Buchanan asks England for contest
If it is not bad enough for England that they are staring at an Ashes whitewash, they have now suffered the ridicule of being asked to bring their best game to Sydney by Australia's coach. As Australia named an unchanged 12 for the fifth Test starting on Tuesday, John Buchanan said he wanted the visitors to give his side a proper contest instead of competing for only short periods.
England have become used to being patronised by their own supporters over the past month, but the plea from an opposition coach might be enough to stir them into action. "I'm hoping they really enjoy the New Year and come back with a new resolve and are really ready to take us head-on in Sydney," Buchanan said. "There is nothing to lose for them and I'm sure they don't want to go down 5-0 and I'm sure we want to go up 5-0. It's a real challenge ahead for England."
The tourists have had chances in each game but the momentum has been stolen from them and Australia marched to a 4-0 advantage with the three-day win at Melbourne on Thursday. Buchanan said players and teams should be measured on how they operate during the tough moments and England have faltered. "We've been tested at certain periods of time," he said, "but they haven't been able to sustain their skills through five days."
Buchanan recognised the problems as the same ones Australia suffered on the 2005 Ashes tour, but he did not feel any sympathy for England's plight. Australia are on an 11-match winning streak heading into the SCG and Buchanan is pleased they have achieved their pre-series aims of regaining the urn in convincing fashion.
"We wanted to re-establish the gap between us and what is supposedly the second best team in the world," he said. "Part of that is the way we play and part of it the way they play. We've won ten from ten for the year and it's up to the other teams to come chasing us. We want to kick off 2007 the right way."
The way England have abandoned the attacking approach of 2005 has surprised Buchanan and Australia recognised the change in attitude during both batting innings at Adelaide. "It didn't suggest the team was going to play with aggression, belief in themselves, challenge the opposition, take risks or back themselves in any situation," he said. "In looking at those plans they were not necessarily the side we faced in 2005. There was definitely something missing."
Australia's unchanged squad means there is no place for Stuart MacGill on his home ground. MacGill has not been included in any of the Test plans this summer and with Shane Warne retiring at Sydney the selectors may already be looking at the next generation. Andrew Symonds will be expected to use his offspin and it is unlikely Australia will make any alterations to the line-up, with Mitchell Johnson spending his fifth match in a row as 12th man.
Australia squad Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Glenn McGrath, Mitchell Johnson.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo