England undaunted by Australia's Ashes squad

Respect rather than fear was the English reaction to the announcement of Australia's Ashes squad.

"Ponting's team looks a good one, but it carries no aura," wrote the former England bowler Mike Selvey in the Guardian. "Cut away the hype and there is little physical and technical beyond the normal with which England, on their game, should not be able to cope."

Less than half of the Australia squad have experience of an Ashes series, but Phillip Hughes, Peter Siddle and Andrew McDonald all helped achieve a 2-1 series win in South Africa in March.

And if the absence of stellar names like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath has allowed England to sleep a little more easily, its former captain Michael Atherton sounded a note of caution.

"The last time such an inexperienced squad arrived in England in 1989 they were greeted with a touch of sympathy and condescension," he wrote in The Times. "England ended up using 29 players to try to beat them and lost 4-0."

The psychological scars from that series proved so durable that up until 2005, when England finally regained the Ashes after 16 years, its batsmen used to spend longer worrying about Australia's bowlers than they actually spent playing them.

Robin Smith was one of the world's leading run scorers until he ran into Shane Warne in 1993 and developed a phobia of spin bowling that effectively curtailed his international career.

And Smith at least had a career. In the same series opener Mark Lathwell was so crippled by anxiety that he lasted just two matches, drifted back into the county game and retired before his 30th birthday.

Australia's strategy of "mental disintegration" was refined and perfected under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, but given the personnel at his disposal this was understandable. "The spine was awe-inspiring," Selvey said. "(Matthew) Hayden, (Ricky) Ponting, (Adam) Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath. Scary. That has all gone though."

Only Ponting remains of this quintet of players who could intimidate England by reputation alone, though that hasn't stopped Australia from trying.

Ponting, Australia's captain, said on Tuesday that his side would be singling out his counterpart Andrew Strauss, but the England captain refused to take the bait.

"I don't mind them targeting me," he said. "It's something you expect from the Australians but not something we're going to spend a lot of time concentrating on. It's not something that particularly interests me."

Nor was Strauss reading too much into Australia's relative lack of experience.

"Possibly we could exploit that," he said. "But any Australian side who come over here is going to be pretty strong. The most important thing is that we play our conditions well. We obviously know those conditions so it is up to us to play better in them than Australia do."

If Australia does have a weakness, it comes in the spin bowling department. The selection of Nathan Hauritz as the only orthodox slow bowler left English observers distinctly underwhelmed, to the point that Geoffrey Boycott argued Warne should be persuaded to make an international comeback — as captain — at the age of 39.

"The smartest move would be to call Shane Warne back," Boycott told the Telegraph. "He's the best man for the job and would be a better captain than Ricky Ponting, such is his cricket brain. I can't see it happening though."

The five-test series begins on July 8, in Cardiff.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Flat out: Michael Flatley will return to the stage in his show Lord Of The Dance
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape