Cricket: NZ aiming to dent Aussie confidence

By Richard Boock

MELBOURNE - Stephen Fleming has called on his players to follow England's lead and storm the Australian team fortress today, not only to secure a Tri-series final berth but also to stifle their swagger before the World Cup.

The New Zealand skipper yesterday acknowledged the new difficulties facing his side in their last two games but said the challenge now was to land another blow to Australian morale and exploit any opening left by England.

"England's the first team this summer that have turned in a complete performance against them and put them under pressure," Fleming said. "We always knew it [the vulnerability] was there, we just hadn't played well enough to exploit it.

"A one-off result isn't going to affect Australia's confidence. But if we can make it two, then three, you start introducing areas of doubt.

"What New Zealand and England have to do is [win] a little bit more."

Fleming predicted Australia would feel chastened by the experience of losing to England and tarnishing an otherwise faultless summer and would be hell-bent on recovering some face in today's outing.

"I think they'll come out hard, they'll talk hard in the media and they'll bounce back with a lot of vigour. But that's no different to when you normally play them.

"We expect them at their best and that's when we want to beat them."

He also accepted that England's win, following their improved effort against New Zealand at Perth and the fact they're facing the end of the line in terms of the tour, would make them a much different animal at Brisbane.

"England will feel more confident and they should do - they played very well. They've been looking for something to boost morale and an emphatic bonus-point win over Australia - I can't see any better way to do it than that.

"I think all teams have been waiting for Australia to slip up this season. They've been playing so well that people were wondering if they would - but England played well. They hit the pressure points and put a good performance together."

As usual, Fleming found a silver lining to the startling result, describing the escalated tension in the series as good preparation for what was to follow in the West Indies.

"That's what the World Cup's all about so we could hardly ask for more," he said.

"It's uncomfortable because we want to win these last two games. We don't want to miss the finals so we've got to play accordingly."

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