England will not be taking their foot off the gas tomorrow as they aim for an unprecedented 5-0 one-day international (ODI) whitewash of Australia, after wrapping up the NatWest Series with two matches still to play. Andrew Strauss's reinvigorated team had to dig deep at Old Trafford on Sunday to scramble the winning runs they needed to go 3-0 up, eventually getting home by a solitary wicket.
Nonetheless, having previously been coy about the prospect of winning every match against the old enemy this summer, an emboldened Strauss has dared to voice his ambition publicly to complete the sequence with wins at The Oval in London tomorrow and then at Lord's on Saturday. Should England do so, it will be significant revenge for last September's 6-1 home defeat by Australia in the corresponding series - and it would take their run of ODI victories against all opposition to 10 wins from the past 10 games.
It could also be considered to be giving them a major psychological advantage over Australia for next winter's Ashes. Strauss said he does not buy that, but is enthused about England's prospects for the 2011 World Cup. "I don't think we can read much into the Ashes in such a radically different format of the game," he said. "But for the World Cup, I think it [a 5-0 series victory] would instil us with a huge amount of confidence. We're aiming for it. We're in a great position to do that now. We don't want to take our foot off the gas."
Meanwhile, Andrew Flintoff insists he is relaxed about his chances of reclaiming a place in England's limited-overs sides despite their impressive recent form. Flintoff, who retired from Test cricket after last summer's Ashes series and has not played since due to a career-threatening knee injury, is aiming to return to county action for Lancashire in the next few weeks after returning to training with them yesterday.
In his absence, England have performed admirably in limited-overs cricket, winning the one-day series in South Africa at the end of 2009, emerging from the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean in May as champions and are now continuing that fine form against Australia. The all-rounder said of his chances of forcing his way back into the team: "We'll see, it's not something that I'm too worried about. "My purpose now is to get on to a cricket field, performing for Lancashire and helping them. At this moment in time I'm just trying to play first and foremost. Once I've been out there, we'll see where I'm at and take it from there."
"They [England] are doing well and they have improved. It's a new-look team with a few different faces in there and they are playing with a lot of confidence." * PA Sport