England’s players must handle the toughest environment they will face in their careers if they are to retain the Ashes this winter, insists Ashley Giles.
Warwickshire sport director Giles travelled down under on two Ashes tours with England so can vouch for the challenges facing Joe Root’s side in the coming months.
Australia as a whole is the toughest place to go and play cricket as an Englishman and probably the most rewarding if you win – though I never found out about that.Ashley Giles
And the hostility will be greatest of all right at the start, with the opening Test at the Gabba in Brisbane, which starts tomorrow.
“The first Test is always horrid because Brisbane is a real cauldron,” said Giles. “With the supporters there, pretty much anything goes from a sledging point of view. You get heaps thrown at you, particularly as a bowler when you are fielding on the boundary.
“Australia as a whole is the toughest place to go and play cricket as an Englishman and probably the most rewarding if you win – though I never found out about that. When I went for my two series over there Australia were very strong and it was incredibly tough.
“I wish when I was a player we’d been able to go there and win because if you are struggling that means you don’t enjoy Australia as much as you should. I went back in 2013 as lead coach with the Performance Squad and loved it because I had time to get around and see the country and the people and it was brilliant. But you don’t get that chance in the Ashes because of the pressure.”
Giles believes the series about to start is too close to call with any confidence but he has been delighted to see Bears all-rounder Chris Woakes in excellent form with the ball in the warm-ups.
“It’s important that Chris has got some cricket under his belt,” he said. “He needed that after last season and needed some confidence and the wickets in the warm-ups were great for him.
This winter could be the making of Chris Woakes. We know how good a cricketer he is – and there is no bigger stage than the Ashes to show what you can do.Ashley Giles
“This winter could be the making of Chris Woakes. We know how good a cricketer he is – and there is no bigger stage than the Ashes to show what you can do.
“With Ben Stokes not there, Chris will be key as will Moeen Ali who probably will need to play a bigger part as an all-rounder. Those two and Jonny Bairstow might well be our engine-room.
“It’s a really tough environment to go into but this year it’s difficult to know exactly what England will face because this Australian side is probably one of the weakest ones we will eever face over there – although we have some issues ourselves of course.
“We will know a lot more after this week because the opening Test of an Ashes series is always vital and in this series as much as any because there is so much uncertainty on either side. There are some big players in each squad but also some guys with no track record in this sort of encounter and I think it will be the side that gets most from those players that will win.
“Our domestic cricket is in a good state at the moment and the guys coming in are good cricketers. Craig Overton is a very fine cricketer. James Vince has had a taste at the top, now can he make that number three position his own?
“If the Aussies keep all their bowlers fit they will be quite formidable but to keep them all fit for five Tests would be a bit of a surprise. I said recently I just felt home advantage would swing it for Australia but the more you look into it the more you see it is quite an even series. It would be a brave man to put any money on the outcome.”
Test Cricket at Edgbaston in 2018
England face India at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’ in 2018 determined to build on their three consecutive victories here in Birmingham over the last three seasons.
Starting on Wednesday 1 August, tickets are on-sale now priced from £29 for adults and from £16 for under 16s.