Australia's indifferent form during the first month of the Ashes tour has led to Ricky Ponting's side receiving flak from an expectant English public. Some of it - "the Australians look rattled" - has been justified; some of it - "Glenn McGrath is past it" - is wishful thinking.
But yesterday John Buchanan, the Australia coach, reacted angrily to comments by Duncan Fletcher after the tied NatWest Series final at Lord's on Saturday. After watching his side recover from 33 for 5 to draw level with Australia's 196, the England coach suggested that the tourists' behaviour had become atypical.
"It's nice looking at things outside your camp," Buchanan said. "But there are some interesting issues inside their camp. If Duncan was to reflect on the one-day series, it would be interesting for him to reflect on how Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Michael Vaughan have got through so far with the Test series in mind.
"The strength of our team has been that we generally make consistently better decisions than other teams. At the moment that is probably not where we would like it. But if we can get it there, we can ask some serious questions of the English one-day outfit... Certainly the signs are good for the Test series."
England's top-order batting is the issue from which Buchanan will draw the most encouragement. The form of Trescothick and Strauss during the past 12 months has been one of the main reasons for England's success. In 14 Tests the openers have scored 2,757 runs at an average of 57.5.
Batsmen have different mind-sets in limited-overs and Test cricket, but the manner in which these two players have been dismissed in the NatWest series had little to do with the form of the game they were playing.
McGrath has dismissed Trescothick on three occasions, and in his four games against Australia he has scored 33 runs at an average of 11. In Bristol, the paceman bowled the left-hander, while at Durham and Lord's he forced him to edge catches behind the wicket.
Strauss - 46 runs at 11.5 - has done little better. The left-hander has been bowled by in-swingers in three of his four innings. McGrath has claimed his scalp once and Brett Lee on the other two occasions.
All four will be lining up against each other at Headingley tomorrow. Lord's and The Oval will be the venues for the other two NatWest Challenge matches.
Vaughan's side are aware of their travel arrangements for the remainder of the summer, but the itinerary for England's winter tour of Pakistan is not yet finalised.
It appears that the England and Wales Cricket Board is responsible for the delay after a Pakistan Cricket Board official said that it was refusing to play a Test in Karachi, which has a history of religious and ethnic violence. The ECB will make a decision next week once it has assessed a report from two security experts who have spent the past week in Pakistan.Reuse content