|Event:||England in Australia 2006/07|
DateLine: 13th December 2006
Kevin Pietersen said embattled England knows it's crunch time for its Ashes defence and expects his team to rise to the challenge when the third Test begins Thursday.
England are down 2-0 and would hand the Ashes back to Australia with defeat at the WACA Ground in Perth, but Pietersen said the intensity at training indicated the English had fully recovered from their Adelaide nightmare.
"I think we mean business for this week," he said. "The boys have been put through their paces massively today and from the first ball that was bowled this afternoon, it was 90mph-plus. So we'll be coming out all guns blazing, knowing we have to play positive cricket and we have to win." He said England's captain and talisman, all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, was also bearing up well under the pressure of the first two defeats.
Flintoff is battling ankle soreness and has copped criticism for his role in some controversial team selections but bowled well in the nets on Tuesday, and Pietersen said the skipper was in good shape.
"I see him daily and Freddie just seems to be fine," he said. "He's got that belief and he knows how good he is. He's a true champion, the best all-rounder in the world, so there's not a lot that can get to him."
Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath meanwhile seemed to dismiss England's hopes at a function on the neighbouring practice wickets while the visitors were going through their paces. Delighted with his own team's form, McGrath gave a hint of the rising confidence in the Australian camp when he admitted to being disappointed England hadn't been more competitive in the first two Tests.
"The last Ashes was one of most amazing series I was involved in," he said. "What it did for cricket in England and Australia was amazing," said McGrath. "The way we have played this series has been quite exceptional. It is a little bit disappointing after the last series that the first Test was quite one-sided and the last one was a good battle."
Australia's champion leg-spinner Shane Warne needs just six wickets to become the first bowler to reach 700, and Pietersen said he was looking forward to taking him on again. He said he had moved on from his much-discussed shot selection on the final day of the Adelaide Test, when he attempted to sweep Warne and was bowled around his pads as Australia's push for victory gained momentum. The right-hander said he simply missed the ball and that he was ready to have another go.
"I played him okay over the first two Test matches, but then I said it only takes one ball from a great man to knock you over," Pietersen said. "He's the greatest bowler who's ever lived and it will be fun facing him. I've always enjoyed facing Shane and I'll enjoy facing him this week - as long as I last longer than one ball."