Scots Ready For Backlash
Scotland are bracing themselves to try to tame the most able and determined force in world cricket when they take on Australia.
Scotland are bracing themselves to try to tame the most able and determined force in world cricket when they take on Australia in their World Cup Group A opener this week.
Scots' seamer John Blain – one of just two players in the current squad who also lined up against the Aussies in the 1999 World Cup at Worcester – does not accept suggestions the favourites will be off their game after an uncharacteristic run of indifferent form.
"There is a lot that has been made of their recent form, but I would respond to that by saying 'beware the wounded animal,"' Blain said, citing how Australia reacted to losing the Ashes in 2005 with a sequence of Test match victories culminating in a first whitewash of England since 1921.
"When they lost the Ashes in England we saw the response then. I think they'll be looking to hit this World Cup hard and make a big impression.
"I think in the first game they will want to make a statement, so it will be our toughest match.
"They will be calculated and determined, but we can rise to the challenge and test ourselves against the best."
Blain is speaking from experience and has first-hand knowledge of what makes Aussie cricketers tick.
He added: "I know a couple of characters in that team – Matthew Hayden and Mike Hussey – and they will be ultra-professional.
"In fact, they will be even more so this time round because they are aware the world is watching them and because of those recent results."
Blain may be ready for an Australia backlash but he is not ruling out the possibility of an upset in St Kitts.
"One-day cricket normally changes on two special moments, so if you can get them and add a couple of bits of luck you can get them four down…you never ever know," he said.
"No one ever said Liverpool would have won the European Cup – but they did."
Australia must be Scotland's prime focus this week but there are two other very important group matches to follow against South Africa – the team which have ousted Ricky Ponting's side from the top of the rankings – and Holland.
The Dutch are Scotland's final opponents and obviously represent by far their best chance of a win.
"That's our World Cup final really. If we can try to win that game that is our main aim," Blain, a former Northamptonshire and Yorkshire bowler, admitted.
"South Africa are coming off something like 11 wins in their last 13 one-day internationals.
"In the volatile world of one-day cricket, that is some record."
Scotland, meanwhile, have hardly managed to increase their confidence levels in a warm-up campaign featuring heavy defeats at the hands of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
"We have to be honest with ourselves and I think we are a long way off where we could have been," Blain added.
"We have not played our best cricket, especially with the bat.
"We're not going to doubt ourselves, because we know those guys are a little bit better than us. But we know we have to play better cricket.
"It's exposed frailties in our batting and bowling, so I think it has been good for us.
"If we'd played two weak associate sides and beaten them it would have done nothing for us.
"This has made us aware of where we need to be."
Scotland's next two assignments have the potential to make that even more painfully clear but Blain and the rest of Craig Wright's side are delighted at the opportunity to give it a go.
"If you were to choose who you want to play you'd have to choose those two," he said.
"We've been lucky enough to be paired against them, so it is a great challenge for us."
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