The cracks run deep for Australia

Bowling coach Craig McDermott fires first Ashes warning, but it cannot disguise the current state of the game Down Under

In case England were in any doubt whatever, they were reminded yesterday of the warmth of the welcome they can expect in Australia. The recalled fast-bowling coach, Craig McDermott, made it plain.

"I want to make sure we're bowling the right lengths mixed up with some really good bouncers and nailing the Poms as much as we can," he said. It does not sound as though he intends the Ashes to resemble a Sunday afternoon tea party.

If it was natural for McDermott to be trenchant – a trait he brought to his work while taking 291 Test wickets – his comments can hardly disguise Australia's fragility. They may be competing hard with India in a one-day series but the brutal truth is that they lost the Ashes to England last summer because they were up against opponents who knew how and when to react in the key moments of matches.

Indeed, almost at the same time as McDermott was speaking the Australia Cricketers' Association were expressing their displeasure about the measures taken to arrest the decline in standards at the top level.

Meeting in Sydney, more than 100 professional players seemed to be at odds with the way the recommendations of the Argus Report have been implemented.

The review of the country's cricket, instigated after the Ashes defeat in 2011, would ideally have produced immediate results. Instead, they lost the 2013 Ashes 3-0 and the whole country now fears that they will lose to England for the fourth consecutive time.

McDermott's return may prove to be sensible but it is also emblematic of the panic running through the ranks.

He resigned from the bowling coach's role 18 months ago, citing family reasons, and he has been brought back now to look after only the Test side, although such a move had been specifically ruled out only last month.

England leave for the tour on Wednesday and will play three warm-up matches before the Ashes start in Brisbane on 21 November. Their main concerns surround the No 6 batting position and how many of their gigantic fast-bowling battery to use. Australia have many more deeper worries.

The fitness of the captain

Michael Clarke's chronic back complaint has returned. It is doing so with increased regularity and requires constant care and attention.

Added to that is England's clear intention to bounce him at any given opportunity; his inherent dislike of the fast, rising ball is probably exacerbated by the state of the back. Clarke is Australia's best player by an outback mile and if he is exposed, there may be nowhere for the selectors to turn.

Spinning options

It took Australia until the third Test to pick the off-spinner Nathan Lyon last summer. He acquitted himself honestly but will for ever suffer from the fact that he is not Shane Warne, and it hardly matters that nobody else is either.

He should be more at home at home, as it were, but England's attacking middle-order will look to plunder him, especially if the fast men are putting the squeeze on. But the most important criterion is that Australia should recognise Lyon is the best they have.

Rest of the batting order

It was pretty clear from the frequent shifts in the summer that Australia have little clue of what their order should be or who should be in it.

They used three different first- wicket pairs and after stipulating that Shane Watson must open, saw him make 176 at the end batting at No 3. There is a lack of quality and patience probably caused by bringing a limited-overs mentality to the Test arena and finding it ruthlessly exploited by smart bowlers. David Warner also has much to prove after the travails of last summer.

Attitude of mind

The trouble with aggressive body language is that it looks daft if it is not backed up by ability. Australia are talking a good game – witness McDermott's comments and the belligerence of their coach Darren Lehmann – but their lack of cohesion is a more significant factor. This is demonstrated in their batting. In four of the five Tests last summer they had a first-innings lead yet still lost two of them. They may not like Stuart Broad much, but he has a focused fortitude that Australia lack.

Fast-bowling resources

This is putatively Australia's strength, and their system, almost despite itself, has thrown up a legion of tyro speed-merchants. But almost without exception they have struggled to stay fit, which has led to regular change and uncertainty.

Although there are more optimistic bulletins about James Pattinson after the back injury which forced his return from England, Pat Cummins will not be available and Josh Hazlewood may not be ready. A return for Mitchell Johnson could be either panacea or disaster. He may well roll up and win a Test, while contriving to be almost unbowlable a week later. Ryan Harris is a magnificent practitioner, clever and fast, but at some point he is bound to stretch the world supply of string and sealing wax with which his frame has occasionally been held together.

Ashes Test itinerary

First Test November 21-25 The Gabba, Brisbane - UK start time 00.00

Second Test December 5-9 Adelaide - 00.00

Third Test December 13-17 WACA Perth - 02.30

Fourth Test December 26-30 Melbourne - 23.30 (on December 25)

Fifth Test January 3-7 Sydney - 23.30 (on January 2)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam