New England coach Trevor Bayliss has vowed to bring a typical Australian aggression to the side’s Ashes bid, promising to “fight fire with fire”.
Bayliss, from Goulburn in New South Wales, will make history in Cardiff next week by becoming the first Australian to lead England in the battle for the urn.
At Lord’s on Wednesday he named his squad for the first Test on July 8 – comprising the XI who ended the series against New Zealand plus Yorkshire’s uncapped leg-spinner Adil Rashid and seamer Steven Finn – and also laid down his expectations.
Put simply, Bayliss wants his charges to meet the Australian challenge head on – attacking when attacked and banishing any sense of timidity. If Alastair Cook’s men can live up to those words, it promises to be quite a series.
“To be successful against Australia it’s certainly not going to be by taking a backward step or allowing the Australians to dictate terms,” he said. “You’ve got to get out and fight fire with fire, be positive and aggressive and individuals have to play their own natural game.
“They have been selected to play their way and that is what’s going to be successful for them.”
There were signs that Bayliss’ message was already filtering through from afar during the ding-dong battles against Brendon McCullum’s Black Caps.
England, under the guidance of Bayliss’ number two Paul Farbrace, played unusually dynamic cricket in the drawn Test series then won both one-day and T20 rubbers with a young, fearless squad. And the 52-year-old has vowed not to let that momentum stall.
“The way the game has been played over the last five or 10 years you could argue that maybe we haven’t kept up to date as some of the other teams,” he said.
“Whether you like it or not the T20 format and the one-day format do have a bearing on the way the game is played at Test level. It’s that philosophy of being positive and aggressive. Being positive is not necessarily trying to hit fours and sixes. It’s mental aggression.”
Bayliss boasts a glittering CV including Sheffield Shield titles with New South Wales, T20 success with Sydney Sixers and Kolkata Knight Riders and a World Cup final appearance while in charge of Sri Lanka. But he is a coach who prefers to empower players rather than dictate to them.
“At the top level it’s about creating a good environment,” he said. “If you look in history at the best players in the world, they’ve all been self-reliant. One of my philosophies is that the best coaches are the other 10 players in the team.”
Sri Lanka will get a glimpse of a future without their batting greats when the decisive third and final Test against Pakistan begins in Pallekele on Friday.
For the first time in 15 years since Kumar Sangakkara’s debut in July 2000, Sri Lanka will take the field in a Test without either him or Mahela Jayawardene in the ranks.
Sangakkara, Test cricket’s leading current run-getter, committed himself to playing just two Tests against Pakistan and two more against India in August before retiring.
Jayawardene quit a year ago, leaving Angelo Mathews’ men the unenviable task of going into the decider at the Pallekele International Stadium with a young, inexperienced batting unit.
Mathews is now the leader of the pack with 48 Test appearances, but none of the other frontline batsmen have reached the 20-match mark.
“It’s obviously going to be difficult to fill Mahela and Sanga’s shoes,” said Mathews. “It will take time. Most of the time we won’t get the result we want, individually, or as a team. But we’ve got to be patient with them.”
Upul Tharanga, Jehan Mubarak and Kusal Perera are waiting in the wings to fill the number three position vacated by Sangakkara, who has 12,305 runs from 132 Tests.
Sri Lanka won the second Test at the P. Sara Oval in Colombo by seven wickets on Monday to level the series after Pakistan had take the first match in Galle by 10 wickets.
Both Mathews and his counterpart Misbah-ul Haq promised an entertaining finale at Pallekele, with both captains insisting they will play aggressive cricket in a bid to clinch the series.
Misbah hoped his team will be inspired by Sri Lanka’s comeback in Colombo after being routed in the first Test.
“We are definitely going into the Test determined to win and we have the example of Sri Lanka, the way they bounced back,” Misbah said.
Misbah will be concerned by his bowlers’ inability to support leg-spinner Yasir Shah and the batting debacle in the first innings in Colombo when they slipped from 74-2 to 138 all out.
Shah is the most successful bowler in the series from either side with 17 wickets, but Pakistan’s next best is left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar with six wickets.
Worse, pace spearhead Wahab Riaz is injured and off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez is not available since he needs to undergo mandatory tests after being reported for a suspect action in Galle.
Great to level the series. Dammika Prasad outstanding and the young batsmen leading the chase. Kaushal Silva and dimuth solid and mature.
— Kumar Sangakkara (@KumarSanga2) June 29, 2015
The tourists may drop seamer Junaid Khan, who has taken just one wicket in the series, and pick two from Rahat Ali, Imran Khan and Ehsan Adil to share the new ball.
Sri Lanka, by contrast, appear a more settled bowling unit as they head to a venue where all three previous Tests have been drawn.
Seamer Dhammika Prasad dominated the Colombo Test with seven wickets, debutant off-spinner Tharindu Kaushal claimed five wickets in the first innings and fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera produced fiery bursts.
Leading spinner Rangana Herath, who was expected to be Pakistan’s chief tormenter after grabbing 23 scalps in two Tests against them last year, has managed only two wickets this time.
“Even if he’s not getting wickets, he’s preventing batsmen from getting quick runs,” said Mathews, defending the veteran spinner.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes a carefully-managed Adil Rashid could prove to be a key weapon in the upcoming Ashes series.
Moeen Ali is favourite to be named as the team’s spinner for the first Test, but Vaughan insists Rashid’s leg-spin may help mop up Australia’s tail and demands that he makes his Test debut.
One criticism of the 27-year-old from Yorkshire is that he bowls too slowly and while Vaughan accepts that misgiving, he believes he offers something that England are currently missing.
“He needs managing, captaining and bowling at the right time. I would say first innings on good pitches you’d have to manage him very well,” Vaughan said.
“A top order player with anything worth their weight in gold would have a little bit of a look at him and probably attack him.
“That’s when the captain has to come in and say ‘right, it’s not quite working, let’s save him for that tail’. The second innings when it’s a bit crustier he comes into his own.
“With the way that he bowls and the way England have really struggled to get rid of tails… it’s something different that England might surprise Australia with.
“I wouldn’t expect him to whip through the top order in the first innings, but with careful management and careful field settings he certainly can play a big part.”