Martin Chandler | 9:48pm gmt 08 Nov 2010
England's trip to Australia has been a long time in planning. In many series gone by, they have been criticised for lacking the necessary preparation, not giving themselves enough time to acclimatise to the differing conditions, this time they have three warm-up matches (against Western Australia, South Australia and Australia 'A') and will have had just under four weeks in the country when play gets underway at Brisbane for the first Test.
There is even talk of sending the bowlers on to Queensland ahead of the rest of the squad so they become accustomed to the conditions. They are leaving no stone unturned, as skipper Andrew Strauss put it, with regards their preparation.
The warm-up matches will give England the chance to get back into the swing of things, and to experiment with the Kookaburra ball, which is getting plenty of attention in the build-up to the series. Everyone is aware that the ball used in Australia is quite a contrast to the favoured Dukes ball employed in Test matches in England. The seam will remain pronounced only for a very short space of time, and swing is likely to be at a premium also, although recent weather conditions in Brisbane may encourage Jimmy Anderson and Ben Hilfenhaus more than most.
So because of the lack of lateral movement expected, England's tactic will be to hit the deck hard with their array of tall bowlers. If Stuard Broad, Jimmy Anderson, and Graeme Swann's positions are reasonably assured, then Steve Finn, who is probably in pole position as it stands for the final bowling slot, must out-perform Chris Tremlett in the two further warm-up fixtures.
England took part in a much derided trip to Bavaria before they set off for Australia with the main aim being to enhance the bond between the players, no doubt experience some harsh conditions, take the players out of their comfort zone, come through those times as a more complete unit, more reliant and trusting of each other. There are many contrasting views of these bootcamp style excursions, the injuries picked up by Jimmy Anderson and Chris Tremlett doing nothing to pacify the more vehement opposers.
The timing may be questioned coming after a phycially testing summer where they may have seen more than enough of each other, but I do think they serve a very decent purpose, so too for perspective reasons, do the trips to see the atrocities of former war sites.
The usual war of words between the two sides have begun, beginning with an impressive (and pretty funny to be fair) image of Ponting and Michael Clarke on Big Ben in London reminding the England side not to forget the urn. Shane Watson has offered his opinion on which of the England bowlers will be effective and which won't. Always think that's a dangerous game when you're an opening batsman, that has only recently consolidated his place in the side. But it will all mean very little when play gets underway, so KP won't be taking John Buchanan's comments too seriously about his divisive presence in the side.
England's batsmen have already had a taste of what it's like to face the Australia bowlers, and I don't mean when they played them in last year's Ashes or in the ODI series earlier this year, but by using the ECB's new and latest impressive piece of ?50,000 technology - The Batting Pro.
For the uninitiated, this involves a big screen that shows actual video footage of the bowler running in and on release a ball is fired from the bowling machine to replicate the actual delivery from the video. It sounds more advanced than a coach standing on his ladders with his arm raised and then plonking it into the machine. People that have had the privillege of using this, appreciate that it is not the finished article, and that there are further modifications to be undertaken to enhance the realistic feel.
Along with Merlin, the bowling machine that can churn out several different spin deliveries that a slow bowler may possess, presumably England have had this set on the basic off-spinner in preparation for this series, there is also Trackman, that can record all kind of stats for the spinner, such as the number of revolutions they are putting on each delivery, how much drift is attained, the length of the delivery and other such statistics.
For all these modern training aids, there is nothing like good competitive cricket out in the middle, and England endured such a test in their recently concluded opening warm-up game against Western Australia.
They appeared to get plenty out of the game, despite things not going to plan in their first innings of batting. Alistair Cook and Paul Collingwood are probably the two main batsmen that will be in need of much more time at the crease in the remaining two warm-ups. Kevin Pietersen was reported to look in excellent touch in both innings, and a match-winning century from Strauss in the second innings will no doubt confirm that good plans need to be well executed by Ricky Ponting's front line attack come November 25, if they are to negate Strauss' potentially imposing effect in this series.