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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Australia could be vulnerable
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent at Edgbaston

What an end to the summer it would be if England manage to beat Australia.

Just imagine the excitement and anticipation for next year's Ashes series if Michael Vaughan's team overturn what is a desperately embarrassing record of defeats in one-day cricket - Australia have won the last 14 matches between the two countries.

Of course, this is purely a one-off match and, as we know, the conditions at this time of year do make it awkward for the team that bats first.

A Flintoff
Will Flintoff be smiling after a rare match-up against Australia?

But while we have all queried the timing of this tournament, in the space of three days, cricket's greatest adversaries - India and Pakistan, England and Australia - will have fought it out in sudden death play-offs, and you could not ask for more than that.

The greatest interest for me will be to see how the Australians treat Andrew Flintoff - and how he responds.

It is an extraordinary fact that Flintoff has never played a Test against the Aussies, and only two one-day matches - one being that fateful World Cup game that England so narrowly lost.

He remains, therefore, something of an unknown quantity to Ricky Ponting's men, and they certainly have not experienced the 'new Flintoff' who has scored three hundreds and a 99 in his last six innings.

I presume there will be plenty of barbed comments, and attempts to wind him up when he walks out to bat, and the question is: can Flintoff restrain himself?

We saw a rush of blood from him against West Indies in the Lord's Test when he aimed a second swipe at Omari Banks and was bowled in the last over before lunch.

It might be that they are fresh and dangerous, but Australia could also be cold and vulnerable

Since then, however, he has batted with wonderful maturity without losing any of his natural aggression, but it is precisely that rush of blood that the Aussies will be trying to provoke from him.

Australia have not encountered the rejuvenated Steve Harmison, either, and they might get rather a shock.

Harmison is a far cry from the crushingly shy fast bowler who played four Tests, lost his run-up and took only nine wickets in Australia in 2002/3.

Armed with a white ball, he can be devastating and both he and Flintoff have excellent records against left-handers.

Australia are a brilliant side but they have not been stretched in this tournament so far, and have not played a great deal of cricket recently.

In fact, since February they have played three games against a dreadfully weakened Zimbabwe, a match against Pakistan in Holland and one at Lord's, and two games in the Champions Trophy, one of which was against America.

It might be that they are fresh and dangerous, but they could also be cold and vulnerable.


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