England seek happy ending to disastrous tour
by Cricket Archive Staff Reporter
DateLine: 11th February 2007
Friday's 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.
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.
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."
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.
Australia - Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Mike Hussey, Matthew
Hayden, Brad Hodge, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Shane Watson, Brett Lee,
Glenn McGrath and Nathan Bracken.
England - Andre Flintoff (capt), Andrew Strauss, Mal Loye, Ed Joyce,
Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Paul Nixon, Sajid Mahmood, Liam Plunkett,
Monty Panesar and Jamie Dalrymple.