SCORCHED desert town of Alice Springs may seem an unlikely sanctuary for an England squad licking its wounds from a mauling in the first Ashes Test.
But team director Andy Flower hopes this week’s retreat to Northern Territory, where temperatures are set to hit the high 30s, will have a restorative effect on his shellshocked side.
From hot favourites just a week ago, England now find themselves outsiders to win the five-match series, following a 381-run defeat in Brisbane that shook up more than just the betting odds.
Gone is No3 batsman Jonathan Trott, for whom the tour has proved too heavy a burden as he battles a stress-related illness, while hostilities with the Australia side have caught alight.
England’s priority now is to regroup in a two-day tour match against a Chairman’s XI, starting tomorrow night, as they prepare for next week’s second Test in Adelaide.
“I think the break in Alice Springs comes at a good time,” said Flower. “It gives us a little chance to have a think about what happened at Brisbane and how to come back stronger and better in Adelaide. I’m personally looking forward to the challenge and I think the team will do likewise.”
Captain Alastair Cook has cited last winter’s historic Test series victory in India, which only came after England had lost the first match in Ahmedabad by nine wickets, as inspiration. Flower concurs.
“This was a bad loss for us,” he added. “But we have a history of adapting quickly and recovering from losses such as this. Luckily, they don’t occur that often.”
Batting is Flower’s most pressing concern, with Trott’s absence likely to see Joe Root moved up the order and Jonny Bairstow drafted in, while all of the top six are short of practice.
England’s bowling ranks could soon be boosted, however, with Yorkshire seamer Tim Bresnan due to make his comeback this morning for the Performance Programme’s (EPP) fixture against a Queensland Second XI.
Bresnan has not played since the fourth Test against Australia this summer due to a stress fracture in his back but is in Australia with a view to being recalled later in the Ashes series when he proves his fitness.
The 28-year-old, who has taken 67 wickets in 27 Test matches, is part of the EPP team for the three-day game.