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Eng outplayed Aussies: Fletcher

"We bounced back from Lord's to show we can compete with the best in the world and outplay them," he said.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2005 19:30 IST

England's so-called "Barmy Army" of cricket fans has chanted it loudly all series. The often fickle national tabloids have jumped on the bandwagon.

And coach Duncan Fletcher is no doubt thinking the same thing, although he's too shrewd to go public with it just yet.

After losing the opening match at Lord's, England has recovered and dominated the last three Tests against Australia. The English will take a 2-1 lead into the series finale at The Oval, needing only to avoid defeat to claim the Ashes for the first time since 1986-87.

It might be time for cricket's No 1 test ranking -- official or otherwise -- to pass to England from Australia.

"We bounced back from Lord's to show we can compete with the best in the world and outplay them," Fletcher saidon Mondayin the wake of England's three-wicket win at Trent Bridge. "Ever since that Lord's Test we've dominated most sessions, if not all of them."

"But we don't see it as a changing of the guard. We have got to put it all aside now because we have got an important game at The Oval."

England had to fend off another improbable comeback by Australia in the fourth Test, compounding the drama of the series. Despite being a match down, and lucky not to be trailing 3-1, Australia can still hang onto the Ashes with a win at The Oval and a drawn series.

Knowing that Australia has individuals who can turn a match in a session, and who haven't performed collectively in the series, Fletcher has been cautious not to give them any motivation by claiming his England line-up deserves to be considered the best team in cricket.

Fletcher conceded that Australia had missed pace spearhead Glenn McGrath, sidelined for the second and fourth Tests by ankle and elbow injuries. Incidentally, England won both those matches.

McGrath could make a comeback in the fifth Test, where Fletcher faces the prospect of being without Simon Jones, one of the revelations of England's pace quartet this series.

Jones injured his right ankle and bowled only four overs in Australia's second innings at Trent Bridge, after taking 5-44 in the first innings.

He has 18 wickets or the series, second in the England team to Andrew Flintoff (19), although Jones has a far superior average and strike rate.

Fletcher said he hoped to have Jones back for The Oval, but had to consider other options.

"It would be nice to have the same 11 players in every game of the series but I'll be discussing with the selectors our options," he said.

Despite rising to No 2 in the world rankings with series wins over the West Indies, New Zealand and South Africa, questions lingered over England's rating because it hadn't challenged Australia since a lopsided series defeat in 2003.

"Many people thought we hadn't played against strong opposition, but we came out and proved it," said Fletcher.

First Published: Aug 30, 2005 19:30 IST