form, injury woes and shattering defeats.

Having been pilloried for their performance for most of their time in Australia and told they might as well give up and go home a fortnight ago, England soared in confidence thanks to Friday's win, their second over the home side in a row.

The English were 14-1 outsiders at the start of the tri-series and probably drifted even further after scoring 120 and 110 in successive losses in Adelaide, but more than three months after arriving on Australian soil, they finally have the home side under pressure and a trophy within reach.

Flintoff, again leading the side because of injury to Michael Vaughan, said it would be a sweet success after three months of torment.

"After the winter that we've had we want to take something home," he said here on Friday.

"We're in a position now in which we can do so as long as keep doing the basics right and keep believing that we can do.

"And hopefully we can improve on tonight's performance."

England have won three games in a row for the first time since 2005, but Flintoff said his players could not afford to get carried away with their improved form.

"We've got to keep our feet on the ground," he said.

"We've won three games on the bounce but we've still got a big game on Sunday."

Collingwood said the English could almost taste a memorable success.

"We need two more good performances, or hopefully one more," he said.

"That would be a great way to end a disappointing tour."

The last time Australia didn't win the tri-series was in 2001-02, when they missed the finals.

It has been the other way all summer, but Australian captain Ricky Ponting conceded his side was now in the unfamiliar position of having to turn the momentum their way.

Ponting also admitted Australia's stuttering recent form was a concern.

"It's up to us to stop (England's) momentum now," he said. "The worrying thing for me is lately in games is we haven't put 100 overs together." "If we've batted well we haven't bowled well and if we've bowled well we haven't batted well," he added.

Both sides are likely to name unchanged sides for Sunday's second final, although Australia will mull over some selection issues.

While Australian spinner Brad Hogg didn't claim a wicket on Friday, he troubled the England batsmen and is likely to be retained.

If Hogg holds his spot, that should ensure that pace bowling allrounder Shane Watson retains his berth in the side ahead of spinning allrounder Cameron White, despite the former generally struggling in his first game of the series on Friday.

Pace bowler Mitchell Johnson will be considered for a recall.

England's only decision will be whether to return Andrew Strauss to the top of the order at the expense of the struggling Mal Loye and promote allrounder Ravi Bopara into their XI.

Brit media savour English victory at MCG: Britain's media has not had many chances to gloat about the England cricket team's performances in recent months -- but they seized their chance after the one-day series final win against Australia.

Attention inevitably focused on Paul Collingwood - dubbed "the flame-haired fighter" by the Sun tabloid - who scored his second successive century in the four-wicket win Friday at the MCG.

"Australia were quite simply stunned - not just the 11 players wearing green on the field but several million across this vast island who have spent more than three months hurling abuse at the Poms," the Sun said.

Former England bowler Angus Fraser, writing in the Independent, also focused on how Australia had been brought back to earth with a bump after the Ashes whitewash.

"England was not meant to play like this. In fact, if the Australian media were to be believed, they were incapable of producing such fight, skill and nerve, especially against the world champions," he wrote.

"Andrew Flintoff's squad of humble triers was supposed to follow the script and meekly fall aside while Ricky Ponting's team of superstars walked away with yet another trophy.

"But England, and in particular Paul Collingwood, had other ideas".

The Daily Mail recalled the taunts Collingwood had faced from Australian crowds for receiving an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II, despite playing only a walk-on part in England's 2005 Ashes win.

"Yet this man of solid Durham substance is clearly intent on having the last laugh," it added.

"Collingwood produced one of the best one-day performances in modern memory."

The Guardian hailed "the revenge of the Ordinary Man."

"Perhaps the Collingwood Tendency - the predisposition to regard him as ordinary - will dog his entire career.

"But this was a triumph for solid values and no little skill," its writer said.

Probable line-ups for 2nd final at SCG:

Australia: Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist (wk), Mike Hussey, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Shane Watson, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken. coach: John Buchanan.

England: Andrew Flintoff (capt), Andrew Strauss, Mal Loye, Ed Joyce, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Paul Nixon (wk), Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett, Monty Panesar and Jamie Dalrymple. Coach: Duncan Fletcher.


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