England, Aus gear up for Ashes face-off

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/C/Cricket.jpg' class='caption'> Verbal attacks, mind games and calls for the English press to rip into touring Australian side have all featured in the buildup to the first Ashes test.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:54 IST
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Verbal attacks, mind games and calls for the English press to rip into the touring Australian side have all featured in the buildup to Thursday's first Ashes test. The Australians have boasted of past successes, questioned their opponents' experience and claimed they can win the series 5-0, while the English have branded them bullies, scared and over the hill. Measured response On the eve of the series, however, the captains took a more measured tone. Australia's Ricky Ponting and England's Michael Vaughan don't tend to get drawn into the pre-match exchanges many of their charges revel in. On Wednesday, they answered many of the criticisms leveled at their sides by the opposition in a much less inflammatory way. The banter was there but remained lighthearted. Vaughan defended his young team, which will include five players making their Ashes debuts. "It may be a positive, it may be a negative, time will tell," Vaughan said of his side's youth policy. "The last few Ashes series we've gone in with experienced players, players who have played against them a lot, and we haven't come out with much." The England skipper confirmed Kevin Pietersen will play his first test, while Chris Tremlett - also untried in the longer version of the game - will be 12th man. Vaughan said his team would look to get on top of Australia from the outset and dismissed Ponting's boast that Australia hasn't lost a test at Lord's in 70 years. "What's that got to do with my team?" Vaughan said. "If you look too far back or you look too far in the future, you're missing the crucial moment and that's the game that we're playing that's starting tomorrow." Asked what he thought of paceman Matthew Hoggard's comments that the Australians were "getting on a bit" and putting England down because they were scared, he drew a deep breath and laughed: "Right behind him." Ponting confident However, Ponting was confident his aging bowlers could do the job. "I don't think too many of the England batsmen will be saying that our bowlers are over the hill or getting a bit old because they've got to get out there and walk the walk not just talk the talk," Ponting said. "A lot of those players are getting close to the end of their careers, but let's not forget that if they weren't playing great cricket they wouldn't be here in the first place." England's middle order of Pietersen and fellow Ashes newcomers Ian Bell, Andrew Strauss, Geraint Jones and Andrew Flintoff will be targeted by an Australian pace attack including Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee. "All those guys can be fairly vulnerable early on," Ponting said. "If we happen to take early wickets and get those guys in early against a new-ish ball and our attack, then I think we could be able to make some serious inroads." Gillespie's fitness remained a concern in the Australian camp after he missed a net session Tuesday because of soreness behind his right knee. Australian selectors will name their team Thursday to see how Gillespie reacts to a training session late Wednesday. Squads: England: Michael Vaughan (captain), Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Flintoff, Geraint Jones, Ashley Giles, Matthew Hoggard, Simon Jones, Steven Harmison, Chris Tremlett (12th man). Australia: Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Damien Martyn, Simon Katich, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Michael Kasprowicz, Jason Gillespie, Stuart MacGill, Brad Hodge, Shaun Tait, Brad Haddin. (AP)

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