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All-win record a realistic goal for Australia

By Glenn McGrath
March 03, 2003 20:40 IST
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Sunday's win over England ensures us that our all-win record remains in tact as we ready ourselves for the Super Six.

At the start of the tournament I had mentioned that Australia could win the World Cup without dropping a game. I would not say that this is a team target, in the sense that we have not discussed it in a team meeting, but it's certainly something that most of us have at the back of our minds. We feel that going undefeated through the Cup is a feat we are capable of. We also feel that it would give an accurate picture of the cricket we are playing at the moment.

However, there was a point in yesterday's game against England, when things did look pretty bleak for us. At 135 for eight, with only yours truly padded up, not many would have given us a chance. But Michael Bevan got into his terminator act, and saw us through once again.

I'm not sure what it is with England-Australia games. Is it that the England team does not know how to win against us, or is it our ability to win from just about any situation? I think the truth will be a bit of both.

I was a little surprised when Nasser Hussain did not go all out and attack at the fall of Darren Lehmann's wicket. His decision to contain rather than go for the remaining two wickets was quite surprising. However, full marks to Bevan and Bichel for hanging in there to ensure that our successive wins record got better.

What helped our cause was the presence of Michael Bevan. There may be better batsmen in world cricket, but when it comes to finishing off games, he is in a league of his own. He never panics, even when the asking rate crosses six -- a moment when almost every player decides to go for his shots. He has an amazing ability to keep taking singles and twos, to score four to five runs an over. He then hits the occasional boundary, to ensure that everything is under control. He has often won games with the tail simply because of the calming influence he has on the batsman who is with him. He ensures that the guy on the other side does not do anything extravagant and keeps the game pretty simple, even when the asking rate is sky-rocketing, and the changing room is running out of fingernails to bite.

I have noticed that he chooses an area to score boundaries. If the ball is there to be hit into that area, he goes for it, otherwise he just takes a single. Yesterday, when there were around 50 runs left, I told Adam [Gilchrist] that I would not be needed, and, fortunately for me, I was right.

Andy Bichel, who has some big first class scores, also played sensibly to ensure that my batting prowess was not tested.

I have never felt better bowling than I am right now. I have cut my run-up by around four metres, and am now hitting the crease a lot better. My rhythm has also improved, and the ball is coming out of the hand pretty well. While I was pleased with my seven-wicket haul against Namibia, I was equally happy when Andy Bichel came and took seven wickets. He was not supposed to have played the match, but Jason's [Gillespie] Achilles tendon was giving him some trouble, so he had to opt out. This made Bichel's achievement even more noteworthy.

I think the toughest job in Australia is that of the selectors. While some of the teams have a tough time getting 11 blokes out on to the park, our selectors have to toil hard to narrow the team down to 11. This is the best aspect of Australian cricket right now, and one of the reasons I consider an all-win record at this World Cup a realistic goal.

The other great game on the weekend was between India and Pakistan. I watched the entire Indian innings and thought Sachin Tendulkar was simply superb. It was amazing to see him just blocking the ball and sending it thundering to the boundary ropes. I don't think the Pakistan bowlers bowled a very good line to him, and Sachin really made them pay for it. When I bowl to Sachin, I try to maintain my off-stump line unerringly. During our game against India, Sachin did look ominous, but thanks to Jason and Brett, he ran out of partners. When you play India, the best way to keep Sachin quiet is by picking wickets at the other end. Pakistan did not attack Kaif enough, and paid the price.

(Gameplan)

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Glenn McGrath