Lillee lambasts 'stupid' England's build-up to series

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The Independent Online

Dennis Lillee has described England's preparations for the Ashes as unprofessional as Andrew Flintoff's side get ready for Thursday's crucial third Test in Perth. Lillee is regarded by many to be the finest fast bowler cricket has produced, and he believes that England should have travelled to Australia as soon as they were knocked out of the Champions Trophy in October rather than return home for four or five days.

Following defeats in Brisbane and Adelaide, the tourists are 2-0 down in the series. They have key players struggling for form too, a predicament that has led to the coach, Duncan Fletcher, being heavily criticised. England's itinerary before the first Test - a limited-over game in Canberra and three-day matches in Sydney and Adelaide - is the principle reason for Lillee's anger.

As the second highest wicket-taker in Ashes history Lillee knows what it takes to win the urn and he, like many former players, feels that it takes a cricketer far longer than a fortnight to adapt to conditions here.

"I thought if England had been fully fit and had good preparation, there would have been a fight all the way through," Lillee said. " But they've had bad preparation. I think that going back to England and not coming straight here and getting another seven, eight or nine days practice was bordering on stupid. I certainly don't think it will ever happen again."

Lillee, who took 355 wickets in 70 Tests, sympathises with England over their injury problems but he does not feel they have helped themselves with selection.

"I think they've had a horror run with injuries, plus you throw in Trescothick, but I'm not sure the selection has been right," he said. "I think they've had a few problems and they are not that well prepared for the series. England has to win this one, otherwise it's a dead series, and Australia will be going all out to make sure they seal it in this game. It's going to be ripper of a game."

England were given a day off following their two-day match against Western Australia and several of the players used the break to visit Perth's wonderful beaches before participating in a light training session at the hotel gym. Stephen Harmison took his young family to an aquarium to see the sharks - it is hoped the experience puts some bite back in to his bowling.

Freddie Flintoff is a fan and friend of Elton John, and on Sunday night an England party watched him in concert at Burswood Dome, the fourth gig they have seen since they arrived in the country. Australia, in contrast, began their preparations for what could be an Ashes-winning Test by practicing at the Waca for more than two hours.

I wonder what Dennis Lillee would have said about that.