The hordes of England supporters who will shoehorn themselves into Edgbaston later this week will no doubt arrive at the ground with a sense of foreboding after the Lord's defeat - but they should cheer up and concentrate on the positives.
England like playing Test cricket at Edgbaston. The crowd is invariably partisan, good-humoured, noisy and committed to the home cause.
The Eric Hollies Stand, in particular, is a cauldron of sound when full. There is no cricket stadium in this country that generates such passion as Edgbaston on the Saturday of an Ashes Test.
In 1997, as England continued to winkle out Australia in the second innings to set up a brilliant nine-wicket victory, the fervent, patriotic atmosphere was contagious. It seemed the whole country was behind England and just a few encouraging signs from the England team will generate the same support this time.
At Lord?s opposition deeds are generously acknowledged and the game of cricket is deemed of paramount importance. National bias is not encouraged at Lord?s.
The same England players who under-performed from Saturday morning onwards at Lord?s are getting the chance to rectify matters ten days later. In another era, the selectors would have panicked, bowed to press hysteria and made several changes. That way a series hammering lies.
In 1988 and 1989, with West Indies then Australia winning eight Tests between them over here, England selected 45 players, and five captains. Ridiculous ? no wonder the tourists laughed their socks off at such short-term expediency.
One of the reasons why England won 11 of the previous 14 Tests before Lord?s was continuity of selection. You give the inexperienced players the chance to bed into a confident side, allowing them the freedom to express themselves.
There are no more than 20 cricketers in this country of whom you could say with assurance that they could become genuine established England cricketers, so it doesn?t make sense to jettison those in the squad after one bad defeat.
Only five defeats out of the last 32 Tests for England suggests that the selectors, players and coaches must have been getting a few things right. If you cavil at the status of Bangladesh earlier this summer, remember that the Australians were perfectly happy to play them in three Tests two years ago, massaging their Test averages while handing out severe thrashings.
The Aussies aren?t averse to cheap runs and wickets and a few days off, so why shouldn?t England follow suit against the hapless Bangladeshis?
England?s batting capitulation on the Sunday at Lord?s meant that that Test wouldn?t be viewed with a sense of proportion. That collapse sparked off lazy jibes about the same old weaknesses against Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath and a suggestion that England lacked moral fibre.
That conveniently overlooked the times that those same players have turned around crises. Just like the Aussies have done for more than a decade.
You can?t rise to second place in the Test match rankings unless you?ve started learning how to win from unfavourable situations. And to bounce back after a bad defeat. Think of Cape Town last winter and that sensational win at Johannesburg a week later.
The pitch at Lord?s was ideal for Warne and McGrath ? dry at the start, with good bounce and carry, then cracks developing as the match progressed. More than hospitable to the Aussies.
It won?t be like that at Edgbaston. Steve Rouse?s preparations have been hampered by rain and the mini-tornado that missed the ground by 800 yards last Thursday was the last thing the groundsman needed.
It should be a slow, seaming pitch and that will neutralise Australian batsmen who like the ball coming on to the bat. A pitch for grafters will suit England and conceivably frustrate Warne and McGrath.
Other shafts of light amid the unmitigated gloom ? confirmation that Steve Harmison can unsettle the Aussies? batsmen, irrespective of the pace of the pitch, and that Michael Vaughan?s two-day tutorial with the coach Duncan Fletcher seems to have helped, with a century for Yorkshire on Sunday.
Many good judges thought Vaughan ought to have played against Derbyshire in last week?s championship match but I suggest they haven?t seen Derbyshire?s bowling. Light years away from what the Aussies can offer. Vaughan and Fletcher are justified in believing they know how best about rehabilitating the captain?s form. It worked last season against the West Indies.
With Jason Gillespie still struggling, I believe that England?s fast bowling unit of four is at least equal to the three that can be permed by Australia from McGrath, Brett Lee, Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz. If Matthew Hoggard can get the ball to swing and Simon Jones continues his impressive progress towards becoming a versatile fast bowler, England can out-bowl them.
England took 20 Australian wickets at Lord?s and rattled them at times. That is the way to beat them, as long as the batsmen can keep the Aussies in the field for at least two days.
I know we shouldn?t be blind to the qualities of the Australians ? they aren?t, as we?ve read and heard enough from them in the past week ? but this isn?t the time to berate England?s top cricketers. Save that for the middle of September if it?s all gone down the pan.
For now, with four Tests to go, it?s still reasonable to expect enthusiastic support from the public and a constructive approach from the media. England lost a Test match against the best team in the world ten days ago. That?s all. No real surprise. The ripe tomatoes and the stocks can wait a while longer ? if in fact they prove to be justified. The series revolves around Edgbaston.
