On the Front Foot: Posh Poms add spice as Aussies tell old school ties to get knotted

So Andrew Strauss has landed in Australia as the 33rd England captain attempting to bring back the Ashes. He will be entirely to Australian tastes – articulate, intelligent, reasoned, well-spoken and smart. In other words, a posh Pom. He can expect to be demonised as all that typifies the mores of the old country. Since he possesses all those attributes listed above he will not easily wilt, but it will not be for lack of Aussies trying. Educated at Radley, one of the great old English public schools, and Durham University, Strauss will be grist to their classless mill. They have not had quite such a perfect specimen of posh Pom since Mike Brearley (City of London School and Cambridge) 30 years ago. In the old days, of course, England, or at least MCC, regularly used to send posh amateurs as captain. Of others who won, Plum Warner (Rugby), Johnny Douglas (Felsted), Percy Chapman (Uppingham), Douglas Jardine (Winchester) and, of course, the first Ashes-winning captain of all, Ivo Bligh (Eton), were all public school men – and the Aussies let them know it. But a changing world was evident in the last half of the 20th century and two Yorkshiremen, Len Hutton and Ray Illingworth, won famous series on the back of being schooled in Pudsey and the University of Life. Strauss may be a jolly nice chap but if he is as loathed in Australia as Jardine was, one thing is certain: England will be winning.

Army put up sterling fight

Each of the five Ashes grounds is expected to be full of English supporters. By the end they may be down to their last buck as this is the most expensive of all England tours to Australia, estimated to be costing 80 per cent more than eight years ago. The reason is the recession, the strength of the Aussie dollar and the weakness of sterling: in 2002 the exchange rate was A$2.78 to £1; it is now A$1.58. There will be no more chants from the Barmy Army of "three dollars to the pound". And it might curb some of the more excessive bacchanalian exploits. A trip costing A$10,000 eight years ago would, according to brokers currencies.co.uk, have cost £3,500 compared to £6,300 now. The Barmy Army will only be singing: "Ouch."

Nobody wants you

John Buchanan's position with the England team is a mystery. As a former Australia coach with an enviable record, it might be thought he has something to offer as an adviser despite, or maybe because of, Shane Warne's low opinion of him. But barely had he finished than he called Kevin Pietersen fragmentary and individualist, a theme he first took up four years ago. It was strange he should take English money, then enter the phony war on Australia's side. Pietersen contented himself with suggesting that he was a "nobody".

There's no fast track to success

It's a batsman's game all right, and bugger the poor old bowlers. Australia sacked their former fast bowler Merv Hughes as a selector, meaning that the panel of four consists entirely of batsmen. England's panel has two batsmen and two spinners. Fast bowlers should launch a protest movement.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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