England aim to press home advantage
Posted in England in Australia 2010-11
It is a measure of England’s excellent overall performance in Australia thus far that they now have to face a challenge they could only have dreamed of encountering on previous trips Down Under.
Following their emphatic innings-and-71-run triumph in the second Ashes Test in Adelaide last week, the tourists have been installed as hot favourites to seal a long-awaited series victory on Australian soil.
With the hosts in apparent disarray and England performing impressively across all three disciplines of the game, it is difficult to be anything other than optimistic when it comes to assessing the chances of Andrew Strauss’ side.
Yet this in itself provides a fresh test - the need to avoid complacency.
While England deserve great credit for their displays in the opening two Tests, not to mention a number of professional performances in the other tour matches, it should not be forgotten that we have yet to reach the halfway point of the series.
It will be difficult for Australia to come back from the position they find themselves in and there is evident concern among their selectors, who have made four changes (one of which was enforced due to Simon Katich's Achilles injury) ahead of the Perth Test.
Marcus North and Doug Bollinger have been axed, while spinner Xavier Doherty - a surprise pick for the first two Tests - has been replaced by an even more inexperienced figure in the shape of Michael Beer, with Nathan Hauritz once again ignored.
However, for all the criticism directed at Australia over the last fortnight, they remain just one match down and a home victory at the WACA would completely change the complexion of the series.
England should certainly be confident, having dominated the last seven days of action, but it is imperative they do not take their foot of the pedal when the third Test gets underway on Thursday.
Encouragingly, those within the camp are making all the right noises.
“How can we be complacent? We’re ranked number four in the world,” said team director Andy Flower. “We’ve got a long way to go and we’re only 1-0 up in a five-Test series. So that would be a crazy way to think.”
Flower’s words are echoed by Strauss, who added: “We’re always conscious that if you start patting yourself on the back too much in cricket it comes back to haunt you.”
England can also draw on the experience of last summer’s Ashes, where they went into the fourth Test at Headingley Carnegie with a 1-0 lead only to crumble in spectacular fashion.
“It was the one game where we probably looked too far ahead and we suddenly found ourselves 120 all out,” reflected wicketkeeper-batsman Matt Prior.
“We’ve learned from that and we’ve got to make sure we keep our feet on the ground.”
For the time being, I’ll be doing the same thing.