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England go to Canberra for Ashes warm-up

09/11/2006 05:45:43 AM Comments (0)

The England cricket team will on Thursday depart for Canberra in preparation for the first match of its Australian tour, against the Prime Minister's XI.

The tourists will train in the capital in the afternoon ahead of Friday's one-day game, which is the first of three tour matches before the first Ashes Test in Brisbane starting on November 23.

The tour matches, which also include three-day games against NSW and South Australia, will be important for players like spinners Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar, wicketkeeper Geraint Jones, paceman Matthew Hoggard and batsman Alastair Cook.

None of the quintet played in the recent Champions Trophy tournament in India and, Hoggard aside, each is vying to play against Australia at the Gabba.

Despite the uncertainty over England's likely Test team, Australian legspinner Shane Warne believes the tourists will be tough to beat this summer and are an improved side since the 2005 series, which England won 2-1.

"Guys like (Kevin) Pietersen have played more cricket so they understand the game, rather than coming to us fresh on debut," Warne said.

"Andrew Flintoff's had a rest which I think is crucial to him.

"Everybody's talking about his workload and easing it off so what's better than having a rest?

"So I actually think England are a lot stronger coming to Australia. They'll be hard work to beat."

Australia will be hopeful of putting an end to the controversy which erupted when the team was criticised for pushing India's top cricket official out of the way while accepting the Champions Trophy.

Australian captain Ricky Ponting planned to make contact with Indian board president Sharad Pawar over the incident, and said he would make an apology if it was warranted.

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