Adventure and authority of a Thorpe return

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The Independent Online

England can beat the Australians. It was never going to be easy, and going 1-0 down in the series doesn't actually help the Ashes to loom any clearer into view. But we have recent experience of going behind and winning – West Indies last summer, Sri Lanka last spring. The moment we think Australia are infallible is the moment we go under.

Equally, there is no point in saying all sorts of wild things about what we are about to do to them. All I will say is that their cookie can be crumbled. You have to play at your best, seize the openings when they happen. But when that happens they can wobble.

The innings defeat at Edgbaston was not a great example of that. England will have to bat a trifle more positively from now on, not with reckless abandon but neither so that the Australian bowlers are allowed to dominate for over after over. It will take care and optimum batsmanship, but if the strategy is successful it would be a tremendous fillip.

The return of Graham Thorpe is important. Of course we can field a team without him, but his presence adds a spark of authority and also helps that spirit of adventure. Without him, it is not being weak to say it will be harder. It's a statement of the bleedin' obvious.

If the batsmanship has to be bolder, the bowlers must not panic. There was evidence, and plenty of it, in Birmingham that the Aussies were going after all England's bowlers, but not least the two who they and everybody else perceive can inflict most damage, Darren Gough and myself. The upshot of this tactic is that I had my most expensive return in Test cricket. Well, it's always nice to break records.

Clearly, both of us have to do better, otherwise there will be no Ashes this time. But I feel pretty confident about Lord's. I have done well there recently, and with the wind blowing in the right direction from the Nursery End I will aim to have a say in matters. True, the Australian tempo (and the English one, come to that) persisted at more than four runs an over throughout, but they took risks. That gives you a chance, and we had chances in Edgbaston which we spurned.

The injuries have hindered us and haunted us. But we must not dwell on them (or, again, we are done for). The absence of Nasser Hussain, an influential captain who has given me abundant personal support, is another blow, but I am perfectly happy about his replacement by Michael Atherton. Maybe I wouldn't have said that once. At the start of my Test career I felt that Atherton, who was captain then, did not trust me in certain situations and wouldn't bowl me. That was his prerogative. We're different kinds of men and personalities, no doubt about that. But our circumstances are different now.

Like all other members of England's side, I have enormous admiration for him as a professional player, and his captaincy credentials after 52 goes at it should be clear. He may be better at it now than he was before, knowing that he is only in the job temporarily. I think, too, he may take a leaf out of Nasser's book in doing a bit more talking to his bowlers. I am looking forward to it. The other name in the frame for the job was Marcus Trescothick, my friend and Somerset colleague. I would have been pleased for him but I think it would have been too soon. He has enough to concentrate on yet awhile with his batting (very good it is too). Same goes for Alec Stewart.

Many people have mentioned in the past week the shot which Adam Gilchrist employed to reach his hundred in the Test. I bowled him an extremely short one to make sure it went over his head and we had Glenn McGrath to bowl to at the other end. Gilchrist stood his ground and walloped it backwards with a straight bat over the wicketkeeper's head for four. Such invention, such improvisation. What could you do but stand in admiration and awe. Mind you, I've had a week to come to that judgement. I like Adam, he's a good bloke who I got to know a bit when we played in the Rest of the World XI in Dhaka a while back. He can stop doing that sort of thing, though.

The Aussies are in Somerset at present. Like all other counties these days, Somerset rested a few players. I might have played had the match not been continuing until tomorrow. Jamie Cox, the captain, and Tresco were also out. But Somerset's chief executive, Peter Anderson, had a novel idea to ensure spectators had value for money. He approached the Pakistan Test players Shoaib Akhtar and Aamir Sohail to represent the county.

This is a wheezeother counties, especially in non-Test shires, should take on board. It will certainly add some spice and Australia, a draw card in themselves, should be given tough opposition wherever they go. And I intend to ensure they will at Lord's.

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