MELBOURNE: England batsman Kevin Pietersen thinks Australia is still "very vulnerable" despite levelling the Ashes series and claims the home team's new verbal aggression shows it is "under huge amounts of pressure."
In an interview with English media, Pietersen escalated vocal sparring between the teams, describing England's 267-run third Test loss at Perth as a "hiccup" and saying it was still confident of an historic series win.
Australia has credited its third Test win to its return to a more aggressive approach, shelved after its 2008 Sydney Test against India sparked a public and official backlash against "sledging" -- the slang for verbal assaults on an opposing team.
In recent days, Paul Marsh, head of the Australian Cricketers' Association, said fear of the consequences of sledging had affected Australia's form and opponents had been quick to exploit its "weakness."
Marsh said Australia's win over England in Perth, which followed its innings and 71 run loss in the second Test at Adelaide, had resulted from a return to its "natural instincts."
Verbal sparring between the teams has noticeably increased. England wicketkeeper Matt Prior criticized Australian fast bowler Peter Siddle for giving him a verbal "send-off" after his dismissal in the third Test.
Siddle responded by saying England only complained because it lost.
"We won the game. That's why they're making such a big deal of it," he said.
Pietersen increased the ante on Thursday. "When you're under extreme amounts of pressure, you talk a lot more," he said. "And the good thing about our team is, we're on a plateau. We do what we do.
"We made a hiccup last week. Yes, we were constructive in the criticism that we chucked around the team meeting about preparation and whatever. But we haven't come out and made any bold, huge statements about this and about that."
Pietersen said the English squad is aware of Australia's vulnerabilities.
"There are a lot of areas in their team that are very vulnerable and we just need to do what we do and wipe the slate clean and forget Perth," he said. "Think about Adelaide, think about how well we did there, and how well we did in (the drawn first Test in) Brisbane. We're absolutely fine."
England hasn't won an Ashes series in Australia since 1986-87 but Pietersen said the current team remained confident of revising history.
"I just think we've got a wonderful opportunity to do something that hasn't been done for 25 years," he said. "That's driving us all on to do something amazing."
Australian captain Ricky Ponting looks increasingly likely to play in Melbourne after breaking the little finger on his left hand attempting a slips catch in Perth. Pietersen said he was not surprised.
"I've played in a series with a finger broken," he said. "You just ring-block it. It's not a huge drama. You just numb it so you don't feel the pain.
"Ricky Ponting might bat without gloves he's so tough!