The Ashes in Australia, a place known as a graveyard for English cricket and without a plethora of fast bowlers – with only one fit – and a fallible batting line up known for its fragility.
This combination of factors has contributed to the limitation of expectation around England’s chances in the upcoming series, their coach’s biggest so far.
However, Chris Silverwood has remained positive and upbeat about his team’s chances, a contrast to the downbeat mood set in amongst the English cricketing public and its commentariat.
As well as the usual exchanging of jibes, there has been a prolonged rigmarole around the exacts of the quarantine process for the travelling England players and their loved ones, complicated by many a factor including the T20 World Cup and their families.
This meant that Silverwood has had to negate these factors and pick a squad which inevitably, disappointed some, and was met with a nonchalant shrug by many.
On the selecting of his squad, the head coach referred to it as being “pretty straightforward and having a nice blend”, one which he thinks will be “very competitive”.
The usage of such a phrase is perhaps indicative of the uncertainty and hesitation to be too confident that is prevalent in the English cricketing landscape, a feeling prevalent around the country for the last few years too and arguably since the 2010/11 tour ended.
The quarantine discussion was something that could have been too much for some players and resulted in a blatant refusal to participate.
“Empathy and class” was shown by Joe Root whilst involved in the discussions despite the unfamiliar nature of the territory for any captain but also a sign of the times.
Now that the issue has been settled, according to Silverwood. He has said “the mindset will shift towards performance”.
And to the seemingly unsolvable mystery of winning an Ashes series in Australia, a riddle complicated by the probable absence of the talismanic Ben Stokes.
Since the conquering of Australia by Strauss and Flower’s charges, England have lost 5-0 and 4-0, the latter also without Stokes but for very different reasons but that led to the same result.
Silverwood said that “Ben is moving forward” but that “there is no pressure from me” , a reflection of the greater emphasis on player care and protection as a result of the havoc wrought by Covid and its affects,
If Ben Stokes is not involved, it would be the second time Root has ventured to Australia without the presence of his friend and talisman that were he there, would mean his chances of victory were increased.
However, once again, it looks like being a Stokes-less series and another addition to the riddle.
The recipe for success is at its heart, a simple one but the fallibility of England’s batting and the absence of the spine of the tourists’ fast bowling battery means that the act of first innings runs and the taking of 20 wickets looks slim and arguably impossible.
There is one definite however that Root must repeat his form and be the predominant scorer of weighty hundreds and if this happens, the visitors stand a chance.
His side’s inarguable status as “underdogs” is something to which the coach replied, “doesn’t bother me” and he also said, “they could go out there and do something very special”.
This bullishness is arguably required and needed as opposed to brazen and misplaced confidence which could backfire and be used as a taunt to poke fun at him.
On the series generally, the coach said that he “is so pleased it happening”, an embodiment of the mood and the necessity for the upkeep of test cricket.
Whatever happens, it promises to be a real examination and one that should they fail to pass, result in the mounting up of pressure on the coach and the captain.
The late nights and early mornings will hopefully be rewarded this time. They need to be.