Here’s a strange quote. English captain Andrew “Freddy” Flintoff, speaking immediately after Monday’s loss to Australia:

Maybe it started with a few nervy lads knocking around and it took our time to get into the Test match. But having experienced that now and had a taste of what Ashes cricket is about playing (in) Australia … we can go into Friday knowing what to expect and how hard Australia will come at us.

This ranks, for mine, as the strangest comment heard yet in the saga of this Ashes series; a saga that seems to have been going forever, although it is but one actual match down.

What was Flintoff saying? That somehow, in the 14 months of taut anticipation between the Poms beating Australia in the last series, it hadn’t occurred to him or his team that Ricky Ponting’s side might come at them “hard” in the re-match? That playing Ashes cricket in Australia might need some sort of mental and physical preparation?

The lead-up to this series was like cricket’s version of purgatory, day after day after day of former stars being quoted, experts yapping, the players themselves talking of their anticipation and the problems they saw within their opposition camp. When they finally made it onto the Gabba, England players were apparently stunned that somebody yelled “action”.

And now, after a whole four and a half days of mostly one-sided action that saw Australia take a decisive 1-0 lead in the series, Flintoff says: Gee, this time, in Adelaide, we’ll be ready for the fact Australia will be playing to win.

You know what, Freddy? That’s an excellent idea.

No wonder Ricky Ponting had that dangerous and ruthless look in his eye when he looked towards Friday’s Second Test and said: “There’s not much time for England to go away and do much to get their games in order.”

Earth to Freddy: Adelaide ain’t going to be no picnic either.

Peter Fray

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