England must shed the burden of history to claim Ashes

Sydney: Fearsome bowlers bouncing missiles off hard pitches, blinding sunshine, hostile crowds and a nation desperate to see their guests humiliated -- it is no wonder England have found it so hard to win in Australia.

English teams have won just four Ashes series in Australia in the last 65 years and, since the last in 1986-87, they have managed just three Test match victories, none of them while the series was still alive.

Cautious of picking a fight with 21 million people, the latest party of Englishmen to land in Australia have been careful to avoid saying anything provocative and it was left to batting coach Graham Gooch to spell out their mission this week.

"We`ve come here for one reason -- one reason only," he said. "We`ve not come for the hospitality. We`ve not come for the weather. We`ve come to win the Ashes -- it`s as simple as that."

As captain of the losing 1990-91 tourists, Gooch knows as well as anyone how difficult that is going to be, even if this England side are settled and confident while their opponents are a team in transition, some say disarray.

"It`s not easy," former Australian captain and veteran broadcaster Richie Benaud said at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week. "Usually when Australia go to England, they also face big problems there.

"Home ground advantage is a big thing and it could be the turning point in this series as well."

England sides have arrived in Australia full of confidence before only to be soundly thrashed, not least the last tourists in 2006-07 who relinquished the Ashes in a 5-0 whitewash.

The 2010-11 vintage are hoping their preparations -- three-day matches in Perth and Adelaide and this week`s four-dayer against Australia A in Hobart -- will hold them in good stead when the series gets underway in Brisbane next week.

"In 2006-07, England were offered practice matches and said no. This time they`ve shown more common sense," Benaud added.

"They`ve actually played on two of the Test match grounds before reaching them for Test matches. I think their preparations have been good."

Collective Effort

Apart from 1978-79, when Australia were weakened by defections to Kerry Packer`s World Series, and 1986-87, when the absence of South Africa rebel tourists depleted the hosts, England built their post-war victories on great fast bowlers.

Fearsome bowlers bouncing missiles off hard pitches, blinding sunshine, hostile crowds and a nation desperate to see their guests humiliated -- it is no wonder England have found it so hard to win in Australia.

English teams have won just four Ashes series in Australia in the last 65 years and, since the last in 1986-87, they have managed just three Test match victories, none of them while the series was still alive.

Cautious of picking a fight with 21 million people, the latest party of Englishmen to land in Australia have been careful to avoid saying anything provocative and it was left to batting coach Graham Gooch to spell out their mission this week.

"We`ve come here for one reason -- one reason only," he said. "We`ve not come for the hospitality. We`ve not come for the weather. We`ve come to win the Ashes -- it`s as simple as that."

As captain of the losing 1990-91 tourists, Gooch knows as well as anyone how difficult that is going to be, even if this England side are settled and confident while their opponents are a team in transition, some say disarray.

"It`s not easy," former Australian captain and veteran broadcaster Richie Benaud said at the Sydney Cricket Ground this week. "Usually when Australia go to England, they also face big problems there.

"Home ground advantage is a big thing and it could be the turning point in this series as well."

England sides have arrived in Australia full of confidence before only to be soundly thrashed, not least the last tourists in 2006-07 who relinquished the Ashes in a 5-0 whitewash.

The 2010-11 vintage are hoping their preparations -- three-day matches in Perth and Adelaide and this week`s four-dayer against Australia A in Hobart -- will hold them in good stead when the series gets underway in Brisbane next week.

"In 2006-07, England were offered practice matches and said no. This time they`ve shown more common sense," Benaud added.

"They`ve actually played on two of the Test match grounds before reaching them for Test matches. I think their preparations have been good."

England would not pretend to have a Frank Tyson (1954-55) or John Snow (1970-71) in their squad but the skipper of the last team to triumph in Australia thinks it will be a collective effort that wins the Ashes.

"I am very sure that it is not going to be about any one person on either side that is going to make a difference," Mike Gatting said in an ICC podcast.

"I think it will be about how well the team plays together... They really have to play well as a team in all departments. That to me is the key."

Benaud, who captained Australia to two Ashes triumphs and retained the urn in the drawn series of 1962-63, believes that if England do achieve their goal, it will be by the narrowest of margins.

"England have a got a good team and they`ve also got the Ashes," the 80-year-old said. "They`re going to be well led and Australia is a bit of a work in progress at the moment.

"I think it`s going to be tight series, and I do think both sides are capable of winning two Test matches and the fifth will be a beauty," he added.

Bureau Report

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