Jaipur: Less than two weeks ago, Ricky Ponting went on record saying that he had a statement to make on October 21 (Saturday). The Aussie skipper didnít elaborate, but he surely meant the Australia-England match in the Champions Trophy.
England captain Andrew Flintoff didnít spell out things as clearly, but said he was looking forward to the match on the eve of the crucial Ashes series beginning at Brisbane next month.
But then, the Diwali clash between the two teams at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium here has turned into more of a battle for survival in the tournament than an attempt to gain a psychological advantage.
After having lost their opening matches, both England and Australia are now placed in a must-win situation. For both, a defeat in Saturdayís four-team Group A tie would mean the end of campaign in this edition of the Champions Trophy.
England lost their first match to hosts India in a low-scoring tie here. Three-time world champions Australia suffered a shock defeat against the West Indies at Mumbai.
Batting has been Englandís main worry in the match that they have played in this tournament so far. Against India, they were skittled out for a meagre 125. They faltered against both pace and spin on a low, slow wicket. The England bowling, however, looked good against India. James Anderson, Steve Harmison (in his second spell) and off-spinner Jamie Dalrymple didnít allow Indian batsmen to score freely.
On form, Australia certainly have the edge over their arch-rivals. Captain Ricky Ponting loves to lead from the front and has players like Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, who are capable of winning a game single-handedly on their day. They are also famous for lifting their performance when itís needed most and are extremely conscious about protecting their tag of world champions.
Among the newcomers, Australia have a gem in Mike Hussey, who has been playing consistently since he burst into the international arena last year. Enjoying a tremendous success in both forms of the game, Hussey could well prove to be a thorn in the Englishmenís flesh.
England, on the other hand, are more of a two-man army, mainly dependent on captain Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, though Paul Collingwood and Steve Harmison are also capable of turning the tide in their favour.
But the problem is that England, of late, are not doing too well in the one-dayers despite their fine comeback against Pakistan at home recently. Their main hope rests on skipper Flintoff, a man of tremendous ability and cricketing sense.
One thing that must be haunting the Australians is their run of poor luck in the Champions Trophy. In 1998 in Dhaka, they made a first round exit and suffered a similar fate at Kenya two years later. In the next two editions in Sri Lanka and England, they, however, did better when they made the semi-finals.
To break the jinx, Australia require a good performance from their batsmen. Against the West Indies in Mumbai, the Aussies fumbled after a reaching a strong position and lost wickets at regular intervals. Any repeat of such act, could once again prove to be the end of their ambitions this time too.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Adam Gilchrist, Nathan Bracken, Dan Cullen, Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Mike Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Damien Martyn, Glenn McGrath, Shane Watson and Andrew Symonds.
England (from): Andrew Flintoff (captain), Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, James Dalrymple, Kevin Pietersen, Chris Read, James Anderson, Rikki Clarke, Steve Harmison, Ed Joyce, Sajid Mahmood, Jon Lewis and Mike Yardy.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden; TV: Daryl Harper.
Match Referee: Steve Crowe.
Match starts: 2.30 pm