England's preparations for the first Test match in Brisbane are already well under way
after already playing their first competitive tour match in Australia.

England will have to be well prepared for the oncoming challenge of an Australian side
who will be seeking revenge for defeat in the previous Ashes series during the English summer.

The Australians will throw everything they can at England if it means they can wrestle the prized urn from their old foes. England will need to be wary of tactics that the Australians will use against them, these will not just be reserved for the cricket field either.

The Australian supporters will be very quick to latch on to any weaknesses that they feel they can expose in the England side and are never shy in pointing these out, particularly to fielders who will be close to them in the outfield.

Despite being a hospitable country when it comes to sport they are as passionate as any country in the world and will do almost anything to see their team triumph.

Fortunately for England they do not have the likes of Devon Malcolm or Phil Tuffnell on tour but the Aussies supporters could easily target Monty Panesar, if he plays, and youngsters like Joe Root who have not have experienced an Ashes battle down under before.

The Australian media will also pick up on anything that they can use as a story whether it be a misdemeanour on tour or a quote that can be taken out of context. England will have to remain vigilant and ultra professional at all times, taking special care in their interviews.

Already the mind games have already started with Shane Warne choosing to criticise Alastair
Cook's captaincy, despite the England captain having a fantastic record as captain and having been victorious in the summer Ashes battle. England have rightly chosen not to respond to Warne's remarks, preferring to distance themselves from confrontation. They will let their performances do the talking.

A tour Down Under can be just as difficult as a tour to the likes of Pakistan,
but for differing reasons.

Despite all these challenges England can point to a number of areas that will give them
an advantage when the going gets tough, which at times it will undoubtedly be.

Firstly, England have been meticulous in their approach to the series and also their
itinerary. Andy Flower and the ECB have involved everyone in the planning of the tour, including wives and girlfriends, by ensuring the players have the right balance between being professional whilst also relaxing and enjoying themselves which is just as crucial.

A tour to Australia, particularly when it includes Christmas, brings with it its own issues and team England have recognised this and put in place a strategy they hope will please everyone. They are hoping that the benefits of this will be seen in terms of results.

England have often been criticised for entering many tours with a distinct lack of preparation. They cannot be accused of this in Australia. They will be equipped with a huge backroom staff with all the modern technology at their disposal and an itinerary that will give them enough cricket to enable all the players to play a part in competitive matches which will ensure they are not undercooked when the first test arrives.

There are still one or two places up for grabs in the starting XI for the first teat to ensure that extra edge of competitiveness exists amongst the squad.

The squad itself has no major injury worries. Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad have experienced back issues but on the whole the squad have arrived in Australia fully fit and with sufficient rest to recharge their batteries. Australia meanwhile have been involved in a demanding tour to India which on the positive side has ensured game time but negatively must have been challenging for them on and off the field.  

There is no doubt Australia will be tough to beat on home soil. England will need a hunger and desire to win just as much as they have had on previous tours because Australia's young guns will want to beat their visitors due to the fact that many of them will have never experienced the high of an Ashes victory before.

Many of the England squad have already experienced victory down under so there could be a question mark over their desire to do so again. There will be key moments in games where The Ashes will be decided so let's hope that England have the desire and application during these critical periods of play.

We know Australia will be tough to beat but I am still convinced England can retain The Ashes and come out on top during the series. I fully expect the fifth and final Test in Sydney on the January 3 to be a dead rubber but let's wait and see. I am sure the Australians will think differently.   

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