Friday, August 19, 2005

Australia are below par - Wessels Former Australia Test batsman Kepler Wessels believes the current team are not the powerful force they once were.
Wessels, who played 24 Tests for the Australians before leading his native South Africa, now coaches Northants, who host the tourists on Saturday.
"I don't think they've been as good as they have been," he told BBC Sport.
"They've still got a lot of ability and can probably still win the series, but it's in their interests to win at Trent Bridge as England do well at The Oval."
Wessels, the scourge of many an international attack with his stubborn, well organised defence, believes that the extraordinary frenetic flavour of the current Ashes series will continue.
"The modern trend of Test cricket suggests that you could well get two more results," he said.
"The days of the boring draw are long gone.
"A series between two top teams these days may have one draw over a five- match period, but because the scoring rates are so quick, and the game moves forward so quickly there's always the chance of a result.
"I wouldn't expect there to be a dull draw unless the pitches are very flat."
Many of the Australian batsmen have been criticised for poor shot selection, notably Matthew Hayden.
The tall left-hander broke the Australian record for runs in a calendar year in 2001 but has made only 147 runs from his first six innings in this year's series, with a top score of 36.
"Matthew Hayden has changed his game to be almost too aggressive, which is something he doesn't have to do," Wessels observed.
"He can afford to take a lot more time and get himself in, and he doesn't have to impose himself on the attack all the time, he scores quickly enough anyway.
"He's playing a whole range of strokes that keep getting him into trouble."
Wessels agrees that the English fast bowling trio Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones have been a major concern for the Australians.
"The England attack has really fired and put them under the sort of pressure they haven't been under for a long, long time, and I don't think they coped very well with it in the last two Tests."
England have come very aggressively at Australia and played them at their own game, they haven't been used to it so they will have to try and adapt. Kepler Wessels
With Australia possessing a left-handed opening pair and key batsman Adam Gilchrist also a southpaw, Wessels is convinced England have found a key ingredient as they bid to win back the Ashes.
"The left-handers in particular have had a problem with the ball reverse swinging away from them," he said.
"Other than the Lord's Test when I thought they were extremely good I don't think their basic skills have been as good as in the past."
After rain denied them the chance to play Scotland, Australia's preparations for the fourth Ashes Test starting on 25 August turn to Northampton and a two-day game.
Wessels revealed that the decision for the shorter length of the match was Cricket Australia's.
"All it really amounts to probably is practice for the touring side and for us," he said.
Martin Love, who has not played Test cricket for Australia since July 2003 when he made his maiden century, against Bangladesh, misses the match to rest a tendonitis problem.
It has been an agreed to play an extra hour on both days at the County Ground, play scheduled from 1045 to 1845.
Story from BBC SPORT: 2005/08/19 15:59:00 GMT© BBC MMV


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