England's four-wicket win over Australia in the first CB Series final has a resurgent team firmly believing they are poised to salvage something from the wreck of their tour. Against all odds, they continued their remarkable late tour form reversal by securing a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three finals on the back of Paul Collingwood's outstanding batting and fielding.
The second game is at Sydney and an England victory would mark an completely unexpected end to a disastrous trip 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 have soared in confidence thanks to Friday's win, their second over the home side in a row.
Andrew Flintoff, again leading the side because of another 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," Flintoff said.
"We're in a position now in which we can do so, as long as we keep doing the basics right and keep believing that we can do. And hopefully we can improve on [Friday's] performance."
England have won three games in a row for the first time since 2005, but Flintoff said his players couldn't 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 England 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 annual tri-series was in 2001-02, when they missed the finals. Last year they lost the first match against Sri Lanka before bouncing back with two straight wins to take the trophy.
"It's up to us to stop [England's] momentum now," said Ricky Ponting. "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 teams for Sunday's match, although Australia will mull over some selection issues. While Brad Hogg didn't claim a wicket on Friday, he troubled the England batsmen with his left-arm spin and is likely to be retained. That should ensure that Shane Watson keeps his place ahead of Cameron White, despite generally struggling in his first international outing of the season.
After three straight wins England are unlikely to see the need for change, although Stuart Broad may come into contention if they feel he would offer more control than Sajid Mahmood.
Australia (probable) Adam Gilchrist (wk), Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Brad Hodge, Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken, Glenn McGrath.
England (probable) Ed Joyce, Mal Loye, Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff (capt), Jamie Dalrymple, Paul Nixon (wk), Liam Plunkett, Sajid Mahmood, Monty Panesar.