| Adam Gilchrist during training at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth Saturday. (Reuters)
Port Elizabeth: Reigning champions Australia will set a world record of 12 consecutive ODI wins if they beat England in Sunday’s World Cup group A tie.
Australia, already through to the Super Sixes, will be firm favourites to break the mark set by the West Indies in 1985 as they have beaten England in their last 13 one-day encounters.
England came close to ending that losing streak, when the sides last met in January, in the second VB Series final at Melbourne. But they were undone by a sensational spell of fast bowling from Brett Lee and lost by five runs. The gloom on the English faces that night was all too clear and Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes his opponents have not yet had time to recover from that loss.
Meanwhile, it has been confirmed that Australia will miss the services of Jason Gillespie. “Gillespie’s still got inflammation in his Achilles,” said Ponting, referring to the injury that sidelined the pacer from his side’s record 256-run thrashing of Namibia on Thursday.
“It’s a little bit of a worry that he said the injury was worse today than it was a few days ago. I don’t think it is too much of a concern,” added Ponting. “Brett Lee will take the new ball. ”
Australia go into this game on the back their thrashing of Namibia, a game where Glenn McGrath posted a new World Cup-best haul of seven for 15. In contrast, England crashed to an 82-run defeat against India in Durban Wednesday.
Another reverse here may well end their World Cup campaign. “It’s going to be a very tough game,” said England coach Duncan Fletcher who insisted that his team was edging nearer to the standard of the World Cup holders.
England opening batsman Nick Knight has been suffering with a lump on his right knee and needed a painkilling injection to get through Wednesday’s tie.
Nevertheless the opener, one of four current England players who were members of the side that won at Sydney in 1999 — England’s last ODI victory against Australia — is confident of being fit for what will be his 100th appearance.
“It’s like a cramp feeling which tends to get inflamed and worse the more I play,” the left-hander said of his knee injury. “But the Australia game is going to be the biggest one in my career because it stands for so much.”
England could recall Knight’s Warwickshire colleague and left-arm spinner Ashley Giles in a bid to add variety to their bowling.
Despite their midweek loss, captain Nasser Hussain insisted his team could stop the Australian juggernaut.
“They are a great side. But we just have to play like we did in Melbourne and make sure we finish off the game. We, of all the sides recently, have given Australia a good game. The sides that have done well against Australia, like New Zealand, have put them under pressure... that’s definitely the way to beat them.”
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Michael Bevan, Andy Bichel, Ian Harvey, Matthew Hayden, Brad Hogg, Brett Lee, Darren Lehmann, Jimmy Maher, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Nathan Hauritz.
England (from): Marcus Trescothick, Nick Knight, Michael Vaughan, Nasser Hussain, Craig White, Paul Collingwood, Alec Stewart, Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson, Andrew Caddick, Ronnie Irani, Ian Blackwell. (AFP)