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Australia look for fourth win in a row

Associated Press |December 25, 2006, 3:03 PM IST
Australia look for fourth win in a row

Melbourne: It will be the start of going-away parties for Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath, and a chance for England's redemption in the Ashes.

The fourth Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground beginning from Tuesday will also be one of the most well attended Test matches in the history of the sport.

More than 95,000 spectators are expected each of the first two days, and likely the third and fourth, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Hometown boy Warne, who announced his retirement from international cricket last Thursday, will be the major focus of attention as England try to win its first Test in the five-match series after three straight losses which returned the Ashes to Australia.

McGrath said his last Test will also be the one beginning from January 2 in Sydney, although McGrath will play in the World Cup before calling it quits.

Australia is also aiming to become only the second team to win a five-match Ashes series 5-0 - Warwick Armstrong's Australian team was the only other team to do it, in 1920-21.

"That might be something that might be spoken about, if there's an opportunity there for that to happen, it would be nice if this team could be the one to do it," skipper Ricky Ponting said on Monday.

"Even with Warney and Glenn finishing, I think it's something they'd like to say they'd achieved in their careers as well, and the rest of the players, if we could be the first team in a long time to achieve that, that would be great."

England skipper Andrew Flintoff expects to be fit for the match after needing ongoing treatment for his troublesome ankle. On the weekend, Flintoff had injections and did not bowl in the nets.

"There's no secret, I've had some discomfort in it over the past week," Flintoff said. "Having an injection is just a precaution, I'm not envisaging any long-term problems or worried about these next two Test matches."

Flintoff also plans to play as much as possible in the ODI series against Australian and New Zealand, which will feature the return of Michael Vaughan from knee injury.

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Flintoff took over the captaincy because of Vaughan's absence and no skipper has been named yet for the One-Dayers.

"He's worked hard to get back to fitness, it's been an awful 12 months for him," Flintoff said.

When asked about the captaincy, Flintoff replied: "The announcement is going to be made after the Test series."

"Michael Vaughan has been England captain, I have been doing this in his absence. We will see what happens."

Flintoff is confident England will play well in Melbourne.

"We want to show we can win out here, we want to show we can win two Test matches, it's a big occasion for us," he said. "There's been a few things happen in the world of cricket over the past week, but it can't affect our preparations."

Both teams held workouts on Monday, although the Australian one was optional ahead of a Christmas lunch with their families at a Melbourne hotel.

Warne is determined to end his international career with a clean sweep against the old enemy.

"As far as I'm concerned we've got two Test matches to play and I just want to finish the series on a high," Warne said. "I think if we can win 5-0 that would be a fantastic achievement for a great team."

Teams:

Australia: Ricky Ponting (C), Adam Gilchrist (WK), Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Justin Langer, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Shane Warne. (12th man to be named).

England (from): Andrew Flintoff (C), Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Ed Joyce, Paul Collingwood, Kevin Pietersen, Geraint Jones, Chris Read (WK), Sajid Mahmood, Jamie Dalrymple, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison, Liam Plunkett, Monty Panesar, James Anderson.

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3778 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 India 8099 261
5 Australia 5471 261
see more
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