Aussie aura no longer there - Strauss
England captain Andrew Strauss believes Australia have lost the aura which used to infect previous Ashes series.
Strauss leads his team into the third npower Test at Edgbaston tomorrow, weather permitting, feeling very differently about the initimidation level of the opposition.
Previous Australian sides always retained their sense of invincibility whatever the scoreboard situation in a match but that has gone with the departure of greats such as Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, says Strauss.
Their presence alone could influence the minds of opponents and the current Australian team’s lack of established players has brought them down to the level of mere mortals.
“I don’t think this Australian side has an aura about it,” said Strauss. “Prior to this Test series starting, we didn’t feel they had an aura about them.
“That is not disrespectful to the players they’ve got - they have got a lot of very good players - but the aura came with the likes of Warne, McGrath, Hayden and Gilchrist.
“This team, over time, might develop an aura but right at the moment there are a lot of guys at the start of their Test careers, and by its very definition they don’t have an aura about them.
“That’s encouraging, it doesn’t mean you are any more likely to beat them but it feels like you are playing against any other Test team.
“Having an aura means when the opposition teams, even though they’re on top, are not confident they’re going to beat you.
“They always expect something dramatic to happen which will bring the other team back in the game and put you under pressure again.
“We certainly felt that in 2006-07 in Australia: even when we had good days, we always had what was going to happen in the back of our minds. We were always thinking, what’s going to happen now? Is Gilchrist going to blast a hundred or is Warne going to take five wickets from nowhere?
“It only comes with a consistent level of performance for a long period of time. Australia had that then but I personally don’t think they’ve got that at the moment.
“I don’t think they are particularly more quiet in the field - sledging is not the issue really.
“But if guys who have played four or five Test matches say something to you it doesn’t carry as much weight, if I am honest.
“It is only after long consistent performances that you gain the ability to scare opposition teams.”
Andrew Flintoff, one man who scares Australia, is confident of being fit after compression treatment through the night on his injured right knee.
Flintoff, 31, has also undergone two further jabs since his match-winning heroics at Lord’s last week: the first last Friday designed to lubricate the knee and the second on Monday injecting more cortisone into the area but not the knee itself.
The wet weather prevented Flintoff bowling today as England were forced indoors but he managed two spells of around 10 minutes each on turf yesterday.
“He has come through all the work-outs he has had to do so far, so barring anything dramatic happening overnight we are confident he will be able to play,” confirmed Strauss.
Given the deluge that hit Birmingham, England opted to release Monty Panesar at lunchtime, which narrowed their selection decision to a straight choice between Durham fast bowlers Graham Onions and Steve Harmison.
It was Harmison, of course, that sealed one of the most epic wins in Test history on the same ground four years ago when Michael Kasprowicz gloved a short one down the leg-side.
That two-run victory developed momentum for England and Strauss views this corresponding fixture as the hinge in the current campaign - England will either slam the door shut or allow Australia back across the threshold.
“We all recognise this Test match is going to be the hardest of all of them,” Strauss said.
“It is a huge Test match for both sides, whichever side comes out of this takes the momentum into the second half of the series.
“It is the middle Test match and whatever happens here has a big effect on the last two Test matches and there is not a lot of time to put things right from here on in.”
Edgbaston’s high water table and persistent rain throughout the day left the outfield covered in puddles, with groundstaff’s mop-up set to continue through the night.
Five super-soppers were employed throughout the afternoon to rid the playing area of the excess.