England's unexpected innings victory over Sri Lanka was no fluke. The team had spent the early part of the season covertly learning how to snatch wins when they're least expected. The project even had a slogan: "Never relax. There is always a threat. Be that threat." There were two main goals. Firstly, to condition the players to always be on their guard, and secondly, to surprise opponents precisely when they felt most safe. To that end, the England coaching team instructed the players to come up with ways to threaten their team-mates when it was least expected. Here are some of the tactics they came up with.
Jonathan Trott: Connect 4
Trott's scheme was to lull someone into complacency via an interminable game of Connect 4. Roping Eoin Morgan in for a best-of-five match, Trott deliberately engineered a series of dull stalemates. Morgan started to lose interest when one game climaxed without so much as a "connect 3", but as he prepared to slide the last piece into the board to complete yet another two-in-a-row, Trott leapt to his feet and flung a tennis ball into Morgan's forehead with all his might.
Ian Bell: night threats
Bell hired a friend to make phone calls to his team-mates' rooms in the middle of the night. Relaxed to the extent that they were asleep, players would wake with a start at the ringing of the phone, and upon answering would be greeted by vicious death threats.
Graeme Swann: crazy golf
Many of the England players like to relax with a round of golf. The open air and relaxed pace gets them away from the pressures of the game, but to Graeme Swann it means they are also at their most vulnerable. As several players were ambling down the fairway one glorious late spring morning, they were surprised to hear the sound of a helicopter approaching and even more taken aback when it bore down on them on an attack trajectory. As they bolted for the relative safety of the trees, Swann peppered their retreating forms with ball bearings fired from a gun, as he hung out of the side of the chopper.
Stuart Broad: aquatic meditation
Broad invited the entire England squad to participate in a session of aquatic meditation, run by himself. The players gently bobbed about in a swimming pool while tranquil sounds played through a public address system. Broad stood on the edge of the pool calmly telling them to relax. As heart rates slowed, Broad reached over and flicked a switch, changing the soundtrack to death metal and triggering frantic strobe lights. He then hurled a bucket full of sea snakes into the pool and began screaming. "Never relax! Never relax!" he cried, dancing around the edge of the pool, pushing his terrified team-mates back into the water. As the screams rang out, Broad's demented screeching became higher and higher-pitched and ever more unhinged: "There is always a threat! There is always a threat! I am that threat! I AM THAT THREAT!"
Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket. The "facts" in this article are all made up (but you already knew that, didn't you?)