England relish role reversal as tourists set out to resume normal service

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The Independent Online

This Australian team is not accustomed to the position it finds itself in. Normally, Ricky Ponting's side arrive with confidence and attitude and leave scorched earth behind them. But during the last week Michael Vaughan's ever-improving England have stolen their thunder, and it is those wearing yellow and green who are being ridiculed for inept displays.

This Australian team is not accustomed to the position it finds itself in. Normally, Ricky Ponting's side arrive with confidence and attitude and leave scorched earth behind them. But during the last week Michael Vaughan's ever-improving England have stolen their thunder, and it is those wearing yellow and green who are being ridiculed for inept displays.

Yet all this could change over the weekend when the world champions open their account in the NatWest Series with back-to-back one-day internationals against Bangladesh and England. After Australia's embarrassing defeat by Somerset on Wednesday an angry Ponting suggested that, on current form, they would struggle to beat Bangladesh.

Australia's wounded captain did not really mean what he said, but his comments highlighted his disappointment at losing two matches that he expected to win. England's crushing 10-wicket victory over Bangladesh on Thursday will have only increased the pressure on the tourists, and Ponting will want to put the Bangladesh away in similar style in Cardiff today.

But it is tomorrow's encounter in Bristol that the Australians will be looking forward to. The remarkable 100-run defeat by England in Monday's Twenty20 match, along with the disrespectful derision which followed and the graffiti written on their team coach, will have given the visitors all the motivation they need. The tour may only be four matches old but Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Co will already feel they have a score to settle.

The outcome of this game will not decide the fate of the Ashes but Australia's desire to put a confident England back in their place should make an fine contest.

How Australia go about regaining lost ground will be interesting, because England no longer look a team intimidated by the sight of a "baggy green" cap. This was highlighted by Andrew Flintoff and Stephen Harmison's bowling at Australia's lower order on Monday. The fast bowlers, roared on by a raucous 15,000 crowd, peppered Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath with bouncers. And to the fans' enjoyment, several found their target.

Andrew Strauss denied that roughing up and possibly injuring the Australian bowlers was part of England's pre-match game-plan, but he admitted it was a strategy they are likely to continue with in the Nat-West Series and Ashes.

"Bowling short is probably a good way of bowling at their tail," the England opener said. "Brett Lee loves the ball pitched up and he will try and spank the ball over your head if you do. Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff bowl like this against any tail, and rightly so, as tail-enders do not like it short and at their bodies.

"It is a good tactic, and I am sure we will continue as the summer goes on. We will get our fair share but fortunately we have bowlers who can hand it out."

Despite being bowled out for 79 by England at the Rose Bowl, Australia's batsmen are in reasonable touch. At Taunton Hayden, Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey each posted half-centuries in a mammoth total of 342 for 5.

But these players will need to treat Darren Gough, Harmison and Flintoff with greater respect than those they faced in Somerset. Hayden smashed 76 off 53 balls before retiring but there was an arrogance about his batting that could make him vulnerable.

It is one thing to try to hit every ball that Gareth Andrew, Simon Francis or Michael Parsons bowls at you for four or six, but quite another when Gough and Harmison are running in.

England's bowlers, with the exception of Jon Lewis - who took 3 for 32 on his international debut - were not at their best at The Oval. Vaughan will want his pacemen to remain aggressive but not carried away with the short stuff. Hayden and Gilchrist are too good to be worried by this approach.

The manner in which Somerset scored 345 in 46.5 overs will be a concern. Once Brett Lee was forced from the field with a shoulder injury Ponting's attack lacked variation, and this allowed Graeme Smith and Sanath Jayasuriya to treat them with contempt. Lee's MRI scan revealed minor damage but the Australians are unlikely to risk playing him in either match.

Strauss, however, does not see himself fulfilling the "pinch-hitting" role that had previously been assigned to Geraint Jones. "The tactic of me opening is not set in stone," Strauss said. "But in England we play on pitches where the ball does a bit early on and we are looking for me to play a more traditional role. It is my job to see off the new ball and provide a good platform for the middle order.

"The Australians' start has not been ideal but on the last occasion they toured they lost to Middlesex in a warm-up game and everybody was asking whether they were slipping, but they won the one-day series very easily. I am sure they will come back at us very hard."

England (probable): M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, A J Strauss, P D Collingwood, K P Pietersen, A Flintoff, G O Jones (wkt), G J Batty, J Lewis, D Gough, S J Harmison.

Australia (probable): R T Ponting (capt), M L Hayden, A C Gilchrist (wkt), D R Martyn, M J Clarke, A Symonds, M E K Hussey, S Watson, J N Gillespie, M S Kasprowicz, G D McGrath.

Bangladesh (from): Javed Omar, Nafees Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful, Tushar Imran, Habibul Bashar (capt), Aftab Ahmed, Khaled Mashud (wkt), Mohammad Rafique, Mashrafe Mortaza, Khaled Mahmud, Nazmul Hossain, Tapash Baisya, Rajin Saleh.

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