Following a winter spent trying to peg England back during the Ashes, Australian captain Steve Smith is relishing being ‘the hunted’ once again.
Australia enter their five-match one-day series with England, starting Thursday night (AEST) in Southampton, as the world No.1-ranked ODI team and the current world champions.
It’s a far cry from the Test series, in which Australia were on the backfoot from their opening match loss in Cardiff.
England have made significant progress in the 50-over format with a fresh, aggressive approach first under Paul Farbrace and since his appointment, new coach Trevor Bayliss.
But Smith is quick to let them know just who the boss is.
“I think they’ve come a long way in the last little bit,” Smith said on Wednesday.
“We’re a very good one-day side.
“We’re No.1 in the world a the moment and we’re certainly going to be hunted.
“Hopefully we can continue to play well in one-day cricket and continue to have a lot of success.”
If Darren Lehmann was worried about whether the three-month long tour had left his squad weary and ready to go home, he would’ve been pleased to see their fighting spirit at training on Wednesday.
During a warm-up game of AFL, fast-bowling rivals James Pattinson and Nathan Coulter-Nile engaged in a bit of playful wrestling, which led to Counter-Nile’s training top being shredded to pieces.
“They take it a bit serious, don’t they?” Coulter-Nile laughed as he ran off for a quick change of clothing.
Smith was non-committal about picking a team for the Southampton fixture, but suggested offspinner Ashton Agar had done enough to put himself in contention – and had the potential to bat high in the order, while using a grip similar to one-day legend Adam Gilchrist.
“It’s certainly a possibility,” he said.
“I certainly think he’s come a long way in the past couple of years.
“He’s bowled really well in India, I’ve heard, for all the ‘A’ stuff they played over there (last month), and in the back end of the (Sheffield) Shield season he bowled really well … it’s great to see him doing well.
“…I certainly think there’s a lot of potential there with the bat.
“He’s got a pretty unique style, the way he does it.
“He’s got quite a high grip on the bat, quite similar to Adam Gilchrist I guess, and he’s got a lot of talent.”