Broad confident England can beat Australia
Stuart Broad still rates Australia the world's best one-day team - but believes England's vast improvement under Andy Flower means they are capable of beating the old enemy.
Broad, back for the NatWest Series after missing two home Tests against Bangladesh to undergo 'intensive strengthening', is itching to get back on the pitch for his country.
The pace bowler, sure to get his chance in the forthcoming five-match ODI series, traces the "turnaround" in England's 50-over fortunes to a summit meeting between coach Flower and his team in Johannesburg last year.
It came just before the Champions Trophy campaign - England reached the semi-finals before being trounced by Australia - and after a 6-1 humbling at home to the same opponents.
The results, Broad believes, are there for all to see in a team who have since won ODI series in South Africa and Bangladesh under Andrew Strauss' captaincy and then beaten the world for the first time in their history, in the 20-over format in the West Indies last month - with Paul Collingwood in charge on the field.
The common factor throughout has been coach Flower.
"We're playing fantastic cricket," said Broad.
"We've beaten Australia in Test match and Twenty20 format but, last time we played them in one-day cricket, we struggled.
"I think we can really improve on that performance; we've changed our one-day cricket around since then."
Even so, Broad is not about to argue with the evidence of the International Cricket Council rankings - which place Australia top and England fifth.
"I certainly think Australia are the best one-day team in the world, so it will be great to test ourselves against the best," he said.
"We've got some exciting players, and there's no reason why we can't give them a great run for their money.
"I think it's important we focus on the strengths we've built over the past seven months - powerful, fearless batting and great planning with the ball."
The new ethos did not evolve; Flower's sudden change of tack was much closer to a revolution, hastened by his frustrations at England's apparently habitual ODI haplessness.
"Andy was obviously hugely disappointed with the performance in the one-day series against Australia (last September)," added Broad.
"I think we've turned that round. The backing of the captain and coach means we can play fearless cricket. Gone are the days of, if you have two or three low scores, your place comes under threat.
"The captain and the coach are saying 'You're the person to take this team forward - we back you to play the way you play, go and do it'.
"The players are thriving on that."
Broad still remembers Flower's life-changing pep talk.
"Andy had his views, and everyone respected what he said," added Broad.
"He's had a huge part to play in the turnaround of England one-day cricket.
"There's certainly a change of mind-set - batsmen can go out and express themselves without having to feel they must get their 30 or 40 to stay in the team.
"Craig Kieswetter comes into his first big-stage tournament and is hitting balls out of the park in the first over of the game.
"That's a strong place for a cricketing team to be in. It's a purely mental thing, because players in the past have been able to do that - it is having the backing to go and do it."
There has already been another success story for the Flower regime this summer.
While Broad sat out England's 2-0 Test victory over Bangladesh, his replacement Steve Finn was named man of the series.
Between them, the pair are 13 feet tall - and naturally therefore bring similar attributes to the attack.
But Broad believes they can complement one another in a pace battery which may prove the envy of the world.
He added: "He's an exciting bowler; he probably bowls a little bit shorter than me, a bit more (Steve) Harmison-like.
"He's a fantastic prospect, and I'm really excited about getting on the park with him."
Broad also gave Strauss his personal and the team's collective support, following last week's surprising - and short-lived - speculation that the opener's ODI captaincy credentials may be under scrutiny.
"Straussy has played fantastic one-day cricket over the past year," said Broad.
"He's a fantastic captain to play under, a really good leader - and he deserves his place in the one-day side.
"Certainly within the four walls of the changing room there's never been any doubt he's the man to lead us to the World Cup next year.
"As long as all the people in the changing room think he's the man to do the job - and we all certainly do - that's the main thing."
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