England target series whitewash

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The Independent Online

England are prepared to talk about the unthinkable prospect of whitewashing Australia 5-0, but are still rightly wary of the threat posed by Shaun Tait in particular.

The NatWest Series has been in the bag since England overcame a late collapse of six for 18 at Old Trafford on Sunday to scrape a one-wicket win and 3-0 lead with only two matches to play.

They could therefore set out at The Oval this afternoon with unprecedented ambitions of whitewashing opponents still ranked top of the world in one-day internationals who - represent a nation who simply do not lose 5-0 to anyone at anything.

But in the Australian corner is the express pace of Tait, pressed into action in Manchester after off-spinner Nathan Hauritz had to leave the tour with a foot problem and when seamer Ryan Harris was nursing a groin injury.

England's Mike Yardy will certainly not be underestimating Tait, who returned in his first ODI in 16 months to take three for 28.

"He has a great record in one-day cricket and is probably the quickest bowler in the world at the moment, so poses a different threat," Yardy said. "We must have plans for him."

England's gameplan so far has revolved around a "fearless" buzzword - as it did in their march to glory in the ICC World Twenty20 last month - but all-rounder Yardy knows there is a fine line between positive cricket and poor risk management.

"Definitely in the World Twenty20 there was a big emphasis on being very positive," he added.

"But 'positive' is a word that can be taken as reckless as well.

"I think people have played smart cricket as well as aggressive cricket and I think the team suits that with the batting order we have with the likes of Craig Kieswetter, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright."

England's winning formula so far has involved chipping away at Australia's batting, then chasing successfully.

The wheels almost came off in Manchester, but England are not inclined yet to try to mend or even refine something which is not broken.

"We've been chasing every time in this series, it will be interesting to see what happens if we bat first," Yardy added.

"In the first game we were 100 for four and then Eoin Morgan played one of the best one-day innings we have seen.

"Then the top order set up the second win.

"In the last game the top order set it well again. We got ourselves in a bit of a pickle but we showed the character to come through with Tim Bresnan."

Australia all-rounder Shane Watson admits Australia have not been up to scratch in the series and will need to do better to avoid a morale-sapping 5-0 scoreline.

"There is no doubt. We definitely don't want a whitewash," the opener said.

"We just need to continue to get our skills where we want them. We haven't been up to par throughout this series.

"After having a little bit of a break we haven't been able to get up to speed as quick as we would like.

"Throughout the series we just haven't made enough runs to give ourselves a chance to restrict the English. That has been the biggest disappointment.

"As a group we haven't given ourselves a chance to nail exactly what we are looking to do."