Michael Vaughan wants Ashes boost from one-dayers
CHESTER-LE-STREET: England captain Michael Vaughan hopes his side can use the forthcoming triangular one-day tournament as a platform for their first Ashes series victory in 18 years.
England haven’t beaten Australia, their oldest foes, in a Test series since Mike Gatting’s tourists triumphed in the 1986-87 season. But when the teams last met in a one-day international, England beat Australia by six wickets in the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston in September. As Ricky Ponting’s side arrived in England on Sunday looking to extend an Australian run of eight successive Ashes series wins, Vaughan said it was vital England made a good impression in the one-dayers before the first Test at Lord’s on July 21.
“There’s still a fair way to go before that first game,” Vaughan told reporters after England wrapped up a 2-0 Test series win over struggling Bangladesh with an innings and 27 run-victory inside three days at the Riverside here on Sunday. “Injuries can occur but hopefully that won’t happen. We’ve just got to make sure we play some good cricket in the one-day games.
“It’s quite crucial that you start well,” added Vaughan whose side face Australia for the first time this season in a Twenty20 match at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl ground a week on Monday before taking on Bangladesh in the triangular opener at The Oval on June 16. “Australia are a good one-day team and there are a few games against Bangladesh as well. But the big games are against Australia and it’s crucial we play well and gain some confidence.” Vaughan stressed Australia would not read too much into the Bangladesh series, which also featured an innings and 261 run win for England at Lord’s. “I think Australia would have expected no different, that we would beat Bangladesh 2-0. We’ve played some good cricket in the two victories. Only time will tell (how important they are).”
Several leading players, including Vaughan himself, may not play a single first-class fixture before the Ashes. Worries have also been expressed about the timing of the series, with conditions in July and August likely to be more in favour of a spinner such as Australia’s Shane Warne rather than England’s seamers. “Ideally, I would have liked a four-day game before the Ashes start but it’s not to be,” added the 30-year-old Yorkshire batsman who scored three hundreds in Australia during the last Ashes series in 2002-03. “Australia will have a three-day game (against Leicestershire) but we can’t control that. We’ve just got to make sure we get the practice and preparation throughout the five weeks from now until then.”
Vaughan was more relaxed about the scheduling of the series. “It’s good to be playing them at the end of the summer as well. You can always get ball swinging if conditions suit so when you play is irrelevant for me.” England’s victory at the Riverside saw number four batsman Ian Bell, who made 162 not out, score his maiden Test hundred. The 23-year-old Warwickshire right-hander, who made 70 on debut against West Indies at The Oval last year, was left with the extraordinary Test average of 297 from three innings after making an unbeaten 65 at Lord’s.
Asked if Bell could cope with the greater challenge involved in facing the Australia attack, Vaughan replied: “We think so. Only time will tell when the real pressure is on. But so far so good.” England were also heartened by all rounder Andrew Flintoff’s return to bowling ahead of schedule following an ankle injury, the Lancashire quick taking three for 58 in Bangladesh’s second innings. But the legality of his action was called into question by former Somerset captain Peter Roebuck, now a newspaper columnist in Australia, who labelled Flintoff’s bumper “diabolical”.
However, Vaughan was adamant that there was nothing wrong with the 6ft 4” all-rounder’s bowling style, notable for its strong wrist action. “Peter’s not even in the country, he’s watching it off the television. I’ve absolutely no worries at all over Freddie Flintoff’s action. “Yes, he’s got a big wrist, he’s got a big everything.” Meanwhile Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar, whose team also suffered two innings defeats during their 2-0 Test series reverse in Australia two years ago, predicted a close Ashes series. “To me, England have got a better chance in this Ashes series more than any other one. It’s difficult to compare both sides. One is ranked number one in the world (Australia), one is ranked second (England). It’s not easy to face either of them.
“Hoggard is bowling very well and Stephen Harmison (the Durham quick who took five for 38 in the first innings on his home ground) is a quite fantastic bowler,” he added. Somerset left-handed opener Marcus Trescothick was named England’s man of the series after scores of 194 and 151. “He can be a key player for England when he scores big runs,” said Bashar. But despite having now scored 12 Test hundreds, Trescothick has yet to register three figures against Australia. afp