England look for ‘winning habit’ in Australia
Perth: England will try to get into the “winning habit” in their first Australian tour match this week as they seek a first away Ashes victory since the 1980s.
Wicketkeeper Matt Prior said the three-day tour match against Western Australia from Friday was a chance to build vital momentum for the five-Test Ashes defence, which starts in Brisbane on November 25.
“First and foremost we want to win the game,” Prior said, insisting England were not looking past the tour match.
“It is a first-class game and we will treat that match as a first-class game, very seriously. Winning is a habit and the quicker you can get into the habit the better.”
England are expected to field an almost full-strength side for the game, although spinner Graeme Swann could be in doubt after hurting his thumb in the nets this week.
The visitors’ confidence is high after they beat Australia in England last year and recently overtook them in the Test rankings, raising hopes of a first away-from-home Ashes win since 1986-1987.
Prior said England would not just be blowing out the cobwebs this week but would be looking for match simulation after extended nets practice in Perth.
“Those nets are something very different to what you get in England,” he said. “From what I have heard, this is pretty much as extreme as you are going to get from a pace and bounce point of view.
“All the wickets will go through okay, but this is pretty much as quick and bouncy as you will get.”
Prior said the WACA, once notorious for its pace and bounce but now often far tamer, was a perfect way to acclimatise to Australian conditions, where English cricketers have traditionally struggled.
The WACA will host the third Ashes Test on December 16-20, after Brisbane and Adelaide. Melbourne will be the venue for the traditional Boxing Day Test, before Sydney wraps up the series on January 3-7.
“I think to be thrown in the deep end is a good thing. You get thrown in the deep end and work backwards, which is better than taking it easy and then being given a shock,” said Prior, who averages more than 42 in Test batting.
The wicketkeeper said England’s bowlers were quickly adapting and were fully aware that visiting quicks often get carried away with bowling too short because of the pace and bounce.
“The bowlers are loving it,” he said, noting that they were adjusting their length with each net session.
“They are thoroughly enjoying seeing the ball flying through and carrying nicely. They play on a few slower wickets in England and on the sub-continent and it gets a bit frustrating for them sometimes. They are bowling pretty impressively so far.”
England will get an early chance to apply pressure to Australian middle order batsman Marcus North, who will captain Western Australia.
North has been struggling to hold his Test place, but eased worries over his form with a domestic Sheffield Shield century against South Australia.
Another Western Australia player who is desperate for runs, veteran Mike Hussey, will miss the game due to national one-day duties against Sri Lanka.