Mark Butcher: It's a thrilling risk, and middle England must now stand up

Eight years ago, for instance, things got off to an earlier start but the mood was just as pervasive. I made my debut in the First Test of that series. England won it after beating Australia in the one-dayers. The mood swept the country.

These early exchanges have not been entirely dissimilar. England have whacked them a couple of times in the one-dayers, as they did in 1997. This time, things have probably been heightened because there is a belief around that England can regain the Ashes. They can too, but to do so the side will have to play at 90 to 95 per cent of their ability for 90 to 95 per cent of the time.

The middle order of England's batting is what leaps out of the teamsheet. Numbers four and five have played three Tests between them, number six has never played against Australia. It is a selection imbued with risk but we can only know just how risky when they play.

I have spoken to Graham Thorpe about this and my view is that it is almost better that they have done it this way. The selectors have been decisive now, rather than changing their mind later on. Graham was fit, told them so and they have been forced to act. Thorpe's attitude, by the way, has been perfect.

Inadvertently, of course, the make-up of the team will change the way that England play, even if it was not a conscious ploy. Looking at the line-up it is a given that they will play attacking cricket.

To leave out a player of Thorpe's style and experience was a big thing to do. The way Kevin Pietersen has settled into one-day international cricket meant he was making a case on the bounds of being unanswerable. There was, however, another approach that they might have considered.

Almost everybody was saying how the last batting place was between the two of them, but Ian Bell might have come into the equation. He will make a lot of runs for England but maybe there was a way of keeping Thorpe's long experience for now. In all of this, it should not be forgotten what an exceptionally good player Thorpe is.

Australia are relentless. In 1997 we still led 1-0 after the Second Test at Lord's, but after that they pressed the throttle and although we won at The Oval to make the series result 3-2 it probably wasn't as close as that. They do everything to the nth degree.

England beat a decent South Africa side in the winter, no question. But there were times when we made things difficult for ourselves. In Durban, for instance, we were all out for 139 and came back so well that if it had not been for bad light on the final day we would have won the match. Against Australia, if you are all out for 139 there is no coming back. They tend to bury you.

Getting the totals is one thing, taking 20 wickets to win a Test is the other. On a flat pitch the other day at The Oval there was just a lack of incisiveness, and Adam Gilchrist - we can never forget him because his superlative performances alone will never let us - will bat at seven in the Tests. If Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff are the key to getting among them - and new-ball wickets will be crucial - then the others all have a significant role to play.

The psychological warfare, at which Australia are past masters lest anyone think they are pussy cats, has started. Every time Glenn McGrath walks past Andrew Strauss, for instance, he sticks out his finger and moves it up and down as though he is notching another one.

If Strauss can get runs at Lord's that may stop. If McGrath was to get him, it might start a roll of the sort which McGrath had against Michael Atherton.

I wish I was part of it. The wrist injury which cost me my place in the winter (following the whiplash injury last summer which ended a run of 42 Tests) has at last cleared up. After eight months, I am ready to hold a bat again. It is the longest period that I have not held one since I was three. I hope to play as soon as possible. But it all means that I will be at Guildford watching Surrey on Thursday, not at Lord's playing for England. With due respect to Guildford, I know where I'd rather be.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor