David Lloyd has already mapped out plans for England's travels in the West Indies next winter - including a two-week preparation stay in Antigua and time with families later in the tour.
Lloyd, the England coach, believes lessons should be learned from this winter's campaign in Zimbabwe and New Zealand, both in terms of preparation and itinerary. A pre-Christmas trip to Sharjah, for a one-day tournament also involving the West Indies, Pakistan and India, has already been arranged by Lloyd - but he feels that more practice and time for fitness work needs to be done in the West Indies before the tour begins.
"When we arrived in Zimbabwe we were fit, but they caught us cold by picking damn near a Test side in the first game," Lloyd said. "I don't want to be caught out like that again". England will now leave for the West Indies early in the new year and Lloyd is planning to have a couple of 100 overs per-side warm-up games arranged for the initial fortnight.
The Caribbean programme includes five Tests and five one-day internationals, with the one-dayers coming at the end of the tour.
Lloyd, meanwhile, must now concentrate on England's final two one-day internationals in New Zealand and yesterday he talked about the competitive environment now being encouraged within the England set-up.
"We now have a strong nucleus of players - especially when you look at what we have achieved this winter," he said. "The Under-19s went to Pakistan and won, the A team went to Australia and won and we have been successful in New Zealand."
Today sees the start of the first Test between South Africa and Australia in Johannesburg - and for once the fast bowlers will be overshadowed by the battle between the two leg-spinners: Shane Warne and Paul Adams. Both sides are aware of the match-winning potential both men possess.
The Australian coach, Geoff Marsh, said: "We've spent a lot of time watching Adams on video and the boys are looking forward to playing against him. We've formulated a few ideas on how to play him and the guys are relishing the challenge."
Marsh's South African counterpart, Bob Woolmer, said: "People are saying that since his operation Warne doesn't pose the same threat, but I think it's more a question of exposure. Like everyone in cricket, once people get used to you, you have to work harder for your wickets, but Shane remains a class act and we regard him very highly indeed."
However, Warne has been overshadowed of late by the emergence of Michael Bevan as a Test-class back-of-the-hand bowler. Bevan's pace through the air is in his favour on a Wanderers pitch that is not likely to offer quick turn even to Warne and Adams.
Australia are expected to include the young left-hander Matthew Elliott at No 3, with Matthew Hayden opening the batting with Mark Taylor. They have been carrying a number of niggling injuries, but expect to be able to select their strongest side, with the pace bowler Jason Gillespie looking set to share the new ball with Glenn McGrath. Jonty Rhodes, whose fielding will be valuable, may return to the middle order in place of Adam Bacher.Reuse content