Australia never accept defeat: former PM

LONDON: Former Australian prime minister John Howard insisted Sunday that the national cricket side had not lost their competitive edge and would never "roll over".

Australia were held to a draw in the first Ashes Test in Cardiff and England set them a world record 522 to win in the second Test at Lord's.

But cricket fan Howard said there would be no surrender in Australia's bid to retain the Ashes.

"You never admit it's all over if you know the character of the Australian cricket team," he told Sky News television outside north London ground Lord's.

"It is very tough and England has played very well. Their bowling and their fielding has been very strong and our batting was not as good in the first innings (at Lord's) as it had been in Cardiff.

"I saw our performance at Cardiff and it was a great batting performance. It hasn't been as good this time.

"But as I say, you never roll over as an Australian cricketer or an Australian cricket follower and we're going stick with it till the bitter end."

He added: "I don't think they've lost their competitive edge. I think they're very tough as they demonstrated in Cardiff and as they demonstrated only a couple of years ago in winning back the Ashes."

Howard, voted out of office in December 2007, said Australian schools had played a vital part in developing talented cricketers but said that was now under threat.

"The way in which young people are coached in Australia, the opportunities through the education system for them to play" were responsible for Australia's cricketing successes, "although that is under greater challenge now," he said.

"We have this problem of... the reality is we don't have enough male teachers in many of the schools and therefore the teaching of a lot of sports is getting more difficult and I think as sports lovers we've got to do something about that."