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Eng discover reasons to be cheerful

india Updated: Aug 16, 2006 17:19 IST
Reuters

An Oval Test at the end of summer with the series already decided is normally an occasion for reflection and a final chance to pay homage to those in the visiting side who will not tour England again.

This year, far from being a last act, the fourth Test against Pakistan from Thursday will serve as an overture to the Ashes rematch against Australia starting in three months' time.

In eight days of concentrated cricket, England have shrugged off the prolonged hangover from last year's incredible Ashes victory to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead over a Pakistan side ranked second only to Australia.

Last year's heroics have quickly attained a mythic quality, encouraged by those south of the equator who believe England have merely borrowed the Ashes before they are restored to their rightful owners.

Australian scepticism has been boosted by the disparity between the two sides' records since the 2005 series climaxed at the Oval last September.

Before taking their long winter break, Australia had won 11 of 12 Tests with one draw. England's record is four wins with as many losses.

The nadir for England came after the 1-1 draw with Sri Lanka when they were pasted to all parts of the country in a 5-0 one-day series thrashing by the same opponents.

FINAL BLOW

A change in perception for a side struggling to recapture last year's sustained excellence followed the news that captain Andy Flintoff would play no part in the Pakistan series. At the time it seemed a final body blow for England who had already lost Ashes captain Michael Vaughan, fast bowler Simon Jones and left-arm spinner Ashley Giles.

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