England finally divulged the most open secret in the Ashes phoney war yesterday. They are, as first reported nearly three weeks ago, sending their frontline bowlers early to Brisbane, scene of the first Test next week.
Since it is cold and rainy in Hobart, where the rest of the squad will stay for the match against Australia A starting tomorrow, and since it is humid and approaching 80F in Brisbane, it offers the players a chance to acclimatise and makes perfect sense. Not that touring squads before this would have done it.
All four of the bowlers who will play in the first Test – Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn and Graeme Swann, will fly north tomorrow night accompanied by the bowling coach, David Saker. It will leave the second-string attack to face Australia A but they could all be appearing in the Test team by the end of the series.
"More than likely injury or form will come into it at some stage in five-match series," said the team's coach in outlining the plan yesterday. "Our guys are obviously not completely silly and they have an inkling of the pecking order.
"I don't think there is a danger of any disillusionment creeping in but I think there is a healthy competition. It's a very important game for them to use, to put their names forward and to make sure they're in really good order come a call-up." There is likely to be one more change in the team for tomorrow's game with the seventh batsman, Eoin Morgan, being given an opportunity in the middle. Either Paul Collingwood or Ian Bell may step aside.
This demonstrates England are in confident mood. They can only have been heartened by Australia's reluctance yesterday to identify a proper squad for the first Test despite a much-advertised public announcement in Sydney, which came up with 17 names.
Broad, who presumably cannot wait to move to more traditional Australian climes, said: "I'm delighted. It's not a decision taken overnight and discussions have been going on for months. It depended how the first couple of games went on confidence and rhythm, and every bowler got a lot out of those games. We're going to be spending a lot of time in the sun and we need to make sure our bodies are ready."
While he and the others are being accustomed to the heat, England can expect their most severe test yet from Australia A.