In The Ashes, the most intriguing battle will be fought in the mind: Harsha Bhogle

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Australia batsman Phil Hughes is out hit wicket, for 86, during day three of their warm up match against Worcestershire at New Road Worcester England Thursday July 4, 2013. The first Test of the 2013 Ashes series starts at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on  Wednesday July 10. (AP) Australia batsman Phil Hughes is out hit wicket, for 86, during day three of their warm up match against Worcestershire at New Road Worcester England Thursday July 4, 2013. The first Test of the 2013 Ashes series starts at Trent Bridge, Nottingham on Wednesday July 10. (AP)
SummaryI will be very interested in seeing whether…well…England can do an Australia, writes Harsha.

and slumped to 199-5. I promise you the words, “4-0” were on everybody’s lips. Then Alastair Cook and Matt Prior added 157 in 60 overs, England kept India in the field for 154 overs and even though they lost, the courage they had shown augured well. It was like losing a set 5-7 from being 1-5 down.

Then Pietersen played an unforgettable innings in Mumbai, Monty Panesar beat India on a track prepared for a home win, Cook scripted another epic in Kolkata and England hung in grimly in Nagpur. This was a different England, not just ready for a scrap but seizing the opportunity in a land they didn’t enjoy playing in.

Then I saw Australia. Like England, they lost the first test too. Dhoni’s double century, like Pujara’s against England in Ahmedabad was demoralising. But you expected Australia to come hard thereafter, like they always did. You thought they would fight for every inch of territory. But they didn’t. There was a dreadful inevitability to the next three tests. Maybe the skills had declined, it always seems that way after a great generation has departed, but the fight seemed to have gone. They were playing like England were expected to but hadn’t. There wasn’t a Cook or a Pietersen, or a Prior or a young Root, they could bat around.

Based on that evidence Australia are fragile, they give the impression that should they go a test down they will find the journey back into the series too daunting. They need all hands on board, including team spirit, the twelfth player they claimed they always had on the field. And it is this search for team spirit that sees them go back to a tough old-school man. There was a feeling that Australia had, in a sense, shed their traditional macho image for a more metrosexual air. Darren Lehmann will seek to take them back to their roots and it will be interesting to see how much influence he wields. There is such a lot of talk about him but the coach neither bowls nor bats.

To be fair Australia

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