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Pride and prejudice

Australia's greatest danger at the World Cup is not their revived nemesis England. The most severe threat to an unprecedented three-peat in the Caribbean is themselves. The moment the CB Series started to slide out of control came after Lou Vincent accused the hosts of being "bigger than the game" and ego driven. On hearing this the Australians elbowed in front of each other to say what a compliment it was.

Ricky Ponting's response was he wanted his side to be ultra-competitive, but from then on they won only one of four games, were defeated three times by England and lost a home finals series for the first time in 14 years. It could be an incredibly valuable World Cup preparation if Australia work out the lesson.

England played superbly to take the awkward CB Series trophy after their glorious run began when Ponting suffered a minor hip injury and chose not to play at the SCG. If it was an important game, he said, he would have been ready, but as Australia had qualified for the finals it was better to rest. It was a crucial decision.

The 92-run loss, ending a nine-game winning streak, became the turning point of the series as the confidence of the home side over-rode the need to prevent the opposition gaining momentum. Ponting will now miss the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy in New Zealand, which starts on Friday, and while the reasons for the captain and vice-captain skipping the trip are admirable - Ponting has a minor back problem; Adam Gilchrist is preparing for the birth of his third child - the option paints the squad as high, mighty and set for a fall. (If players need in-series breaks then itineraries should be changed instead of diluting the quality.)

The surest sign of egos taking over was when Australia built winning positions and lost them spectacularly. In the first final two opportunities were lost and in the second game they restricted England to a gettable total before imploding with help from Liam Plunkett. Throughout the three defeats to England the players - apart from Ponting and Matthew Hayden in Melbourne - waited for the next man to do their work. "It's only England, someone will get us through." They were relying on reputation rather than self-disciplined action.

Rotating the players and the arm injury of Andrew Symonds also left the selectors unsure of their first XI at the conclusion. Symonds' absence unsettled the balance and there was no immediate back-up plan for replacing the team's superhero. Two men, Brad Hogg and Shane Watson, were trialled during the most important one-day games of the home season, despite playing once between them in the qualifying phase. The move failed as neither was able to produce significant performances.

The big guns also did not explode, but picking Hogg after he had criss-crossed the country as a net bowler and rushing in Watson following his hamstring dramas were desperate calls. Men lacking match practice were preferred instead of Cameron White and Mitchell Johnson, who had figured throughout the series. Selectors can also be affected by notions of invincibility.

During the tournament the locals talked of 400-plus totals, a perfect summer and John Buchanan moaned the opposition teams were not providing enough challenges. Vincent was right: Australia were too confident in their own ability. The players thought they were too good to lose and were unseated in embarrassing fashion.

Australia's finals aura has been diminished - they had lost only one decider in almost seven years before Friday night - but they can restore it with a slight alteration in their outlook. An English friend mutters "pride comes before a fall" whenever his football team wins a couple of games. It is simple, cute and might be useful for Australia.

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