View from Down Under - Freewheeling Gilchrist must be restrained

Maybe Warne anticipated that the personalities at the other end of the line were sure to have more on their minds than a bit of dressing-room scuttlebutt that Marcus Trescothick is still Glenn McGrath's bunny.

Marcus's plight is just one of a bunch of theories, some of them unfavourable to Australia, which have been circulating on cricket's grapevine and which could impact on the contest. One: Australia were afforded a less than ideal Test series build-up, almost no "long" cricket to fine-tune techniques, just a dog's breakfast of lightweight limited-overs slogathons that ensured a bottom line more bountiful than any traditional half-dozen lead-up games against counties ever could.

Fair enough. Ask an Ashes debutant puzzled by foreign pitch conditions what he would prefer, a three-day county match and a 1970s pay packet or a bit of sloggo and a 2005 pay packet and you know what the answer will be! Still, one county match does seem a little stingy to offer the latecomers like Justin Langer and, to a lesser extent, Warne's shadow Stuart MacGill, the chance to acclimatise. No doubt that singular bow-and-scrape to tradition will soon be gone, too.

These modern-day "McDonald's itineraries" make it hard to imagine how Don Bradman once scored 1,000 runs before May ended. He did it on his first tour, in 1930, too. He recorded in his diary during the traditional tour opener at Worcester: "I felt well after getting a start and my new bat was excellent."

He scored 236 and, in the fourth match against Hampshire when he reached 47, he had 1,001 runs at an average of 143, a first for any touring batsman. He wrote: "Wicket not easy, light bad, bowling good, hardest fight for runs I ever had."

Makes you wonder what Ricky Ponting wrote in his diary about the Twenty20 match et al - maybe: "Another day at the office, weather sunny, pitch flat, boundaries short, crowd huge."

Acclimatising is not the problem it used to be. Most Australians play in English county cricket and pitches are covered, neutering the match-turning impact finger-spinners like Jim Laker or Derek Underwood once had, or an accurate seamer like Derek Shackleton.

Anyway, the bulk of Australia's Ashes side have been in England all along, even if only involved in limited-overs contests. But sudden mental adjustment to the longer form of the game is no longer a problem. So, no excuses there for Australia. And any theories that Australia's build-up was sloppy have surely been discounted, so precise was their demolition of England in the last two limited-overs matches.

To win, England need to overwhelm Australia in four areas: discipline and toughness, swing bowling, fielding urgency, and batting dependability.

Good bowling will probe Australia's most obvious weakness, the top-order batting, where Langer, Matthew Hayden and Ponting all go hard at the ball. Langer can get trapped on the crease, a leg-before prospect; Hayden and Ponting plunge on to the front foot and are cordon catching possibilities.

England have a nice balance to combat that in the swing of Matthew Hoggard and the pace of Stephen Harmison, subtlety and steel. It's a bit like Ian Botham and Bob Willis, just not as good. Any early success will expose Damien Martyn, always a bit flashy around the off with his open bat-face, and Michael Clarke, keen-eyed and brilliant but sometimes too careless for his own good.

Yet, even conceding such sensational success, England will be confronted by Simon Katich, underrated and a wonderful player in a crisis, and Adam Gilchrist. How to combat Gilchrist? There used to be a theory about drying up a good player's run source which, explained simply, meant swallowing your pride and sticking a few reliable men out on the fence where an aggressive batsman hit most of his boundaries. And right from the moment he came in.

In Gilchrist's case that would mean a deep point, a deep forward square-leg and a deep mid-on, straightish. The trick England have to take is this: make Gilchrist take singles not smash fours.

Bowlers cannot win matches unless they are backed by brilliant fielding. The plethora of limited-overs matches may have improved England's; Australia's remains the poorer for the retirements of Mark Taylor and the Waughs.

England's batting looked wobbly once McGrath found his feet. The form of Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz, while fodder for amateur selectors eager to drop someone, is of no account while Brett Lee is bending minds and Warne likely to do likewise.

Warne's hogging of the early tour headlines, achieved without him even delivering a single teasing, exploding leg-spinner, merely confirms what a strange tour this Ashes one has been thus far.

Whether it remains compelling viewing will depend on more conclusive evidence of England's revival than just their recent performance against lesser Test opponents than Australia. Think of this contest like you would a horse stepping up from a selling race at Haydock to the Epsom Derby.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee