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July 21, 2009
This tour is starting to feel eerily like 2005 for the Australians. After a strong first Test they were shocked to be outplayed in the second match, when their bowling spearhead was injured, another was badly out of form and Andrew Flintoff carried his country.
Four years ago the coach John Buchanan stepped back to focus on the side's strategic goals when the team was in a similar situation, allowing his assistants to take charge. Tim Nielsen won't be following the method of his predecessor and wants to step up in an effort to show that his men are capable of combating Flintoff and Co, starting at Edgbaston on July 30.
"My role is really to get to the front now and lead and ensure the group is still enjoying Test cricket," Nielsen said. "You need to be careful that you don't let it get too big or ugly, we're two Tests into a five-Test series, and we've got a lot to play yet. We have to make sure we're not letting the results drive how we're preparing."
Nielsen's priorities are re-tuning Mitchell Johnson into the world-beating bowler he was against South Africa earlier in the year, getting Brett Lee back to fitness and plotting the comeback from a 1-0 deficit. In 2005 McGrath missed both the games Australia lost and without Lee the visitors drew in Cardiff and were defeated at Lord's.
When asked whether Australia could win two out of three matches to take the series Nielsen responded with a determined "yeah". He wants the side to remember their strong performance at Cardiff, where England's last pair held on for 63 balls, and their responses to the early struggles in both first innings at Lord's.
"We fought pretty hard [in the second Test]," he said. "There are a lot of good signs and it's not all doom and gloom. We lost a Test. It's good in some regards, it gives us an opportunity to show how good we are.
Nielsen said the team would "re-set and re-start" before Northampton and he also highlighted mental strength as an area to improve. "When you get behind against good quality teams, it's totally a mind game," he said. "We've shown that our skills are in order and our players are good enough. When you get under pressure the reason your skills fail is because your mind isn't working as well as it should."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?