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Ashes rivals burning up the shortest game

Last updated on: May 10, 2010 12:55 IST

Perfect start for England and Australia



Australia and England, cricket's traditional rivals in the oldest form of the game, are excelling at the newest and look favourites to reach the final of the Twenty20 World Cup.

The Test foes initially struggled to adjust to the demands of the shortest and most intense form of cricket, perhaps not considering it a format worth taking too seriously.

But after being the only teams to win their opening two Super Eight games in the Caribbean over the past two weeks, they are each a win away from a place in the last four and look the sharpest outfits in the tournament.

Image: Michael Clarke and Paul Collingwood
Photographs: Reuters

'We are here to be successful'

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"With the strength of our squad we believe whatever position we get into we can win," Australia skipper Michael Clarke said after his team recovered from 67 for five to win by a huge 81 runs against Sri Lanka in Group F on Sunday.

"We want to win this tournament, we haven't performed as well as we'd like in the first two Twenty20s and we are here to be successful," he added.

"We've all been working really hard together. We can take a lot of confidence but there is a long way to go and in conditions that probably won't suit our fast bowlers quite as well," he said, referring to the slower surface in St. Lucia where Australia take on hosts West Indies on Tuesday.

Australia's opening batsmen, Shane Watson and Dave Warner, have shown they can get their team off to a rattling start but even when they fail, middle order batsmen such as Cameron White, who hit an unbeaten 85 against Sri Lanka, have answered the call.

"When someone misses out, someone stands up. In all facets of our game we are playing pretty well. St. Lucia will throw up different conditions for us. We need to adapt and win," said White.

Image: Michael Clarke celebrates with team-mates

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'We are playing the exact brand of cricket we set out to'

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Despite inventing the popular new format in their domestic game, England looked clueless in the earliest days of international Twenty20 and tried 15 different opening partnerships prior to this tournament.

But this time they have brought a specialist team with plenty of big-hitting players and bowlers well suited to the specific demands of bowling against ultra-attacking batsmen.

"We are playing the exact brand of cricket we set out to, as aggressive as possible with the bat and then to create as much pressure as possible with the spinners," said off-spinner Graeme Swann.

"I genuinely think, for the first time looking at an England team, we can actually win this. It's not all hot air and bluster," he added.

England's dressing room has an even more eclectic collection of accents than usual with a trio of South African-born batsmen -- Michael Lumb, Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen backed up by talented Irish Twenty20 specialist Eoin Morgan.

Pietersen, who smashed a magnificent 53 against the country of his birth on Saturday, says that the shortest format of the game is no longer simply entertainment for those who crave 'party cricket'.

"The more you play, the better you get. Twenty20 cricket is serious business now," he said.

An 'Ashes final' at the Kensington Oval on May 16 would certainly be just that.

Image: Kevin Pietersen

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