Cricket: England players to stake claim

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The Independent Online
England's players have their last chance to stake their claim for a place in Thursday's crunch World Cup game against Australia when they face Ireland in Pune, India, today.

Having gained the maximum 18 points from the first three of their five pool matches, England will be confident that their unbeaten record against the Irish will remain intact. England lead Australia in their pool by three points, while Ireland trail on nine.

And England know the Australians will provide their sternest test in their quest for a third World Cup title. Their captain, Karen Smithies, said: "Everyone seems to think it will be between us and them, both in the group and for the trophy."

England's batsmen have impressed in their three matches so far, twice scoring more than 300 runs with two players bagging centuries.

But they have allowed all three opponents - South Africa, Pakistan and Denmark - to complete their allotted overs, while Australia took only 37 balls to beat Pakistan and 28.5 overs to dispense with South Africa. Their match against Ireland was rained off.

Smithies, however, is unperturbed by the statistics and said: "We have had to work harder in our games and been able to learn from our mistakes.

"But we need to reduce the extras tomorrow. I, and probably others, was guilty of not concentrating when Pakistan were batting against us. We must put that right tomorrow."