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November 20, 2010
It's well documented that England lost all five Tests last time they visited Australia, but Paul Collingwood knows only too well that they also failed to win a tour game. This time they've started with a win against Western Australia, a draw against South Australia where several men found form, and a comprehensive ten-wicket victory over Australia A. Their trip could hardly have had a better start.
At 34, Collingwood is the oldest man in the England squad, and he's desperate to add an away Ashes triumph to the two home series wins in which he has played a part. He's also in promising touch personally, having compiled a solid 89 at Bellerive Oval this week to follow the 94 he posted at Adelaide Oval, and he is confident England can carry their form in to next week's Gabba Test.
"We've got ourselves in the best possible position and prepared in the best possible way," Collingwood said. "Winning two games gives us confidence and belief but there have been some huge individual performances as well. The guys are very confident going into Thursday, that's when the real stuff begins. They are excited. It was an exceptional performance in this match especially.
"I've spent a few tours out here starting in 2002-03 and I know how difficult it is to beat the opposition, even in these [warm-up] games. We've had our mini-challenge and come through that with flying colours. That's not an easy thing to do."
Adding to the challenge in Brisbane, England must rewrite history by becoming the first team to beat Australia in a Gabba Test since the all-conquering West Indies in 1988. But they need to break an even older record to leave the country happy - England haven't won the Ashes away since 1986-87 - and after breaking a 75-year Ashes drought at Lord's a year ago, they know anything is possible.
"The team see Brisbane as a really big challenge and whenever we've come across these challenges like not having won an Ashes match at Lord's for 70-odd years, the guys really like facing things like that," Collingwood said. "Brisbane is one of them. It is difficult for teams to win there, Australia have been incredibly strong there, but that just makes it more exciting for us and we'd love to make history.
"We've got a good mix of guys who have experienced Ashes in the past and there aren't mental scars, there is motivation to do well this time round. We've got guys coming in nice and fresh and who are excited about this kind of tour and what is ahead of them."
Australia also have at least one man coming in nice and fresh - the spinner Xavier Doherty, who is almost certain to make his Test debut at the Gabba. Doherty will be especially keen to challenge Kevin Pietersen, who has been out 17 times to left-arm orthodox bowlers since the start of 2008, compared to four times against right-arm spinners, but Collingwood is confident it won't be an issue.
"I don't think he'll be overly worried about facing left-arm spinners," he said. "We'll have a look at footage from the one-day games where [Doherty] bowled against Sri Lanka. Kevin has done it time and again and he can play left-arm spin very well on his day. It is not a problem for us. "
The form of Pietersen, who has made only one half-century on the trip, is one of the few minor concerns for an otherwise buoyant England. They know this is their best chance in 24 years to claim the Ashes in Australia, which last occurred when Collingwood was a 10-year-old Durham boy who had little interest in the fate of the England cricket team.
"We've been waiting a long time," he said. "To get the opportunity as a player is a great feeling. We have the belief and we are playing some very good cricket. There's genuine belief in the side that we can do it."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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