Cricket: England scent whitewash but may ring changes for last game

ENGLAND are eying a 4-0 NatWest Series victory over Australia, but admit they may yet consider resting first-choice players for the final match at Old Trafford.

Alastair Cook spoke, after his team’s eight-wicket win at Chester-le-Street on Saturday had established an unassailable 3-0 lead, of the cachet of a clean sweep against the old enemy – but also the possibility of once again employing the rotation policy.

England’s selectors first caused a stir when James Anderson was prescribed a break for the final npower Test against West Indies at Edgbaston, a fixture his pace colleague Stuart Broad also eventually sat out. Then came a rest for the last one-day international against the Windies at Headingley, a match which was washed out in any case, for home favourite Tim Bresnan, Broad and Graeme Swann.

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Most recently, off-spinner Swann did not travel up to Durham as England took a safety-first approach with his sore bowling elbow. That was the first instance of a key player being rested before a series was won. As yet, no batsman has been given a break either.

Cook, meanwhile, can reflect on an impressive ninth successive ODI victory – and England’s seventh consecutive home series win in 50-over cricket – but he knows the job is not yet complete.

“Four-nil looks a lot better than 3-1,” he said, looking forward to tomorrow’s day-night fixture in Manchester. “They will be desperate not to let that happen, but we have got to be just as hungry as we have been in these games. It would be great to make it ten wins in a row.”

As for the possibility of a break from the packed schedule for one or more of England’s regulars, he said: “There is always a chance that we will rotate. We want to win 4-0 but we will look at selection, like we always do.”

Steven Finn certainly demonstrated that he appears to be thriving on his bowling, cutting down Australia’s batsmen with the new and older ball.

The Middlesex fast bowler barely put a foot wrong, operating at a full length and making the most of favourable conditions to take four wickets as the Australians were restricted to 200 for nine. “You have got to discipline yourself (in helpful conditions),” Finn said. “It is not the pitch that matters, but how you bowl. You have to hit the right area from ball one; we did that and built the pressure.”

It is a source of wonder to many of England’s ODI and Twenty20 opponents that Finn still cannot force his way into the first-string Test team.

He said: “Everything is focused towards playing Test cricket – I have always wanted to do that. But first and foremost at the minute, it is trying to be a good one-day team.”

Cook’s opposite number Michael Clarke, bowled by Finn after two hours of resistance under heavy cloud cover, points out that his Test absences merely point to England’s seam-bowling riches.

“It’s a different form of the game,” said the Australia captain. “He bowled really well here. It doesn’t matter what form of the game, if you bowl like that you’re going to get wickets. It means they’ve got some really good bowlers in front of him. I’m sure he’s pushing hard for selection.”

Australia coach Mickey Arthur was left questioning his world No 1 team’s ambition and character after this latest defeat to England.