Australia legend Dennis Lillee believes England’s dismal Ashes challenge has been undermined by their failure to prepare properly for the series.
The legendary fast bowler, who is now president of the Western Australian Cricket Association, has begun the build-up to this week’s Third Test by claiming the tourists did not take their preparation for the Ashes series seriously enough.
Lillee had been expecting a rivalry to match that of 2005 when the two sides met for the current series, rather than Australia racing into a 2-0 lead with victories at Brisbane and Adelaide.
But the 57-year-old believes England’s decision to go home for a few days following the Champions Trophy, rather than fly straight to Australia, has undermined their chances of retaining the Ashes.
"I thought if England had been fully fit and had good preparation there would have been a fight all the way through, but they’ve had bad preparation," said Lillee, who finished with 355 wickets from his 70 Tests.
"I think going back to England and not coming straight here to get another few days’ practice was bordering on stupid - I certainly don’t think that will ever happen again."
Lillee accepts England’s chances have been hit by injuries to key players like Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones, and the return home of Marcus Trescothick with a stress-related illness.
But he is still expecting a competitive match starting in Perth on Thursday, when Australia will be intent on claiming the victory which would secure the series and the return of the Ashes.
"I think they’ve had a horrible run of injuries, plus you throw in Trescothick and I’m not sure the selections have been right," said Lillee. "I think they’ve had a few problems and they’re not that well prepared for the series.
"England have to win this one at 2-0 down, otherwise it’s a dead series. Australia will be going all out to try to make sure they seal it in this game - it’s going to be a ripper of a game."
Australia are still considering their final line-up but all-rounder Andrew Symonds is widely expected to replace Damien Martyn, who shocked the cricket world by announcing his immediate retirement from cricket on Friday.
Symonds has not featured in the Test side since being dropped last year, and despite a fearsome reputation in one-day cricket he averages just 19 from his 10 appearances in the longer form of the game.
He marked his return to the Test squad at the WACA today by training in his treasured baggy green cap rather than the normal baseball-style caps provided with the training kit.
"The boys were ribbing me a bit for wearing it, but I might not get a chance to wear it again so I’ll be wearing it whether I play or not for the next couple of days," he said.
"I thought my Test career might be over. Over the last few weeks I’ve probably been trying too hard and things weren’t going that well but then I got the call-up.
"I was really shocked. I actually got my baggy green out a few days ago and looked at it and smelt it and wondered whether I’d ever wear it again."
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