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Giles relevant to cause as Bell plans to convince
Two Warwickshire players have crucial roles to play at Edgbaston. Ashley Giles must operate as the holding bowler, giving Harmison et al time to gird their loins, while Ian Bell needs to convince a wider audience that he is indeed the best young batsman in England.
Bell is not chastened by his two low scores at Lord?s, nor the expressed opinion of a few Aussies stationed around him at the crease that he looked too much of the young shaver to cut it at the highest level.
He wasn?t bothered by all the chat, he?d prepared for it ? ?Lord?s was a fantastic experience, apart from the result. I didn?t feel in awe at all and feel better for the experience.?
He hasn?t felt the need to don the false beard and the dark glasses now that it?s open season on the England players who failed at Lord?s. He?s worked with the Warwickshire coach, John Inverarity, in the nets and will do the same with Duncan Fletcher in the build-up.
?I haven?t sat at home, moping around, I?m still the same person I was a fortnight ago.?
He has some practical experience of an Australia Test at Edgbaston, having done twelfth man duties in 2001. As a punter, he recalls sitting in the stand in 1993, in awe of Robin Smith?s fantastic hitting during the one-day international against Australia. Best not to dwell too much on the result, though, of that match. Smith made a wonderful century but the Aussies cantered home.
As for Giles, a sense of proportion is overdue. He has never purported to be a genius like Warne, contenting himself with trying to do a sound job for the side.
One of the most sensible of all current England players, it?s been instructive to witness his anger at the stick coming his way since the first Test.
He?s learned the hard way something that many in our trade have known for a long time ? that the harshest critics are often the former players who have to please their sports editors with trenchant comments, otherwise they?re not going to get lucrative contracts.
Too often bona fide journalists have been castigated by current players, when those who have left the England dressing- room for good are the biggest critics.
There are more than enough of these critics in press boxes, television and radio studios who used to rail at the press for getting knocked for their efforts. Now that they?re retired, their successors are deemed fair game. Money doesn?t just talk at times in the media, it screams for attention.
What is unfair in the case of Giles is the lack of respect shown to him by some morons in the crowd. Last Wednesday, at Canterbury, he received some shocking abuse while fielding on the boundary.
It was the same last season at Trent Bridge when he was standing outside the England dressing-room, talking to his uncle. One oaf just trashed Giles while he was trying to have a private conversation. Giles just had to take it otherwise he?d have aggravated the situation.
That is beyond the pale. It reflects the amount of ill-considered stick Giles has received from certain sections of the media with those pillocks in the crowd unable to think it through for themselves, influenced by what they?d read from a big name.
Giles is the best spinner in the country. It?s not his fault that competition isn?t particularly strong and that the Aussies are trying to undermine him psychologically. If England were to upset all the forecasts and regain the Ashes, then the efforts of Giles, in a clearly defined role, would be relevant.
Dear Darius, you're so sad
So farewell then, Darius Vassell. Your departure from Aston Villa told us more about you than you realise.
Your remark that in joining Manchester City you were joining a bigger club than Villa was fatuous and revealed the blinkered world of the modern footballer.
Now it may be that you?ll be getting more money at City, but that doesn?t mean it?s a bigger club.
City are more than #60 million in debt, they were in the equivalent to the old Third Division a decade ago and the managerial merry-go-round at the club has long been a source of derision.
Villa?s average home attendance of more than 37,000 is indeed lower than that at City, but that?s the highest at Villa since 1977 and merchandise sales are also up, by more than three per cent.
And shrewd husbandry has cut Villa?s pre-tax loss by #8.2 million to #2.5 million in the past financial year. In contrast, City?s balance sheet has to be read with a stiff whisky at your side if you?re a fan of the club, as Vassell now clearly is.
Not even Doug Ellis? most implacable foe can deny that he has run Villa professionally, avoiding the nightmares suffered by the likes of Leeds, Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday ? and Manchester City.
Someone of his acumen would have been invaluable at City as Kevin Keegan?s wish list kept being satisfied.
Vassell?s parting shot ignores the work put in by David O?Leary to ensure he got a new contract and the amount of nurturing by the club that turned him from a young rough diamond into an international.
He ought to examine why he seemed to play with more consistency for England than for Villa, why he appeared to have only searing pace as his main attribute, why he couldn?t sustain a partnership with any other striker.
It?s particularly annoying that the Birmingham-born Vassell didn?t show generosity of spirit to the club that?s made him a millionaire.
There?s enough distortion of standards in football without a local lad feeling the need to be dismissive about Aston Villa. You?d never catch Gary Shaw talking like that, or Lee Hendrie.
Darius Vassell deserves a hostile reception from the Holte End when he returns with Manchester City. That?s if he?s not injured. . .
Read previous Pat Murphy columns at www.icbirmingham.co.uk/post/murphy