IAN COLE reports from today’s Laureus-sponsored brunch with Michael Vaughan, where the Ashes-winning former England captain backed a former team mate in his new role as Australia’s coach
Let’s give them some pelt, lads. That was the rallying cry to England’s Barmy Army from Michael Vaughan as we entered the final days before the 2013 Ashes series against Australia begins at Trent Bridge.
Vaughan, who in 2005 led England when they regained the Ashes after 18 years of Aussie domination, was our guest at an SJA and Laureus brunch in King’s Cross.
He addressed the hot topics of the Ashes build-up – not least the late arrival of Darren Lehmann as Australia coach. But he admitted that England’s dedicated fans in the Barmy Army could play an important part in the quest to retain the urn by making life difficult for the inexperienced members of the visiting Baggy Green outfit.
Recalling how Aussie all-rounder Mitchell Johnson’s last series was virtually destroyed by cruel taunts from the English fans, Vaughan said: “Let them hear our crowd shout, call them a few names, sing a few songs…give ’em some pelt.” It’s a Caribbean term, apparently.
That’s not to suggest Vaughan thinks the series will be a finely balanced contest. Far from it. But while he is sure there will be no complacency among Alastair Cook’s team, he fears a negative crowd reaction if England do not get off to the flying start everyone is predicting. Vaughan reckons Tim Bresnan or Steven Finn as third seamer is the only issue to be resolved in the England line-up, but is amazed that one week from kick-off, nobody in or out of the Aussie camp could name Australia’s starting XI.
“I expect that Finn did enough on a flat pitch in the second Test against New Zealand to get the nod over Bresnan,” Vaughan said. “His height also gives him an advantage. But Bresnan will play a part in the series. Anyone who thinks Tim Bresnan is just a bits and pieces player is deluding themselves. He is a quality international all-rounder.”
The arrival of Vaughan’s former Yorkshire team mate Lehmann to replace Mickey Arthur as Australia coach is a good move by the Aussies, he says, and one which has already produced better performances in the games against Somerset and Worcestershire.
“They look a different side already under Lehmann. In the Champions Trophy they just didn’t look right. But you can see Lehmann has sorted it out. He will have had one-to-one meetings, told a few home truths and, most of all, reminded them that cricket – even Test cricket – is to be enjoyed.
“Lehmann immediately identified that Shane Watson’s place should be at the top of the order with Chris Rogers as his opening partner. As for the remaining pieces of the jigsaw we’ll have to wait and see. But you can’t start formulating a game plan if you don’t know your best XI.
“If I was Australia I’d go really aggressive at the top of the order. I think David Warner will play and probably bat at three. There’s no point putting him in at six. After captain Michael Clarke I expect Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja at five and six – and Graeme Swann will be licking his lips at the number of left-handed batsmen.”
Not surprisingly, Yorkshireman Vaughan supports the promotion of Joe Root to open the innings for England in place of Nick Compton, with Jonny Bairstow slotting in at No6. “Joe is an outstanding talent and has been terrific at six. But Bairstow can really take the game to the opposition and put it out of their reach. You get a feel for a player in a dressing room and the management have obviously seen something in Bairstow. Perhaps he struggles a bit against spin – but I don’t think we’ll be seeing too much of that from Australia.
“Kevin Pietersen had to return. He is the best batsman I have played with. He can win a Test match in three hours. Last year he played three of the best innings I’ve seen – in Colombo, at Headingley against South Africa and in Mumbai.
“A big factor now is that England have players who know how to win the Ashes. When I was captain nobody had done that. All we knew about was losing. Now it’s Australia who are in that position.”
Vaughan, looking as lean and fit as when he played the last of his 82 Tests in 2008, will end the summer cycling 462 miles in 12 days around the one-day international venues to raise funds for Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the Cricket Foundation’s Chance to Shine. England’s most recent Ashes-winning captain, Andrew Strauss, will ride part of a journey that begins at Headingley on September 6 and takes in Old Trafford, Edgbaston, Cardiff and Southampton, before finishing in London on September 17.
“Anyone who has a bike and can pedal can come along, ride a stage or two – and join in the fun,” Vaughan said.
- Michael Vaughan’s charity bike ride will raise money to improve children’s lives through the power of sport. If you are interested in taking part, or donating, please visit www.chancetoride.co.uk.
- JOIN THE SJA and benefit from a recognised press card, priority entry to key events and significant discounts and members offers on a range of activities
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Mon Sep 9: SJA Autumn Golf Day, including the Phil Sheldon Trophy, at Muswell Hill Golf Club. Details to be announced shortly
Thu Dec 12: SJA 2013 British Sports Awards. Venue and ticket booking details to be announced soon