Aussies keen to expose Flintoff
Australia have targeted Andrew Flintoff in their quest to send England crashing out of the ICC Champions Trophy.
Ricky Ponting’s Australians believe England’s decision to promote Flintoff to number three in the batting order is playing into their hands.
England captain Flintoff has been shunted two places up the order for this tournament and opposite number Ponting is keen to expose him early against the new ball.
Attempting to undermine the opposition’s most dominant player is a traditional Australian tactic and 28-year-old Flintoff can expect a barrage from Brett Lee and further probing from Glenn McGrath.
“England’s thinking will be - the longer he can bat, the better it will be for them,” Ponting said.
“Our feeling is that if we can get a crack at him early with the new ball and get him out then it might leave them a bit thin with their power hitters down the end of their innings, which is where he can do a lot of damage.
“He has been a middle to lower order batsman for most of his career.
“I guess he hasn’t faced a lot of the new white ball and as we have seen it has swung around quite a bit here.
“Hopefully we will get a chance at him early tomorrow and I know all of our bowlers are looking forward to that challenge.”
Ponting, like Flintoff, has made a point of isolating this match from the forthcoming Ashes, claiming the result at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium will have little bearing when the series gets under way in Brisbane next month.
However there is an obvious buzz of anticipation.
“We have great rivalry with England, there is no doubt about that. It goes back a long, long time,” said 31-year-old Ponting.
“There is always a little bit extra - sides tend to lift when you have those kind of rivalries going on - in any game Australia and England play in.”
Recent meetings between the two have been evenly shared and England have a better record against Australia than any other top-eight side over the past two years.
The fact they have won three and tied one of the previous seven completed matches does not say much for their overall credential, however.
Ponting said: “Their one-day form probably hasn’t been good since the lead-up series to the Ashes we took part in.
“They played some very good cricket there and it was a very entertaining series.
“They probably haven’t played as well as they have liked but that doesn’t really matter when you have a contest like this that both teams are pumped for. On the day anything can happen.”
England will have a better understanding of the conditions, having been in residence in Rajasthan for 11 days.
Concerned about the potential damaging effect of dew on the ball for spinners, Australia are considering drafting in Mitchell Johnson, their left-arm fast bowler, in place of Brad Hogg.
That plan may be scuppered, however, as Queenslander Johnson missed the Australians’ sole net session ahead of tomorrow’s day-nighter due to stomach cramps.
The atmospheric conditions will be made slightly more challenging tomorrow evening by the release of fireworks all around the city in celebration of Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.
“I have sent all the boys out this morning to buy some gas masks to field in!” Ponting joked.
“We understand there are going to be a few fireworks, a bit of a haze, some smoke in the air but hopefully not too much so we can still see the ball.”
Although it will be mathematically possible to progress even in defeat, it would be clutching at straws, and Ponting believes the current equation suits his team.
To claim a first Champions Trophy title Australia must win four games in a row, a situation reminiscent of the one which saw them crowned champions at the 1999 World Cup.
“We are pretty used to being in this sort of situation,” Ponting said. “You can get into this kind of position in most one-day tournaments you play in, especially if you lose a game early on.
“We tend to play our best cricket when we are under the pump.”