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'England's true test will be to defend Ashes in Australia'

The historic Ashes win for England at home has raised hopes of a triumph on Australian soil, a feat England have achieved only four times since the controversial Bodyline series of 1932-33.

cricket Updated: Aug 26, 2009 18:56 IST

The historic Ashes win for England at home has raised hopes of a triumph on Australian soil, a feat England have achieved only four times since the controversial Bodyline series of 1932-33.

The true test for England lies in their ability to defend the Ashes Down Under. Only four England captains since Douglas Jardine have won the Ashes in Australia, including Mike Brearley's 5-1 win over what was essentially Australia's second XI in the Kerry Packer disrupted winter of 1978-79.

Former England players who were part of those successful tours - 1954-55, 1970-71 and 1986-87 - gave their advice to skipper Andrew Strauss on what it will take to convert this summer's success into victory Down Under in 15 months time.

"To win in Australia you need a good captain and a balanced attack," Trevor Bailey, now 85, was quoted as saying in The Guardian Wednesday.

"In 1954-55 we had a very good captain in Len Hutton. And then, for the first Test, we picked four pace bowlers - Brian Statham, Frank Tyson, Alec Bedser and myself. Spinners Bob Appleyard and Johnny Wardle played in the other four Tests and it made such a difference. We won three of them. Tyson was absolutely outstanding but we won the series because we had a first-class captain and a varied attack."

In Strauss England certainly have a good captain and they will need James Anderson to make an impression if he flies out to Australia as attack leader.

"England can win there," said Bailey. "But we need to develop a class slow bowler and I don't see too many in county cricket. There are a few leg-spinners coming through but to do well in Australia a leg-spinner has to be very good."

Ray Illingworth, the captain in 1970-71, said: "England will have to be 20 percent better away than they were at home to beat Australia. That's to make up for the different conditions, ball and crowds."

Illingworth had two spinners, just as Hutton had 16 years earlier, and just as Mike Gatting had in John Emburey and Phil Edmonds in 1986-87.

"It's very difficult for one spinner to do the job when it's turning. And even when it's not turning, spinners can give you control," Illingworth said.

Emburey, who was a good spinner, thinks the batsmen hold the key. "I think getting runs up front is the most important thing. Illy's side had Geoffrey Boycott, John Edrich and Brian Luckhurst all getting runs. On Gatting's tour we had Chris Broad leading from the front, with three centuries. That made it easier for David Gower, Gatting and even Jack Richards to pile on the runs down the order. When your top order is firing you're controlling the game."

For John Hampshire, winning in Australia is about self-belief.

"You need a strong captain, which we certainly had in Illy. You need your best players. But beyond that it is about filling your heads with strong positive thoughts. Illy made us feel we were going to win. And if you don't feel that there's no point in going," said Hampshire, a batsman on the 1970-71 tour.