Cricket: Atherton on to the front foot

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The Independent Online
THE England squad flew out yesterday for their four-month tour of Australia, buoyed by the incentive of increased prize-money from their sponsor and by some fighting talk from their captain.

Tetley Bitter is promising pounds 12,000 for each Test won, and is considering a special bonus for an Ashes series victory.

Mike Atherton, who will take more stick than most on the tour, was in defiant mood: 'England have been seen as a soft touch sometimes,' he said.

'I'm not a fan of 'sledging', but if opponents dish it out I would like to see our lads having a go back.

'I hope the cricket will be hard and competitive. There is a place for banter but if it becomes nasty then that's not acceptable. We won't start it but I'm buggered if we are going to stand there and let the Aussies walk all over us.

'I've got good vibes about the tour. I believe it's going to be a close series, good to play in and good to watch.'

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