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October 6, 2005
Australia's Ashes wounds are still deep and fresh but after the initial Super Series outing ended in a runaway success the team message was "we're back". At the end of the match Ricky Ponting talked about the "flak - some fair, some unfair" - the team has copped and today Simon Katich said the result would help the players move on from the England defeat.
"It was a couple of weeks in the making," Katich said of the performance. "After the Ashes finished the guys were disappointed so it was nice to start the season well. It's hard not to think about what happened because it was so recent. Even though it's a different form of the game, we were playing against a talented side and it was good to see."
In England, Australia failed to maintain their intensity, especially when under pressure, but as they cruised to a 93-run victory in Melbourne on Wednesday the players were genuinely and collectively excited. It was understandable that the star-studded World XI could not match the group motivation of an outfit with various points to re-prove.
"I'm not sure whether we wanted it more," Katich said. "Maybe we did. What's difficult is the fact that they [the World XI] play different roles for their county, so that might be hard to adjust to. We are playing in our roles all time." The imbalance was clear and the desire is something Australia need to maintain through the remainder of the series, which continues with the second ODI on Friday, and when the spur from the Ashes gradually subsides.
Katich has even more motivation as he attempts to secure the opening spot created by Matthew Hayden's omission. Making 58 in Australia's 255 for 8, Katich outlasted a boundary-carving Adam Gilchrist and felt comfortable in the role.
"We've talked about the way Gilly plays and he's going to do it his way regardless of how I'm batting," he said. "As a partnership we can bat as we see it, playing on instinct rather than having too many premeditated ideas."
The combination is more subtle than the biff-bash of Gilchrist and Hayden, and Katich said he was happy to "tick away at the score". "It's hard when you see Gilly playing all these massive shots because I'd love to be able to do that as well," he said. "Unfortunately I can't. I just have to sit and watch from the other end."
While Katich was finding his feet at the top of the order, a number of the Australian fielders discovered extra stability on the soft, slippery surface by using football boots. The World XI considered and rejected the idea, but their opponents ordered studded footwear. "We used normal spikes to bat and bowl," Katich said, "but while fielding most of us were wearing boots the footballers would wear."
Daniel Vettori believed the players' disappointment in the dressing room, following the comprehensive opening Super Series loss, matched the mood of any national team's defeat. The question of desire has been repeatedly raised in the lead-up to the contest and the responses of Vettori and the captain Shaun Pollock provided hope of a swift recovery for Friday's second match.
"There was a huge amount of disappointment and a bit of soul searching about why that performance happened," Vettori said of the 93-run defeat. "It picked up pretty soon and we talked about ways of rectifying the situation to get back into the series as soon as possible."
With only two days between matches, building batting partnerships will be the main focus and the problem was also raised by Pollock when he called the loss "disappointing". "We thought we were maybe trying to win the game too early," Vettori said. "With such a star-studded batting line-up guys are used to taking the responsibility on themselves to win games, but with so many good batsmen you can take more time and build partnerships."
Only Sangakkara, Flintoff and Vettori reached 15 for the World XI and the players understand they are responsible for the credibility of a test-tube series. "For it to be a success people want to see a 2-1 result and a close Test match and that's what we're here for," Vettori said. "If we lose like that again it will be hugely disappointing but we're confident we can turn it around."
The players have often said how well they have bonded over the past week and Vettori reiterated their only goal was winning. "There are a lot of guys who have been on receiving end of hidings from Australia and this was our chance to put it right," he said. "Australia came out with huge amount of intensity but we were trying to win as much as they were."
One aspect Vettori, who claimed the match's best figures with 4 for 33, glowed about was bowling in tandem with Muttiah Muralitharan. "It was exciting," Vettori said. "It's not something I thought about at the time, but I'll reflect on it today and over the next couple of days and it will be one of the highlights of my career." The competitiveness of the first ODI was disappointing, but the sub-plots were definitely worth watching.
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