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January 12, 2007
It was not quite a Steve Harmison wide-to-second-slip moment, but Andrew Flintoff's first over of the opening CB Series match at the MCG was an embarrassing start to England's limited-overs bowling efforts. A wide outside off stump, a leg-side wide that went for four and another that went to the boundary outside off gave Australia 11 from the first over - and none off the bat.
It was a clear indication that not all the demons England carried through the Ashes series had been exorcised and Australia were keen to continue hurting the tourists as much as possible. Adam Gilchrist, who faced Flintoff's wayward deliveries, said Australia would aim to use England's weaknesses to humiliate them further.
"That first over was quite telling of maybe their mindset at the moment," Gilchrist said. "That's a big bonus for us, a little launching pad to work from. They're relatively inexperienced in comparison to a lot of teams around the world at the moment. They didn't quite get it right and they allowed us a little bit of freedom to free our arms up and hit over the top a little bit."
Gilchrist's "little bit" included seven fours and one six on the way to 60 from 61 balls. Australia required only four batsmen to reel in England's 242 and it rarely looked like wickets were around the corner, which was further evidence that England lacked the killer instinct required to challenge Australia.
"Any team that's been on the receiving end of losses like they have, their confidence is going to be dented and morale is probably a bit low," Gilchrist said. "Their body language probably shows that. The challenge for us is not to let them come out of that and it can happen in an instant, particularly in one-day cricket, so there's still plenty of motivation and incentive for us."
But Kevin Pietersen's tour-ending rib fracture will almost certainly lessen the chances of England breaking their two-month winless streak in Australia. Ricky Ponting said although England's other top-order batsmen were capable of making a big score "on their day", the injury to Pietersen, who top-scored for England with 82, was a massive boost to Australia.
"That's a really big blow to them," Ponting said. "He looked really good today. He has been right through the summer their best batsman and looked very comfortable today. I think a lot of their one-day cricket's based around him so they'll miss him a lot."
Ponting was keen for Australia to keep improving ahead of the World Cup, but he admitted there was little more his fast bowlers could have done to restrict England further. "Our bowling in particular was excellent," he said. "It was a really good wicket, probably one of the fastest outfields I've seen at the MCG for quite some time. It was pretty conducive to high-scoring."
After all the praise lavished on him - justifiably - during the Ashes, Stuart Clark was the one fast man who proved costly. His ten overs went for 58 and it was the newest face in the attack, Mitchell Johnson, who impressed the most with 2 for 34. Having encountered such a strong bowling performance, England still have Brett Lee to worry about when he recovers from a chest infection.
Brydon Coverdale is editorial assistant of Cricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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