London: Australia allrounder Shane Watson has backed his side to strike a crucial early blow ahead of next year's Ashes when they meet England in a forthcoming one-day series. Watson's side are in England for five one-day clashes, starting at Lord's on June 29, in what will be their first meeting since England's Ashes triumph on Australian soil 18 months ago.
Since that chastening 3-1 Ashes defeat, Michael Clarke has replaced Ricky Ponting as captain, while South African Mickey Arthur has been hired as Australia's first ever foreign coach.
Watson believes Australia are a more formidable force than the team that crumbled so tamely when they last faced England and he refused to downplay the significance of beating the old enemy in the one-day games that serve as an appetiser for the 2013 Ashes series.
"You've got to make the most of any series you play against England, especially in England with next year's Ashes coming up," Watson said ahead of Australia's opening tour match against Leicestershire on Thursday.
"First of all it's a great time for the younger guys to experience what it is like to play in England, but it is also an opportunity to be able to make our mark here in England as well leading into next year's Ashes. Hopefully we can play the cricket that we know we can and get the result that we want."
Watson is wary of underestimating England after they wrapped up a sixth consecutive home ODI series win with their victory over West Indies on Tuesday. It seemed England's hopes of building a strong one-day outfit had been damaged before the series following Kevin Pietersen's untimely retirement from limited overs cricket.
But Ian Bell and Alastair Cook have both scored centuries to ensure an unassailable 2-0 lead over the Windies with the final match at Headingley on Friday. "They are playing very good one-day cricket at the moment," Watson said.
"I think their batting has been a big strength. For guys to continue to be able to get hundreds at the top of the order obviously sets a very good platform for the team.
"Ian Bell is a world-class player. For me it had been a little surprising that he hadn't taken on the one-day game as he has because he's a highly-skilled player and hits the ball in great areas.
"It's no surprise to me that he's performing the way he has in these past couple of games. We'll definitely have to play at our best to get the result we want."