Aussie media sniff victory against wilting England

Australia's media are relishing the prospect of Ricky Ponting's team ramming home a psychological Ashes blow on ragged England on the final day.

updated: July 12, 2009 08:39 IST
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Australia's media are relishing the prospect of Ricky Ponting's team ramming home a psychological Ashes blow on ragged England on the final day of the first Cardiff Test on Sunday.

England's challenge has unravelled with each day of the opening Test with Australia's cricket pundits questioning the team's attitude, bowling and Andrew Strauss's captaincy.

England head into Sunday's fifth day at 20 for two and needing a further 219 runs to prevent going down one-nil in the five-Test series.

"Australia have a physically and mentally exhausted England on the ropes heading into the final day and only further rain interruptions and dogged resistance look like stopping Australia from assuming a 1-0 series lead," The Sunday Telegraph's Ben Dorries said.

With the Australians posting four individual centuries in the Cardiff Test, the Telegraph said "England was having a total meltdown and looked disinterested and disconsolate with wayward bowling and shoddy fielding" on Saturday's fourth day.

The leadership of Strauss has come under fire as England looked listless and uninspired in the field against the weight of Australia's massive first innings of 674 for six declared, its fourth-highest total in Ashes cricket.

"The match has been a major embarrassment for England and raised questions about whether Strauss is a powerful enough personality to take his team with him," The Sunday Telegraph's Malcolm Conn said.

"The bowling and fielding lacked inspiration, direction and intensity.

"While much of the responsibility must be taken by the bowlers not standing up to be counted in difficult circumstances, the captain is always ultimately responsible."

Stuart MacGill, a 2005 Ashes tourist in England, questioned the attitude of the current England team under Strauss.

"I compare the way England looked in 2005 to today. Their demeanour, the way that they look, their intention to beat Australia. It is vastly different to four years ago," MacGill said on SBS TV.

"It was a team that was being demoralised and treated without respect by the opposing batsmen, and yet they were joking about it.

"Strauss obviously has a lot on his plate, but there really seems to be issues with the culture and attitude of the England team."

Fellow SBS TV cricket panellist and former Test spinner Greg Matthews said Sunday's final day could define the rest of the series.

"England have got their best player, their most dynamic player, Kevin Pietersen there," Matthews said.

"I think he's got to grab this game by the horns and take the initiative away from Australia.

"If England don't put their hand up tomorrow (Sunday) then they are in massive trouble for the rest of the series."

Veteran ABC radio commentator Jim Maxwell said Australia were well placed to embarrass England on the last day, where fine weather is forecast.