| HUSSAIN: ‘Putting pressure the key’
Brisbane: England captain Nasser Hussain believes his team is capable of pulling off an upset win in the first Ashes Test against Australia starting in two days.
Despite failing to win any of their four lead-up matches and struggling with a mounting injury toll, Hussain said England could cause an upset. “Australia hasn’t seen the best of the England cricket team for a long while,” Hussain said. “If we had won every (warm-up) game it wouldn’t have meant anything going into Thursday.”
Hussain added: “Nearly all the players have been successful against Australia.
“The key for the whole team and the whole squad is how we are on Thursday and Friday. If Australia sees the same old England, they will be very confident.”
The skipper said his team’s chances depended on how they handled the pressure the Australians would apply. “You play differently when you’re under pressure, whatever side you are and too often now Australia have dictated terms by putting pressure on the opposition,” Hussain said.
“When you have no fear of losing a game and you can show all your skills and the crowd can get behind you, it’s a very easy life and a very easy game. But the moment you put losing into the equation it becomes a whole different ball game, so that’s what we have to do to Australia in every Test match.”
England’s biggest concern, says Hussain, is injuries. The tourists have been beset in the lead-up to the series with fast bowler Darren Gough ruled out again and young paceman Steve Harmison suffering shin splints.
Hussain, in fact, conceded Tuesday that his main strike bowler Darren Gough might miss the entire Ashes series.
“We’ve learned to live without Darren in the last year,” Hussain told BBC radio. “I’m not worried about Darren for the Ashes now, only that he gets back bowling fast for England.”
Gough, who has undergone three knee operations in the past year, is definitely out of the first Test.
The 32-year-old Yorkshireman, who has not played Test cricket since Australia’s Ashes tour last year, reported swelling in his knee after bowling in the nets Saturday and will now undergo further intensive treatment.
Openers Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and allrounder Andrew Flintoff have also been troubled by injuries although they are all expected to play. Hussain said: “Everyone will write about mental strength and all these other vague things but what wins cricket games is basic cricket and putting pressure on the opposition.
“I’ve played against Australia and I don’t believe our failings are down to a mental thing. It’s down to basic cricket skills.
“I believe they practise their skills at such a level that it pays off in those pressure situations. That’s what we have to learn. It’s an intensity that you have to do all the time to get used to it.”
Gillespie, Gilchrist cleared
Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie was cleared Tuesday to play the first Test. The lanky seamer was in doubt after being sent home from Australia’s recent series with Pakistan after injuring a calf muscle.
Australia vice-captain Adam Gilchrist was also cleared to play in Gabba after spending Monday night in hospital on an intravenous antibiotic drip to treat an elbow infection.