Wade out to cement wicketkeeper position
A word of warning to England, Brad Haddin and Tim Paine: Matthew Wade is out to make the Australia wicketkeeper's spot his own on this tour. As Michael Clarke's team prepared for what is expected to be a testing warm-up against a strong Essex team at Chelmsford on Tuesday, Wade said he was not simply in England for a first glimpse of the northern sun and softer, seaming pitches, and intended to make himself indispensable for future assignments.
Having earned his way into the ODI and Twenty20 teams over the past 12 months, Wade added the Test berth in the West Indies, deputising for Haddin after he flew home to be with his ill daughter. Wade grew impressively in poise and performance across the Caribbean trip, culminating in a century to clinch the Test series for the visitors in Dominica. Compelling as it was, Wade remains wary of others ready to take the spot back.
And they will be after his place should Wade have one poor tour or match: Haddin retained his Cricket Australia contract and will be considered for Australia's next Test match, against South Africa in Brisbane in November. Paine, meanwhile, has shrugged off a serious finger fracture and will don the gloves for Australia A against England Lions after the ODIs have concluded.
"Experience over here is a big thing for me, but I want to play well over here, I don't want to just get the experience," Wade said at Lord's. "I struggled early in the West Indies tour trying to get used to those conditions, we were only there for a couple of days before we played the first one-dayer.
"So this two weeks coming over earlier has been a great help for me and some of the younger players that haven't played over here before. We've got a chance to play a little bit of cricket, some trial games and build momentum into the series. I want to play good cricket and hope to cement my spot in the team."
Part of Wade's challenge in England is to make a success of a floating position in the batting order that may vary anywhere between Nos. 1 and 7. He went out to meet the new ball with David Warner at Leicestershire but was then dropped down to seven against Ireland to accommodate Peter Forrest at No. 3 and Shane Watson opening.
"Luckily I've done it a little bit for Victoria so it's not mentally a big swing for me," he said. "I've opened the batting for the last three or four years at home and then before that, so it's not a huge swing, as long as I know a few days out what I'm doing and I can prepare for that.
"Sometimes batting down the order can give you that little bit of freedom you need. Obviously opening the batting over here is going to be quite difficult and early wickets are a key, so sometimes it's nice to go down and just be able to free the arms a little bit."
Wade certainly did so in his century against the West Indies at Windsor Park, showing how much he had learned over two months on low, spinning pitches with a furious sprint from 50 to 100. It was a game-shaping innings, justly acknowledged with the match award, and a piece of footage that England's analysts will have pored over.
"I haven't looked back too much at that tour. But it's nice to come off the end of a tour doing what I did and leading into another tour with a little bit of confidence," Wade said. "Depending on where I bat I've just got to play my role in the team and fingers crossed that I can do that.
"I'm not sure quite what to expect. I've spoken to a few of the senior players and the swing conditions here are obviously different at the top of the order, the wickets will play a part, but I'm not 100% sure. I'm open-minded going into this series, soaking it all in and trying to learn as much as I can."
From behind the stumps, Wade has seen Australia's pace stocks improve, and had little hesitation when queried on whether the tourists had the firepower to dislodge England's in-form opening combination of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell.
"We've got three or four blokes who bowl over 150 kilometres an hour - it's been a bit of a nightmare in the past few weeks facing those guys in the nets," Wade said. "So absolutely we've got the firepower to counter those guys. In any ODI your top two or three batters are important, if they're scoring hundreds you're going to win the game, so hence their record is outstanding at the moment, and we've got to find a way to dismiss those guys and also find a way for our top three or four batsmen to score big scores."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here