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Ashes ours for the taking, say Aussie fans

cricket Updated: Aug 20, 2009 16:54 IST
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Australian fans were supremely confident as the decisive fifth Ashes Test began on Thursday -- and they dismissed the chances of England's Andrew Flintoff repeating his heroics of 2005.

As thousands of fans filed into the Oval in south London, the crowd was studded with Australians wearing their nation's gold and green and many had made the trip from the other side of the world especially for the match.

With the series poised at 1-1 and Australia needing just a draw to retain the Ashes, England were looking to Flintoff to be the talisman just as he was when his side dramatically won four years ago.

But Australians dismissed the impact of the injury-prone Flintoff -- and said even the emotional impact of him playing in the last Test match of his career would be negligible.

"We are going to win, no doubt. I really can't understand why the Poms are so confident. It's like picking a battle you just can't win," said Ben Harms, 52, a soil scientist from Brisbane resplendent in a yellow Australian cricket shirt.

"I think the fact that it is Flintoff's last game is actually going to detract from England's performance. We are calling it the 'Flintoff Circus' back home.

"England's batting lineup is very fragile. Paul Collingwood is not a number four batsman, he is a journeyman and this new guy is playing his first Test, which smacks of desperation," he said, referring to South African-born Jonathan Trott.

Mark Brown, 34, from Perth, was draped in the Australian flag -- and he fully expected to be holding it aloft to celebrate victory by Sunday.

"It'll be all over late in day four, with eight wickets in hand," he said.

He too thought Flintoff would not be a factor. "Nah, forget him, he's gone, he's finished," he said with a grin.

Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke, the leading run scorer of the series, would be the difference between the sides, Brown said. "He'll get a ton, without a doubt."

Alan Byrne, 54, from Adelaide, was that rare thing in Thursday's crowd - a cautious Australian.

"I don't think the previous matches matter at all. I think it'll all depend on the first two sessions, that's the key. But we've come a long way to see this and we're just delighted to be at the home of the Ashes," said Byrne, who was attending the match with a group of friends.

England supporters were less than bullishly upbeat, pointing to their side's woeful collapse in the fourth Test at Headingley.

"I think we have got a 20 percent chance, no more than that," said Scott Cookson, 34, from London.

His friend Paddy Hanrahan, 32, tried to put a positive spin on matters.

"Well, we're always best when we're up against it. And let's face it, we're definitely up against it here."