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England rookies answer Hayden's barb

Australian connection proves pivotal for England newcomers on day one at the Gabba

The cheeky suggestion from ex-Test opener Matthew Hayden that England’s top-order batting for the Magellan Ashes screamed anonymity rather than invincibility might have riled James Vince into action, but it belies a strong Australia connection within the tourists’ squad.

Vince, top scorer in England’s day one total of 4-196 and denied a deserved Gabba century when needlessly run out for 83, fired back at Hayden’s pre-series barb in which he declared "I honestly don’t even know who half of these guys are".

Asked if he was motivated or miffed by Hayden’s remarks, Vince said: "Reading comments like that gives you extra motivation to go out and make a statement."

"If he didn’t know who we were at the start of the day, he certainly does now."

But if in his deliberately provocative assessment Hayden was specifically referring to Vince (with a career tally of seven Tests) and his partner in today’s 125-run second-wicket stand, opener Mark Stoneman, he has overlooked the impact of Australia and Australians in their Ashes progression.

As Test fast bowler Pat Cummins acknowledged at the end of an evenly poised first day of the Ashes campaign, Vince represents no mystery to him because of the right-hander’s stint with the Sydney Thunder in last year’s KFC Big Bash League.

And Stoneman, who was the rock upon which the England innings was doggedly built on an uncharacteristically soft Gabba pitch in scoring 53 in almost four hours, boasts even stronger ties to Australia where he has played grade cricket in Sydney for much of the past decade.

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In fact, the 30-year-old left-hander had become such a fixture on the Premier Cricket circuit of Australia’s biggest city that he has been dismissed by both of his Ashes rivals’ Cummins (when batting for Bankstown in 2013-14) and Mitchell Starc (for St George in 2009-10).

And that’s despite top-line bowlers in Australia finding themselves turning out for their Premier Cricket clubs about as often as England sends a touring team down under.

The fact that former Australia ODI opener and national team batting coach Michael di Venuto has been a presence in Stoneman’s lengthy development from county cricketer of promise to Test batsman only enhanced the Australia link.

Di Venuto was the senior overseas professional at Durham when Stoneman first began to find his feet at England’s domestic level, and was something of a mentor to the young batsman in the same way that di Venuto helped to redefine the career of Steve Smith during his time with the Australia set-up.

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Smith has often referred to the pivotal sessions he undertook with di Venuto during the previous Ashes series in Australia four years ago, which led to a career-defining century during the third Test in Perth that then heralded the current Test skipper’s arrival as one of the world’s pre-eminent batters.

Stoneman’s ascension to international cricket has been far less spectacular, but has coincided with his shift from Durham to Surrey, where di Venuto took over as coach in 2016.

The other key Australian element in the elevation of Vince and Stoneman – who along with Dawid Malan (28 not out at stumps today) were seemingly the butt of Hayden’s pointed observation – is England’s current coach Trevor Bayliss, a former New South Wales player and coach.

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According to another ex-Australia opener who is now a fixture on the England county scene, Chris Rogers, it was Bayliss who identified elements within the techniques and temperaments of Stoneman and Vince that he felt would serve England well in an Ashes campaign.

Despite the doubts that existed over their respective records.

Rogers claimed on ABC Grandstand’s radio coverage of today’s play at the Gabba that amid debate over who should fill the key opening and No.3 roles against Australia’s much-vaunted pace attack, Bayliss decreed the pair who batted for so much of today had the goods to succeed.

Even though Vince’s initial seven-match stint in Test cricket yielded an average under 20, and Stoneman’s inexperience showed just three England caps prior to walking out into the cauldron of today’s Ashes opener.

It’s an alleged assessment that does not surprise Bayliss’s former NSW teammate and ex-Australia Test skipper, Steve Waugh.

"TB (Bayliss) is a good judge," Waugh told cricket.com.au today.

"He goes on temperament and character more so than natural talent sometimes.

"And what you need in Australia is guys who are tough, who can dig in, who can occupy the crease for a long period of time.

"Particularly with Australia having only four frontline bowlers, so England’s tactics will be to bat as long as they can and wear those frontline bowlers out.

"You can see that TB had an influence on the side and he’s been justified the way the two guys  played today."

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As Vince revealed when he spoke to reporters at the close of play today, that strategy of grinding down the Australia attack and ensuring the fast bowling trio’s workloads are significant at the outset of the five-Test campaign was front of mind when he and Stoneman batted for much of the day.

"We spoke about getting overs in the bowlers’ legs, with them only having three seamers," Vince said, adding that the start of day two will play a vital role in dictating the first Test’s outcome.

"It's a nice pitch to bat on, but the lack of pace made scoring hard. 

"The first hour will dictate how the rest of the day goes. 

"The more overs their bowlers bowl, the easier it will become (for England)."

Which indicates that at least some have done their homework.

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

Gillette 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

Gillette T20 INTL 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