When was the last time England beat meaningful opposition away from home in the first test of an important series? I can’t remember exactly, but Geoff Boycott was probably in his twenties and Kim Barnett probably had hair.
We always, always seem to start series slowly – and I’m afraid I can’t see it being any different in Brisbane this month. Even our triumph in 2010 started badly. Peter Siddle got a hat-trick and we conceded a huge first innings deficit. I can still remember that inane demented grin across Siddle’s ugly chops.
I’m feeling especially pessimistic about our chances this time because the pendulum of fortune seems to be swinging against us. This summer everything went in our favour: when we played inconsistent cricket, the weather dug us out of a hole. This time the weather is kicking us in the nadgers.
Unless the Australian bureau of meteorology has got things badly wrong, England can expect only two days of meaningful cricket before the first test begins. That simply isn’t enough – especially as the vast majority of the game against Australia A was washed out too.
Thus far, Jimmy Anderson is the only bowler who has shown any form. Broad missed the first match in Perth, and only bowled a few rusty overs in Hobart. If New South Wales win the toss and bat reasonably well this week, it’s possible Broad will have just a couple of sessions on the second day to find his rhythm.
Meanwhile, Chris Tremlett has bowled pretty accurately thus far, but he’s hardly looked threatening. We can pretty much forget about Rankin and Finn at this point. They failed to impress in Perth, and now there’s no time for them to find their groove. It’s hardly ideal.
At least most of the batsmen have had some time in the middle – Cook, Carberry, Trott, Bell and Root have scored runs despite limited opportunities – but the injuries to Prior and Pietersen are bad news.
I’m less worried about KP because he rarely seems to do well in low profile matches anyway – it’s the big occasions that get his juices flowing. Prior, however, is a different matter …
The news overnight is that Prior has torn his calf muscle and will definitely miss the final warm-up match. His chances of playing at Brisbane are currently 50:50 at best.
This is awful, awful news. Prior is the heartbeat of the side and few people have faith in Bairstow. Most crucially, Bairstow himself knows the management have little faith in him – which is why, presumably, they dropped him last summer and played Ballance ahead of him in the warm-up matches.
So that’s where England are right now: a bowling attack without miles in its legs, and a batting side struggling for fitness. What’s more, unless Andy Flower can summon some form of indigenous Australian sun dance, there’s diddly squat anyone can do about it.
It will be sunny in Sydney on Wednesday and Thursday, but the forecast for Friday and Saturday looks wetter and nastier than Mitchell Johnson’s tattoos.