White desperate to avoid whitewash
Shane Watson admits Australia have not been up to scratch this summer as they look to eradicate the possibility of a NatWest Series whitewash by beating England at the Brit Oval tomorrow.
Sunday’s one-wicket defeat at Old Trafford left Ricky Ponting’s side 3-0 down in the five-match series, which will culminate at Lord’s on Saturday.
England captain Andrew Strauss has now set his sights on a whitewash, a feat which would have seemed impossible last summer when his side were beaten 6-1 by the tourists shortly after regaining the Ashes.
He admits the squad, who have been hit by the absence of injured bowlers Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle, plus wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, have not been good enough and must improve if they are to avoid an embarrassing 5-0 defeat.
“There is no doubt - we definitely don’t want a whitewash,” the all-rounder 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.
“We were probably 40 runs short in the last game at Old Trafford – that would have made a difference.
“There is no doubt that we have to step up a little bit more. We have been caught a bit short to be honest.”
England have found a new gear since the NatWest Series loss last year, thanks to the return of Kevin Pietersen from injury and the introduction of enterprising opening batsman Craig Kieswetter.
With a new-found confidence, and the World Twenty20 triumph under their belts, Strauss’ team are convinced they can challenge for next year’s World Cup on the sub-continent.
Watson has not been surprised by how well England have played this summer, and insists the hosts deserve to be regarded as one of the best teams in the world.
“At the moment there is no doubt that they are in form and playing very good cricket,” the 29-year-old admitted. “Their bowlers are bowling well and their batsmen are doing a good job.
“There’s no doubt they are in the top echelons of world cricket and it only looks like it’s going to continue to develop their improvement.
“It is very exciting for all of world cricket to see the English develop the way they are and it will just continue the competition between Australia and England.
“I’m not surprised how far England have come. I have seen it from afar and also in the Twenty20 World Cup. They have improved as a group and they have got some guys into the team who are making a big difference.
“Kevin Pietersen was sorely missed during the one-day series and in the Champions Trophy.
“He is a world-class batsman in the top order. We knew we were going hit very hard by the English because they continue to develop as an international team.”
After scoring 32, 57 and 61 so far, Watson is determined to make his first century of the series at the ground where England have clinched the last two home Ashes series.
“I am conscious myself that I should be getting a big one,” he said. “I am continually trying to develop and learn. We have talked together about what we have to do.”