England need to start with a bang
So here we go. Again. It seems like only yesterday that Mitchell Johnson was being mercilessly harangued by the Barmy Army. And it may only be until tomorrow that we have to wait for more of the same. Johnson is talking a good game but he is not immune to pressure: a bad start and he may just crumble once more.
And he's not alone in the need to begin with a bang. Despite England's win last summer, there isn't much sense that they have real momentum behind them just yet. Their slightly insipid warm-up games haven't given the impression of a side on a roll.
All things being equal, England should come out on top, primarily because it is difficult to see their batsmen having such a collectively poor time of it as they did in the recent home series. Yet on the bowling front there are still question marks. Anderson and Swann might reasonably be said to be tried and tested in Australian conditions. But Stuart Broad - who thankfully has been impressive so far on tour - has only played two test down under and Tremlett, while successful last time, only played in half the series too and hasn’t taken a test scalp for nigh on two and a half years. Those two will be particularly keen, therefore, for early wickets: if they get them and England win in Brisbane then the Barmy Army can raise their voices with glee.
KP is central to England’s dominance
Kevin Pietersen is going to have a tremendous series - I can feel it in my waters. Australian wickets suit him; he knows how to score big runs there; and he loves a large crowd.
Perhaps part of this belief is wishful thinking for there is nobody else involved in the series - even Shane Watson when on song - who can dominate an attack in the outrageous way that KP can. And who doesn't want to see that.
He is, of course, a man who divides opinion, in part because of his South African origins but also because of his perceived arrogance and aloofness. Yet it is complex characters like Pietersen that make cricket so tantalising. He might fire; he might fall to a part-time left-arm spinner. He may fall out with team-mates; he may be held up as a hero. Yet as he lines up for his 100th test (having lost only 26 of the previous 99) it would be a fool who doubted that he has played a central part in making England the force they have become since his debut in 2005.
‘The Gabba’ could never roll off an English tongue
Having been educated about the wonders of Ashes tours by early hours, long wave broadcasts from the TMS team, it's hard to know whether views about the competing merits of English and Australian cricket are more a result of conditioning and language than genuine differences.
To the initiated, the only thing that sounds as intrinsically Australian as 'tinny', is 'WACA' - and possibly 'debut' when spoken in the Richie Benaud style. The Adelaide Oval stands out as being too genteel really to be in Oz - more likely to be near Richmond upon Thames. But the MCG and SCG could never be part of the English cricketing vocabulary.
The brash, stark Aussies are all about sledging and zooters, wrong'ns and tons. By contrast, at the Gabba (there’s another one) on Wednesday night England will be looking to score daddy centuries on a decent strip, or ensure their seamers put the ball in the right areas. Forget the action, the words alone are enough to get the anticipatory juices flowing.
Call me masochistic, but I miss the ‘90s
The retirements of cricketing elder statesmen can make men who should know better feel glum.
Sachin Tendulkar's final test this week, the result of which was as predictable as his trusty batting pads, must surely have seen many a 30-something glance in the mirror and wonder where the last quarter of a century has gone. For with his departure from the game's pastoral scene goes another icon of the glorious '90s - a decade when England were often losers but when cricket, through rose-tinted spectacles at least, was very much the winner.
Only Shiv Chanderpaul, Mahela Jayawardene and Daniel Vettori now remain of that generation. And while it is never wise to compare eras, it is hard not to conclude that the decade from around 1989 was one of the most intriguing the game has known. The rise and fall of great powers, the move towards a more professional regimen (more slowly for some than others), characters aplenty, personal battles spanning years (think Atherton and Donald), the return of leg-spin, and many an English false dawn made for a heady brew. And teenagers could afford to watch matches in those days too.