Strauss aims to keep Australia on the ropes

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The Independent Online

Pride is what sportsmen play for when the real prize has gone. Australia may be unaccustomed to it but the suspicion is that, while they have no intention whatsoever of becoming any more familiar with it, they will be rather good at it.

So it was that at 3-0 down in the NatWest Series, they gave England a hiding by 78 runs in the fourth match at The Oval on Wednesday evening. If they can repeat the treatment in the fifth and final match at Lord's today, a 3-2 defeat to the old enemy on foreign soil will begin to feel a whole lot better.

The tourists' deeds (or indeed on the evidence of the first three matches, their misdeeds) are collecting scant attention at home. The Australian Football League is in full flow with the Geelong Cats and St Kilda in contention for the Premiership.

St Kilda, who won their only title in 1966, are followed passionately by Shane Warne, and Collingwood, who won the last of their 14 titles in 1990, bear the name of England's leading one-day run-scorer. It is about the only way the summer sport is getting a mention, and given that Australians love to kick their teams when they are down, the tourists may consider themselves fortunate that the bad news is being buried.

It may be another reason for the pride, which seems as if it is packed by the bucketload under their baggy green caps, and England will have to be wary of that. England should have plenty of it themselves by now but may suppose that they too have not received the attention they deserve.

To have taken a 3-0 lead against the No 1 side in the world, after also winning their seven previous matches in all forms of the game, bespeaks a team of some talent and conviction. The trick, particularly as they may be feeling under-appreciated, is to rediscover their mojo after a heavy defeat.

To try to reinforce the measure of their achievement, England trotted out their captain Andrew Strauss to deliver a few bons mots on the eve of the final game. "We don't want to finish this series 3-2 having been 3-0 up," he said.

"We played three very good games of cricket, dominating them, and we want to continue that domination. To win a series against the No 1 team in the world 4-1 would be an outstanding achievement. It would also help us climb the world rankings, which is something we're very keen to do."

England will probably not make their first change of the series. If they stick with the players who have represented them so far it will be the first time since the 1987 World Cup that they have fielded the same team for five successive matches. Their upper order batsmen need to supply more substantial runs quickly. Do so today, and Australian cricketers will once more be engulfed by Aussie footballers.

*The MCC World Cricket Committee yesterday called for the immediate introduction of day-night Test matches to help the game in countries where attendances are low. "The pink ball was trialled at the MCC v Champion County match in Abu Dhabi in late March," a statement said. "This match proved it works. Cricket authorities should not delay its introduction any further."

Possible teams: England AJ Strauss (captain), C Kieswetter (wkt), KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, EJG Morgan, LJ Wright, TT Bresnan, MH Yardy, GP Swann, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson.

Australia RT Ponting (captain), SR Watson, TD Paine (wkt), MJ Clarke, CL White, MEK Hussey, SPD Smith, JR Hopes, RJ Harris, SW Tait, DE Bollinger.

Umpires: A Dar (Pakistan) and N Llong (England).