The Ashes 2010: England go on the defensive by not sending attack to Tasmania
The first Test in Brisbane is so crucial to England‚Äôs chances of retaining the Ashes that they are proposing to base their main bowlers there instead of in Hobart, where the final warm-up game will be held.
he reasons for that, as Andrew Strauss‚Äôs team jet off to Perth on Friday, are simple. Brisbane is hot and humid, conditions multiplied by the airless concrete bowl the Gabba has become, while Hobart, 1,000 miles further south, is much cooler. There is also the matter of the pitches. Tasmania‚Äôs Bellerive Oval is a low-bouncing, sluggish lump of grey clay at complete odds to the pace and carry usually found at the Gabba.
Slow then quick, cold then hot, might sound like a typical evening of Strictly Come Dancing but it remains a classic gambit to dupe visiting teams, especially the bowlers, though one England clearly intend to sidestep this time.
‚ÄúWe picked the squad so that every obstacle that might be thrown at us would be covered,‚ÄĚ Geoff Miller, the national selector, confirmed. ‚ÄúWe don‚Äôt really want our bowlers flogging away on a slow, nothing pitch just before the first Test. We‚Äôve also taken the conditions, such as the climate differences, into consideration as well.‚ÄĚ
The move by England, thought to be the first of its kind in Ashes history, reveals the detailed nature of the planning undertaken by Andy Flower, the team director, to ensure his team do not to lose the opening Test.
It is with good reason, too, and not just because England are notoriously slow starters on tour. Since the First World War, Australia have only lost one series at home after winning the first match and that to Len Hutton‚Äôs 1954-55 side.
At this stage the plan is for the bowlers most likely to be involved in the Test, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn and Graeme Swann, to work with David Saker, the team‚Äôs Australian bowling coach, in Brisbane.
Anderson, currently suffering a cracked rib after a boxing bout with Chris Tremlett on the team‚Äôs recent development camp in Germany, will have needed a sufficient amount of bowling by then, but the players bound for Brisbane are not thought to include any batsmen, at least not at this stage.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll need to be flexible and see how Jimmy is and how much bowling he‚Äôs done by then, but we‚Äôve got enough cover to play a proper attack in the game against Australia A in Hobart,‚ÄĚ said Miller. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs why Ajmal Shahzad is with us until then, and why the Performance Programme Squad is also based in the country.‚ÄĚ
The Aussie press will no doubt poke fun at England, pointing out the contradiction in having a bonding camp in Germany one month but sending the bowlers away to work in near isolation the next. But is there a danger of paralysis by analysis?
Speaking the other day, Flower warned of the danger of coaches that interfere too much, suggesting that occasionally even the best intentioned help could become a hindrance. This latest idea seems eminently sensible from a cricketing point of view, but is it the right thing from the perspective of team spirit, just before the opening salvo? We‚Äôll know by the third day of the Brisbane Test.