Just forget Aussie reputations: Thorpe

Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Graham Thorpe has told his England teammates not to be overawed by the reputations of the Australian players they are up against when the Ashes Test series starts here at Lord's in July.

Australia have won the last eight Ashes series and, following a dominating 2-0 series win in New Zealand which confirmed their position as the world's best team, will be firm favourites to inflict more misery on their oldest opponents.

Veteran batman Thorpe, 35, has missed the past two Ashes series but re-established himself in the side after injuries and personal problems with a classy century against South Africa at his Oval home ground in September 2003.

Although England will be underdogs, the fact remains they are ranked as the world's second-best Test side after a run of four successive series wins.

And that should be five in a row when minnows Bangladesh arrive for a two-match series early in the English season.

But with Australia's top seven batsmen all averaging around the 50 mark and their four-man attack featuring two of the all-time greats in leg-spinner Shane Warne and fast bowler Glenn McGrath, few would give much for England's chances of a first Ashes series win since 1986-87.

However, Thorpe said England had to forget about facts and figures and just treat each match as a fresh challenge.

"I can visualise towards July and think what it's going to be like," said Thorpe, who made a hundred on his Test debut, against Australia, at Trent Bridge in 1993.

"It will be a massive occasion and the lads have to relax and enjoy what is going on," added the Surrey left-hander, who has scored 6,636 in 98 Tests at an average of 43.94 with 16 hundreds.

"If we play the men rather than statistics and figures it will be our best way of playing against them. We won't do well being tense and worrying about their record or who we are playing against. You have to have a certain amount of belief regardless."

"Come what may it is important not to beat yourself up if you have a bad day. Being realistic we will have some bad days against Australia and you have to get out of bed the next day with a smile on your face and enjoy it."

And Thorpe added: "I would love to be fit because it would be great to have an opportunity to play against them with this England team. We have a lot of good performers and I know we are going to have to play as a team and to our highest potential against them."

"This summer I have not got a great deal to lose, it has been a pretty good journey in the past 18 months, probably the best period I have played for England."

Two more Tests will see Thorpe become only the eighth Englishman to have played in 100 Tests, a landmark he should reach, form and fitness permitting, in June's second Test against Bangladesh at Durham's Riverside ground in north-east England.

"I am never one to tempt fate or look to landmarks but I have an opportunity and it is in my own hands whether or not I get there at the moment," said Thorpe who, an unbeaten 118 in the second Test at Durban apart, was not at his best in South Africa.

"Life can be cruel and I might get injured but if I don't play any more Test matches so be it; I have had a fantastic ride playing international cricket and been privileged to have one more crack at it so feel very lucky whatever comes this summer."

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