Opinion: The rent-a-quote Ashes


Australia have almost forgotten how to win in Test match cricket, and are not doing themselves any favours by calling England "dour, negative and boring", writes Tim Ellis.

Sir Geoffrey Boycott is well known for his oft-repeated phrases on Test Match Special during English summers. Such classics as "the best place to see fast bowling is from the non-strikers end" and "my gran could have hit that with her broom handle" are part of the Boycott lexicon. Perhaps they don't travel so well globally…

Given the special and specific circumstances of the back-to-back Ashes, the baton of rent-a-quote phrases has passed to Shane Warne for the coming Ashes down under. Warne appears to have taken on the mantle of Australia's unofficial PR attack dog, knocking the Poms down at any opportunity with repetitive attacks, even accusing them of being arrogant when they win. He has also, more subtly, stuck the boot into Ricky Pointing for losing three Ashes series.

How many times can the Shanemeister mention that Alastair Cook is a "negative captain" in the next two and a half weeks? In fact, sifting through the detritus of the previous series, there is plenty of material ripe for regurgitation.

One of the early favourites for media overkill will be the prospect of Stuart Broad copping it from the Aussie fans who have had four months to warm up their hate messages. When Broad merely copied most Australians by failing to walk at Trent Bridge, Darren Lehmann called on fans to "give it to him right from the word go". Stuart has helpfully fanned the flames by suggesting that if he had walked, England would have lost.

One early shot that Alastair Cook has already covered – he does have a vested interest – is that England's top order will have to perform. Warne reckons Root is going to "nick off a lot" at the top of the order and should be batting lower. England will insist that the faster pitches in Australia will suit the Yorshireman's backfoot style. His seven failures in 10 innings almost mirrored Ian Bell's difficulties back in 2005, although the 180 at Lord's ensured a decent series average. Expect the Root question to come up more than is healthy.

"We've got inside Jonathan Trott's head" will probably be another mantra that Warne will come up with in the phoney war. Trott used to dig up the crease for hours at a time but appears to have traded in this ability for uneasy cameos. Bell himself has been absolutely serene in the last two Ashes series, but the questions will remain about who is going to keep him company long enough to build those totals of 400 plus that England like to quote but not currently achieve.

Lehmann has tried to get under England's skin by calling them dour, but in actual fact the visitors need to rediscover their ability to grind opponents into the dust. That is the way they like to play. Ponting has waded into the argument by suggesting that England are past their peak while Australia are on the up. Given how many Australian cricket writers rewrote history during the last series, expect more of the same propaganda in their own backyard..

Australia and their advocates will repeat their assertion that they could and probably should have won the Tests at Old Trafford and Durham, having almost got over the line at Trent Bridge. It must frustrate them heavily that they were arguably on top in four of the matches but almost ended up 4-0 losers.

The question that not many Australians will want to reflect upon is whether their team have forgotten how to win. It will barely register on the column inches. Warne will certainly not dwell on it.

<b>Tim Ellis</b>