Australia impress Fleming

Stephen Fleming

Stephen Fleming practises in the nets ahead of the semi-final showdown © Getty Images

Stephen Fleming believes ICC Champions Trophy semi-final opponents Australia are stronger for losing the Ashes.

New Zealand captain Fleming will attempt to derail Australia’s bid for a maiden Trophy title in Mohali, knowing how onerous a task it is to beat them under any circumstances.

Since England’s 2-1 Test series victory, however, Fleming suggests Australia have become more ruthless.

And he does not hold out much hope for Andrew Flintoff and company defending the urn successfully down under this winter.

“If you take what has happened at this tournament on its own you would say Australia are hot favourites just because England did not look as confident as they were when they were at full strength,” Fleming said.

“England have got some key players missing and if they could get some of them back it would add massive value.

Scott Styris

Scott Styris is missing against Australia due to a hamstring problem © Getty Images

“To get them back and in form will even the ledger up but Australia are in a situation where they have most of their players to pick from and looking to maintain their fitness over the next few months.

“If they can do that they will win the Ashes.

“Australia have obviously done a lot of thinking about what went wrong during their England tour and that will make them stronger.

“It’s always a dangerous thing to face when an Australian side smart about an upcoming series.”

New Zealand are proud of their own fierce rivalry with Australia and won four times on the trot against them prior to a recent lull.

They have since triumphed just twice in 17 attempts, including a then one-day international record chase of 332 in Christchurch last December.

New Zealand’s Australian-born all-rounder, Scott Styris, who hit a century that day and top-scored with 86 in the victory over Pakistan which secured the Black Caps’ place in the last four here, is almost certainly out of the semi-final with a hamstring injury.

“It’s pretty unlikely - doubtful he will play the game,” said Fleming.

However, Fleming was more upbeat on fast bowler Shane Bond, who has also tweaked a hamstring.

“We are very hopeful he will be all right,” Fleming added.

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