On the Front Foot: Now they say we're not really Poms. So who's the real Conn man?

Click to follow

Such is the desire to go Pom-bashing, the Aussies have already been reduced to suggesting that the Poms are, well, not the Poms. In an act of desperation betraying fear, The Australian newspaper greeted England's arrival in Perth with the headline: "England's team of old empire flies in to defend the urn." The story listed the five members of the squad born outside England: four in South Africa, one in Ireland. This is an argument already well-rehearsed at home, where there has been much soul-searching about the policy. But rules, as they say, are rules and of the South African quartet two arrived in England as boys, all have English parentage and all have nailed their colours to England's mast. What were the selectors to do? As for Eoin Morgan, he would seem to be a thorough-going Irishman but if he wanted to play Test cricket his options were limited. The question of birthplace has been raised initially by the accomplished veteran Pom-baiter Malcolm Conn, ace cricket-writer for The Australian who considers it part of his duties. It's always splendid to reflect that this most Australian of Australians is actually a New Zealander.

Thommo's on the shelf now

Into a downtown supermarket in Perth, breathless and unrecognised, bounded Jeff Thomson. Apart from the greyness of his hair – still a flowing mane – and a leathery skin bespeaking a life spent outdoors, he looked little different from the man who laid waste to the English 36 years ago, forming a lethal partnership in the 1974-75 series with Dennis Lillee. Coming almost from nowhere, he took 33 wickets in four-and-a-half Tests before injuring his shoulder playing tennis on the rest day of the Fifth Test. He was ferocious: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, if Lillee don't get yer, Thommo must." It was hard to square this image with the guy in the shop. "I've just walked up that bloody ramp, it's taken it out of me," he said. But he can still have audiences eating out of his hand, as he showed at the Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's earlier this summer. Australia need a new Thommo to emerge quickly.

Waca must bounce back

Australia have secured the Ashes at the Waca twice in succession but it is hardly a ground steeped in folklore. It only staged its first Test in 1970 (a draw with England). For a few years it became notorious as the bounciest, fastest pitch in the world, to the advantage of generations of West Indians and Australians. It is regaining some of that carry now. But it stands comparison with ancient venues such as Old Trafford and Headingley; like them it is a mess, and has plans for improvement which cannot come soon enough. Open to the elements on all sides (the sun is a constant enemy), its saving graces are grassy banked areas on both sides. But charming it is not.

Warriors without a cause

It seems that England are not playing Western Australia in their first match. The latter were billed as the Retravision Warriors to satisfy, in order, sponsors and marketing men. It fooled nobody.