As England took off this morning for Australia via Singapore, most still have no idea what to expect.
Since the Ashes England have won, lost and drawn. They have conquered, collapsed and fought to the bitter end. The ICC trophy was next to useless as a warm up. Neither Monty, Cook or Trescothick travelled and all will be crucial.
Exactly one week from now a tentative side will step out for the toss in Canberra, there to face a Prime Minister’s XI. Seven days will hopefully be enough time for Flintoff and co to recover from DVT, Avian Flu and whatever else they all manage to come down with before they begin a packed warm-up tour of the country.
Much hay has been made about who is in or out of form, who is too old or too young, who is vital and who is dead weight. In the interest of lively cricket related banter on this side of the world and the other, I submit below my predicted heroes of the tour (for both sides).
Composed and on a good run of form in both styles of the game. He was robbed of the captaincy in a PR stunt which may yet cost England dear. Strauss is possibly the only player who can keep Flintoff from going off the rails.
11 tests into his international career and he looks very hungry for more. His average of 75 just about does credit to his 4 centuries and 4 fifties. Should he get his teeth into Harmison and Saj, England could be in for some very long afternoons.
Increasingly the Horatius of England’s middle order. He may or may not be able to hold the bridge on his own, but he will be, defiantly, the last man standing.
One of the most irritating players around, a comically inept sledger and the willful and persistent owner of a mullet. But if the pigeon bowls his tireless line and length and leaves the raw speed to Lee he will take out England’s top order before Warne gets a look in.
Almost as important as a mascot as he is a player, Monty’s enthusiasm could lighten the mood and keep England loose. His raw pleasure in the game could be the best answer to a hostile reception. Oh, and England need a wicket taking spinner to put up a fight.
Ricky Ponting/Kevin Pieterson
Both for their opponents. KP’s form has been mercurial of late, to say the least. Punter’s temper and fabled decisions with the coin cost Australia dear last time. Both have developed a taste for mallard in high pressure innings since the Ashes.