Andy Flower, the England coach, says his team will go into their opening Champions Trophy game today feeling positive, despite their 6-1 series drubbing at the hands of Australia. England were thoroughly outclassed in the recent one-day meeting, but Flower is not worried when his side play the in-form Sri Lankans today.
"We have had a long, hard summer back home, so getting out here and playing in this tournament, with the best players in the world is very exciting for everyone," said Flower. "There is no trouble at all getting the players up for this tournament. Being here and feeling the buzz about it, and looking forward to a couple of wins to get us through to the semi-finals is exciting for everyone." While Australia's pacemen, led by a rejuvenated Brett Lee, cleaned up England's misfiring batsmen earlier this month, the threat now reverts to spin with Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis, whose remarkable rise continued with a stellar display in the tournament's opening win over South Africa.
"It proved a tough series against Australia but the Sri Lankans will put forward a completely different challenge," said Flower. Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan coach, says his team's win over the West Indies on Wednesday was ideal preparation for tomorrow's game with India. While chasing 134 to win, his team were 76 for five before reaching their target with 20 overs to spare. And Intikhab says his team will benefit from finding a way to win despite some setbacks and difficult conditions.
"It was a difficult wicket, the bounce was uneven and it just wasn't easy to get the ball away," he said. "We found the pitch difficult to bat on." Meanwhile, Australia will be without Nathan Bracken for the whole tournament. The fast bowler, 32, has returned home to have a long-standing knee injury assessed. A decision on a replacement player will be made by the national selection panel in the coming days and will need to be confirmed by the International Cricket Council's Technical Committee before being announced. Australia begin the tournament against the West Indies tomorrow.
* With agencies Today's match: England v Sri Lanka, ART Prime Sport, 4.30pm