I CAN’T think of a better Christmas present to everyone involved in English cricket than securing the Ashes; it would be absolutely fantastic. Victory in the third Test, which starts in the small hours of tonight, would guarantee we bring the urn back to these shores, and you can be sure that’s exactly what all of the England team will be utterly focused on, despite their short break and the arrival of wives and families.
Australia are on the back foot and what we need now is a big push to finish them off. That’s why head coach Andy Flower has been emphasising that there is no room at all for complacency. Flower has to marshall the troops and beat the Aussies because, simply, we are better than them.
REST WILL PROVE A BOOST
A week away from the strains of Test cricket can work in two ways. For Australia, it has been time to chew over their woeful start to the series. But for England, it has allowed them to savour and appreciate just how well they’ve played and the lead that they’ve built up.
They’ll still have their momentum, and they’ll have kept the team spirit alive by playing golf and doing other group activities. This is where the backroom staff really matter; it’s their job to keep the squad together and focused as they gradually step up preparation for the match in Perth.
DON’T FEAR THE WACA
England don’t have a great record at the Waca: they’ve won there once, and that was 32 years ago. It’ll be foreign to Flower’s men; The pitch is hard, bouncy and will crack up as the Test progresses. But none of this should be a great concern.
England have adapted well to every condition so far and everything is going right for them. If they win the toss they have to bat. The batsmen have been racking up the runs, so we want to be aggressive, get a big score and keep them under pressure.
TREMLETT COULD BE NEXT STAR
Stuart Broad’s injury was very disappointing but you couldn’t ask for a more ideal replacement than Chris Tremlett. On a fast, bouncy wicket you want a tall, pacy bowler; the Surrey player is 6ft 7in and delivers at 90mph – perfect. If he, as expected, gets the nod I fancy him to play a starring role in Perth. Alastair Cook, Kevin Pietersen (right) and Graeme Swann have all dazzled so far; I reckon this might just be Tremlett’s turn.
Jimmy Anderson has come in for some criticism for cramming in a flying visit back home to see his second child being born in between the second and third Tests. It didn’t happen in my day but I am behind him: if he wants to do that and it falls at a convenient time, which it did, then he’s entitled to do so.
Far from being affected badly, Anderson will probably now have an extra spring in his step after such a happy occasion. The travel may tire him a bit but overall I think he’ll be rejuvenated by the experience. For me it’s also up to the individual whether they want their family to join them out there, as many have this week. As long as couples don’t break off from the group, it can actually make the squad a stronger unit.
AUSSIES IN DISARRAY
Of course it’s nice to see Australia get a taste of their own medicine. Not in a malicious or vindictive way, just because it’s a joy to see England playing such brilliant cricket.
The Aussies are going through a hard time and need to look around for where the next Warne or Ponting is coming from. England have everything in place because they’ve been working on this team for a couple of years now.
While they have the luxury of a settled side, Australia are in disarray.
One minute Mitchell Johnson’s in the side, the next minute he’s out. It sounds more like an England tour.
They’ll be feeling under huge pressure, but one thing you can be sure of is they will regroup, prepare very well and still be confident. They’ll do that until the last ball is bowled. Don’t think they’re dead and buried.
Phil Tufnell is part of Paragon Sports Management. For all your hospitality and event requirements please contact Paragon on 020 83328640 or visit www.paragonhospitality.co.uk
THE ALL-ROUNDER |
CONDITIONS, STATS AND BANTER
DAY ONE FORECAST
Comfortably the most interesting surface of the series to date. It’s traditionally fast and bouncy, but early reports suggest this track also has a green tinge. If that’s the case, it could muddle England’s thinking when it comes to selecting either Ajmal Shahzad or Chris Tremlett to step in for Stuart Broad.
STAT OF THE DAY
No doubt you’ll be hearing a lot about the Fremantle Doctor over the next few days. Don’t mistake him for England’s team physio, it’s the afternoon sea breeze which occurs in south west coastal areas of Australia, and is known to assist swing bowlers. Despite it’s usefulness, it shouldn’t be ignored that in the warm-up match between Western Australia and England, 11 wickets fell to spinners.
“We planned before the series that we wanted Mitchell up and running for Brisbane and Perth. It hasn’t all gone to plan.” Aussie selector Greg Chappell excels at stating the obvious.
“Somebody has to be game enough, maybe Greg Chappell, to tell Ricky Ponting to drop down the order.” Daryl Foster, Western Australia selector, says what other shrewd observes have noticed, but haven’t been brave enough to say.