Twenty20 tussle can set tone
Victory for England in today's inaugural Twenty20 contest against Australia at the Rose Bowl might not be much of a pointer for the main events.
Victory for England in today's inaugural Twenty20 contest against Australia at the Rose Bowl might not be much of a pointer for the main events ahead but it should rid the hosts of their habitual losers' tag.
The waiting will be over this evening when the two sides lock horns for the first time in what is shaping up to be a scintillating summer. Other Ashes series have promised much with little delivered but if Michael Vaughan's men can come out on top on the notoriously bowler-friendly Southampton pitch, it will be a significant momentum shift compared to the beginning of previous tours.
Despite Aussie domination in both forms of the game over the past 16 years, England are in the unusual position of having won both the most recent Test and one-day encounters between the two, and further success in whatever format will be another psychological boost.
"When you play against the number one team in the world you are certainly going to enjoy the challenge," said Vaughan. "It is a big challenge but the team are looking forward to the next four weeks, first and foremost, but most definitely the event starting on 21 July.
"The main agenda over the next few weeks is to win the NatWest Series and NatWest Challenge. The victory we had in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy last year gave the guys a lot of confidence and we will try to take that confidence into this summer.
"It is important that individuals get runs and take some wickets against the Australians and gain some individual confidence. We will win some games if we can get that happening."
Although England's fifth Test win in Sydney in January 2003 came in a dead rubber, the watershed limited-overs triumph at Edgbaston, after 14 consecutive reverses to the old enemy, was comprehensive. According to coach Duncan Fletcher, the win highlighted the potential to reach greater heights.
"We looked at our win, addressed it, and we felt how we played at Edgbaston can be improved on," Fletcher said. "We don't know what our limit is at this stage. We have a young side which is playing some good cricket but can still improve, that is what makes it so exciting."
There are other positives for England to draw upon if Saturday's crushing win over Shane Warne's Hampshire is anything to go by. Veteran Darren Gough produced a venomous new-ball spell, reaping a hat-trick, and Kevin Pietersen again showed a liking for responding to a crisis with a booming 77 and a remarkable 46, made from only 15 deliveries, in a swiftly-arranged 12-over match which followed.
He is sure to be a major player in England's plans this evening.
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