Adam Burnett & Sam Ferris
Adam Burnett & Sam Ferris
Australia may well be able to gain some valuable intelligence on England's finest batsman from an unlikely source as preparations for the Ashes intensify.
With the series opener now only a little over two months away, Peter Handscomb has revealed that he and England captain Joe Root engaged in "quite open conversations" regarding batting in one another's country during their time together at Yorkshire early in the northern summer.
Handscomb, who flies to India tomorrow as a cover batsman for Aaron Finch in Australia's five-match ODI series, was granted a release request from IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiant this year and headed head to England to hone his game in challenging conditions against the red ball.
Throughout his time in the country's north, he played alongside Root and Jonny Bairstow, and was captained by Gary Ballance.
"I was lucky to be there with a few of the boys that are probably going to be in the England Test squad for the Ashes," Handscomb told cricket.com.au.
"It was great to get around them and just talk cricket. They spoke about playing in Australia and I was asking questions about playing in England.
"They were quite open conversations. It was a massive learning curve."
Asked if he stopped short of disclosing too many secrets, a grinning Handscomb said he revealed "just enough to keep them interested that they think they got something".
Over the past 12 months, Smith has played Tests in Australia, India and Bangladesh, ODI cricket in Australia and New Zealand, and experienced the County Championship with traditional powerhouse Yorkshire.
The unorthodox right-hander said the experiences have enhanced his game considerably.
"To be able to be tested in all different conditions against some of the best bowlers in the world is great," he said.
"That's why we play this game. You've got that drive to potentially be the best in the world and the only way you're going to get there is if you really challenge yourself against the best.
"In England I didn't get the results I wanted in red-ball (cricket) but that was because I was tinkering with a few things and watching how Gary Ballance and Joe Root went about it, just to see what I could pick up there.
"The biggest change has been mentally. To be able to go out there with confidence now each time I bat and knowing that I can score runs in all conditions and no matter what the wicket is doing I can give it my best and hopefully make some runs."
Handscomb is only eight months younger than Root however the England captain has played 50 more Tests than his Australian counterpart, having debuted in December 2012.
The two 26-year-olds are set to play crucial roles for their respective sides in the Ashes this summer and Handscomb said his rival's greatest strength is between the ears.
"He just seems to know his game really well and what works for him," he added. "If he's got a feeling that he's slightly off then he knows what he needs to do to get himself ready for the next game.
"He's pretty comfortable with his technique now and he's happy with how he scored his runs.
"For him he's just mentally strong and he understands his game.
"Joe's a good lad and we'll probably catch up for a beer at some stage during the Ashes along with the other Yorkshire boys that are over here.
"It'll be hard fought out there on the ground but nothing will get taken off the ground, pretty much."
2017-18 International Fixtures:
Magellan Ashes Series
First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets
Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets
Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets
Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets
Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets
ODI Series v England
First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets
Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets
Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets
Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets
Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF
Prime Minister's XI
PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets
T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series
First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets
Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets
Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets
Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13
Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16
Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18
Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21