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June 20, 2012
Rather than train, Michael Clarke's Australian tourists watched The Avengers in Leicester on Wednesday. It is a film title Clarke might also like to be applied to his team, as resolve builds in Australian cricket to rid itself of the scars inflicted by England in recent Ashes series.
Before curtain-up, the vice-captain Shane Watson candidly admitted that Australian cricketers visiting the British Isles must now contend with the sorts of unhelpful memories that bedevilled the minds of their England counterparts in the 1990s and early 2000s. Back then, a succession of teams appeared beaten down by history well before they had a chance to engage their opponents.
Frank as ever, Watson said the team will have to overturn negative thoughts emanating from Ashes defeats in 2009 and 2010-11, and that it would continue to battle them until they regain the urn, the Test team's clear goal for 2013.
This year's ODI tour will help to provide experience of English bowlers, batsmen and climes for many tourists who have not encountered them before, but Watson said the 2012 reconnaissance would be only of superficial value in ridding himself and others of the wounds incurred in past losses.
"Until you can get into the Ashes and perform the way we need to perform those memories are going to be in the back of your mind," Watson said. "Everything we are doing is to try to improve every single time we train and play. Hopefully that will continue our development and improvement leading into the Ashes and we will have some happier memories than the previous couple of series.
"But there is no doubt we have to improve in a big way from the past Ashes series. We are working hard on the areas that we were deficient at. That is why this next year is about continuing our development in the areas that were just not good enough against the Poms hin the past couple of series here and in the series in Australia as well."
Australia failed in many areas in the past two Ashes series, but Watson pointed to numerous horrendous sessions with the bat as the most damaging passages in surrendering the initiative to Andrew Strauss' England team. There was the loss of eight wickets in a session at the Oval when a drawn match would have retained the urn, an early loss of three wickets for two runs at Adelaide Oval in the second Test of 2010-11, and the crowning humiliation of being bowled out for 98 on Boxing Day.
"One of our biggest weaknesses was our batting collapses. That is something that we are trying to continue to work on," Watson said. "Like most batting teams if someone is bowling at good pace and swinging the ball consistently it provides a really big challenge - we have to get better to get through those periods.
"In the past, over the last couple of series here especially we haven't been able to get through those periods limiting the damage. We have been losing four and five wickets through that period. What we are working on at the moment is to continue to challenge ourselves against the swinging ball. You need to back your game and your natural instincts but shape your game and shape your technique to combat what was thrown about."
Much as Allan Border's side overcame similarly unhappy memories to win the Ashes in 1989, so Clarke's team will endeavour to learn from past mistakes. In Watson's case there has already been evidence of this, in how his bowling has developed over successive England trips to become decidedly crafty and dangerous where once it was youthfully naïve.
"My first few tours I didn't enjoy it because I didn't know how to get the best out of myself as a bowler and that's about your development as a cricketer really - adapting to the conditions that are presented," Watson said.
"There's no doubt the Duke ball can really help your swing bowling out here. That's when I finally discovered the better way to bowl here rather than trying to bowl 100 miles an hour, gun-barrel straight.
"I really enjoy that over here, but on the flipside that's a challenge as a batsman, know bowlers do have the best success here by swinging the ball."
Australia's opening match of the tour takes place against Leicestershire at Grace Road on Thursday, with the likes of Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Peter Forrest, George Bailey, Steve Smith and the recalled Mitchell Johnson all looking for a chance to secure a spot in the ODI matches that follow.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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