Ashes 2021 tour diary: Stuart Broad lifts England mood with #NoUmbrellaWalk; Hobart favourite for Fifth Test

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 (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

The Ashes is now just five days away and England were finally able to get in some vital preparation time ahead of the First Test.

Ben Stokes took two wickets - Zak Crawley and Chris Woakes - on his return to action as the downpours halted in Brisbane, with a Lions XI reaching 226 for four on a full day of play.

England’s batters should get some much-needed practice time out in the middle on Friday.

Standard Sport’s cricket correspondent Will Macpherson is on the ground in Australia and offers the second instalment of his Ashes tour diary....

Good vibes only

Stuart Broad, on his fourth Ashes tour, has become England’s chief good vibes officer after a tough month in Queensland. Bogged down by quarantine conditions and a lack of cricket due to unseasonably bad weather, Broad has introduced two measures to lift the mood.

The first is what he calls the "triangle of positivity”, where he comes up with three things he’s grateful for on the day.

“I was sat having dinner with Jimmy [Anderson] and [Jack] Leach,” Broad said on the Round The Wicket podcast with Ben Stokes. "I said, ‘here’s the things that have been positive in this quarantine’.

“And we actually couldn’t think of three! It was embarrassing not to be able to think of three things we have really enjoyed. We created the triangle of positivity to give our mindset, three things each day we could say we’re buzzing about. If it’s a sachet of coffee, it’s a sachet of coffee.”

One of the things Broad has been grateful for is… yoghurt. When England quarantined on the Gold Coast, he became a keen analyst of the resort’s offerings.

“You’ve got to respect the natural greek, it’s the trademark, what they base their business on,” he said, when asked which was his favourite variety. “I’m personally a big fan of the strawberry.”

Broad complained that, having let his love for a strawberry yoghurt be known, his teammates gobbled that flavour up, leaving him “devastated”.

“But [assistant coach] Paul Collingwood, who has just got out of quarantine with the T20 boys, brought me a strawberry yoghurt all the way from the Mercure in Gold Coast,” he said. "I was buzzing about that.”

 (AFP /AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP /AFP via Getty Images)

Broad’s latest method of bringing positivity is what he calls #NoUmbrellaWalk in Brisbane.

“The rain here, we are not talking sprinkles, we’re not talking a little dash where you get your rain jacket on, we’re talking properly chucking it down,” he says. “You have to get outside, just a t-shirt on. #NoUmbrellaWalk - it does what it says on the tin.”

Broad said “everyone was sceptical”, but they have come round to it – including Ashley Giles, “the boss” – and are feeling better for the experience.

“My mindset is that if I just sit in my room watching the rain out the window thinking that I’m not getting any cricket, no training facilities, I would feel flat,” he said. “But getting rained on seems to just lift the spirits.”

Slipping up

England’s catching in the cordon has been infamously awful in recent years. Stokes’ return might alleviate that, but it looks like he won’t field in the slips to protect the serious hand injury he suffered earlier this year.

Even when Stokes wasn’t bowling, the three slips were Joe Root, Rory Burns and Jonny Bairstow (who appears to likely to pip Ollie Pope to the No6 spot).

Tassie Mania

According to a report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, Hobart is looming as a favourite to pip Melbourne to the Fifth Test in what would presumably be a regular day game. This would be a fascinating choice from Cricket Australia (CA).

Not only is the capacity of the Bellerive Oval a fraction of the MCG’s – meaning less revenue – but Tasmania still has more Covid restrictions than Victoria, and CA and Cricket Tasmania fell out last week over the Tim Paine farrago.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

An announcement is expected imminently on Perth’s loss of the fixture.

Blackout

It’s a shame that, with England finally in action six days out from the Test, no livestream or even a live scorecard was put in place by Cricket Australia.

A smattering of fans and local media were in attendance, but England are preparing a long way from the spotlight.

English BBL invasion

The English invasion of the Big Bash (which begins on Sunday) continues apace, with Tymal Mills joining Perth Scorchers. Mills replaces another England international, Brydon Carse, who was ruled out with injury just hours after signing last month.

Mills – who has overcome the injury he picked up at the T20 World Cup – is joined at the Scorchers by Surrey batter Laurie Evans. Scorchers had Jason Roy and Liam Livingstone on their books last year, but neither signed up this time.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That does not mean a stack of Englishmen have not made it, though. Every single team has at least one. Adelaide Strikers have George Garton on their books, Melbourne Stars have Joe Clarke, and Reece Topley is with Melbourne Renegades.

Hobart Hurricanes (Harry Brook and Jordan Thompson) and Brisbane Heat (Ben Duckett and Tom Abell) have two apiece. The leaders are the Sydneysiders, though. Double champions Sydney Sixers have James Vince, Tom Curran and Chris Jordan, while Sydney Thunder have Alex Hales, Sam Billings and Saqib Mahmood.

All’s fair in love and war

Lovely Chris Woakes wouldn’t say boo to a goose, so it’s little surprise that he thinks the two camps’ problems – relating to racism and naughty pictures – will be kept off the field.

“No, they definitely aren’t [trivial]. What’s happened around both camps, a lot of those issues are personal,” Woakes said. “Cricket is played best when that sort of stuff is left to the side and you let your skills do the talking.

“An Ashes series always raises that rivalry between England and Australia. In my experience in playing in three Ashes series, I don’t think it’s overstepped the line once when I’ve been around. I don’t see it being any different. The cricket is always hard fought, hopefully it’s a great series to watch.”

Read More

Michael Vaughan: Ashes trip delayed after ex-England captain tests positive for Covid-19

Ben Stokes takes two wickets on England return as Brisbane weather finally allows meaningful Ashes preparation

Alex Carey to make Test debut after replacing Tim Paine in Australia’s Ashes squad

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