England take on arch-rivals Aussies in crunch game

Published: Sunday, April 8, 2007, 7:05 [IST]
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St John's (Antigua and Barbuda):An intriguing but engrossing battle is on the cards as defending champion Australia takes on arch rivals England in their Super Eight World Cup and is crucial for both the teams.

England desperately needs a win to stay put in contention for the last four berth while a win for Australia will assure them a place in the semis.

A defeat will mean the end of the road for England while a loss is not going to make much of a difference to the fortunes of Australia.

The defending champions have an all-win record at this World Cup, and are one victory away from sealing a place in the semi-finals.

But for the Aussies it is more than that, they are itching for revenge, having suffered three humiliating defeats on home soil, earlier this year against England.

England came into the Super 8s as the second placed team from their group behind New Zealand, and with zero bonus points. A lone win - over lowly Ireland - and a defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka here on Wednesday means that they simply have to beat Australia to stay alive in the World Cup.

Australians have adopted well-calculated psychological media war against England. Coach John Buchanan and World Cup record holder Glenn McGrath have been more ballistic in their approach as they have harped on just one point that beating England is high on their agenda.

McGrath, is keen to erase the humiliation heaped on Australia by the old enemy and launched the 'mental disintegration' process by forecasting that they would wipe England out of the showpiece event, come Sunday.

The defending champion are confident of going all the way at this tournament, but they just don't want to let go England lightly.

Ricky Ponting has just the one worry - who is to play in for the injured Shane Watson. At nets, Andrew Symonds bowled seam-up in addition to his more usual off-spin, which gives the skipper and coach Buchanan the option of fielding Brad Hodge instead of having to bring in the comparatively raw pace of Mitchell Johnson.

''We know England is a very determined side,'' said Ricky Ponting and added ''we have respect for them.'' ''However, we will like to continue our winning spree and in the World Cup the win and two points matter a lot,'' he said. ''We know England can bounce back, they are very tough side and we know that,'' the Aussie skipper said.

On the other hand, England are a transformed side. They lost narrowly at Sri Lanka's hands but the manner in which Ravi Bopara and Paul Nixon battled it out and took them within two runs of victory despite a middle-order slump, has revived morale in the team.

However, England do have problems and opener Ed Joyce may well have to sit out for fellow Middlesex opener Andrew Strauss.

The latter has not had an active game for over two months but Joyce's inability to get going despite an encouraging start to the tournament, may see Strauss make it into the playing XI.

Also, to get the better of Australia - and thereby keep their hopes of moving up in this tournament alive - England need more than a rookie's cameo and rearguard actions. They need the big guns to fire - Vaughan himself, Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff in particular.

Flintoff is a key player in his captain's plans and blotted his copybook with a binge midway through the group qualifiers. Since then he has been out of sorts but this is his big opportunity.

It certainly does not come any bigger than a chance against the 'old enemy'.

And Skipper Micheal Vaughan has urged the players to give their best in this crucial match. ''Australia has been impressive in this tournament so far, but I think we have players who can stand up to them,'' Vaughan said.

''I think players understand the importance of the match,'' he said and hoped that his side will emerge triumphant.

And if there is any one individual who can out-bombast the Aussies, it is South African-born Kevin Pietersen. ''Big Kev'' had a top-order outing against Sri Lanka till he threw it away, and he has to be at the top of his game to halt the Aussie juggernaut.


England: Michael Vaughan (Capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopra, Paul Collingwood, Jamie Dalrymple, Andrew Flintoff, Ed Joyce, Sajid Mahmood, Paul Nixon(wk), Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Liam Plunkett, Andrew Strauss and Stuart Broad. Coach: Duncun Fletcher.

Australia: Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey, Stuart Clark ,Shane Watson, Brad Hogg, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Tait, Brad Hodge, Bradley Hodge and Mitchell Johnson. Coach: John Buchanan

Umpires: Billy Bowden (NZ), Rudi Koertzen (RSA) and Third umpire: Asad Rauf (Pak)

Match Referee: Mike Procter (RSA).


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