10 reasons for England to be pessimistic

Australia

You shouldn't count your chickens, they say. Well, before the summer started, I counted at least three in the England side: Alastair Cook, with his timid captaincy; Stuart Broad, backing away from Geoffrey Boycott’s Mum in the nets; and Ben Stokes, a clucker of the headless variety, liable to twat walls if he felt a bit frustrated.

Anyway, if England felt like counting their chickens after a romping victory in Cardiff in the Ashes opener, they won't. And not because there no longer are any chickens, but because they're English and thus obliged to be pessimistic glass-half-empty merchants. Which came first: the chicken or the egg? The glass full or empty. Empty, duh.

1. Everyone knows that Darren Lehmann’s response to every situation is a few beers. He has replaced nets with stubby-skulling contests (relaxing, but which impairs driving, as Clarke and Voges found in Cardiff) and after Cardiff packed the squad off for a two-day bender in Bratislava from which they've come back bleary-eyed and frazzled, or 'in the zone' as Boofer’s sports psychologist describes it).  

2. There’s been a lot of blah-blah-blah-blah about Mitchell Johnson being rubbish in England, not to mention a reprisal of the hilarious ditty about his scattergun bowling lines. (At one stage during the 1st Test – in fact, exactly after Ian Bell had spanked him over extra-cover for four – I decided to look up the most expensive wicketless Test analysis in history, which is 0 for 260 by Imran Tahir. Next ball, he duly castled Belly, thus confirming the irrefutable justification for us Poms’ congenital pessimism.) See, people seem to think that he’s only a threat on fast, bouncy Aussie decks. Maybe, but the only thing the opening Test proved is that he’s not suitable to Welsh conditions. We'll soon find out about English.    

3. Trevor Bayliss is working for them. Must be. Listen to his voice. Must be. He’s Australian, an enemy within. Aw look, I don't yet know what he’s up to, but it must be something. 'We've got to get our fielding right, lads. Concentrate on the fielding. Catching’s catching. Don't worry about batting and bowling. That'll take care of itself…'

4. Shane Watson has looked like a dead man walking for a while now (well, not so much walking as standing there bewildered and jutting his jaw out for sympathy, then, whether he gets it or not, reviewing an lbw with the grim inevitability of the morning ritual becoming painful after prawn vindaloo). Rumour has it he has now mislaid the polaroids – there must be some polaroids! – so Mitchell Marsh is in for Lord’s, where he will burgle wickets and unfurl a Mitch-jestic, match-changing 132.

5. Part-cyborg, part-1920s vaudeville star, Joe Root has been mainlining the banned substance Awesome since May 2014. WADA must surely be on his case by now. Oprah is being lined up to interview him. Oh Joe!

6. Cooky’s 'What would Brendon do?' tattoo, etched on his inner forearm in the Courier New font of Hollywood scripts, might lead him into skipping down the pitch in the first over to try and twat-carve length balls over point. It would be funny, and I dare say funky, but probably inadvisable (particularly given the plane of his hands through the hitting area).

7. Starcocrats – a group that rules through the use of Mitchell Starc – may well be the longest palindrome in the English language, but there’s only one way to read the lankier of the left-arm Mitches: he be the Death Star incarnate. Sure, he tried to hustle England with all that limping in the first Test (and he’s already been told not to be 'such a bloody big sook' by Thommo. 'In my day we'd run in with snapped femurs and amputated feet, and think ourselves bloody lucky to wear the baggy green') but he’s gonna be cracking ribs off the Lord’s slope.

8. The Max Factor. Yes, Glenn Maxwell may well be a hologram designed by merging Justin Langer’s and Damien Martyn’s faces on DeepDream, but he is in the country, primed to change not only the course of this Ashes but the entire essence of the Test game. A paradigm shift. Lehmann has previous experience with Ashton Agar, so don't rule it out until you see the teamsheet.  

9. There’s not yet quite enough evidence for my liking that Kumar Dharmasena isn't working for South Asian betting cartels. Once England (read SCJ Broad) burn their reviews, he will unleash: payback for that tetchy series against England in Sri Lanka in 2000.

10. Warnie’s going to be in the country soon – in the comm-box soon, which will of course be about as welcome as Chlamydia at a sex party. The whole of England will fall into a heavy depression at this ghastly, vain, monomaniacal w@#kshaft spewing his agenda-driven bilge that eventually it will spark mass exodus, leaving only KP, Piers Morgan, Jeremy Kyle, Katie Hopkins and three cockroaches available for the final Test. Piers, appointing himself skipper, will ask for Uranium to be left around the outfield, leaving the ‘roaches to spin England to victory.

Scott Oliver

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