Thorpe tells England to target Aussie middle-order
Graham Thorpe has said Australia's middle-order must "backfire" if England are to regain the Ashes.
Opening batsman Phillip Hughes made plenty of headlines during his recent brief stint with Middlesex in county cricket, becoming the first Australian to score hundreds in his first three first-class matches in England.
But Thorpe, who coached the now 20-year-old Hughes when he was in charge of the New South Wales Second XI three years ago, said the key wickets for England to target are those of Australia captain Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey.
"I think a key part of the series will come down to how well Australia's middle order play," Thorpe, now coaching his old county side Surrey, said here on Friday at the launch of Darren Gough's 'Love Cricket Tour'.
"They've got experience in the batting line-up in terms of the middle order. If England are to do well in series then the likes of Clarke, Hussey and Ponting will have to backfire."
"I know a lot has been said about Hughes and I know him well from when I was at New South Wales, but he will give you a chance at the top of the order with the way he plays. (Simon) Katich is the same. He is experienced but he is not really an opener."
Thorpe, a left-handed middle-order batsman who played 100 Tests for England before calling time on his international career when Kevin Pietersen was selected ahead of him for the first Ashes Test of 2005, said: "It comes down to those three in the middle order who are very, very good players. They will play a key role for Australia."
Not long after retiring, Thorpe found himself coaching in New South Wales and admitted he may not have done England a favour by telling officials Hughes was ready for the senior state side.
"I was asked if I thought he was good enough to play for New South Wales' first team. The answer had to be yes," Thorpe recalled.
"It was obvious he was tough enough to handle higher honours, he had a great hand-eye co-ordination and was what I call a big hitter of the ball."
"I saw him bat a lot and it was apparent pretty soon he had what it took to be a very good player, although I didn't think he would progress quite as quickly as he has."
Hughes made centuries in both innings of just his second Test earlier this year in South Africa and his unorthodox technique allied to a rapid run-rate has left many observers pondering the best way to get him out.
"England will have to bowl smart against him," Thorpe said. "But any player who is able to score runs quickly, if you can keep him quiet you'll get him to play a rash shot."
"That's the sort of thing that the England bowlers need to do. They need to keep it really simple. Bowl as straight as you can."
Australia whitewashed England 5-0 on home soil in 2006-07. The first Test of this year's Ashes gets underway in Cardiff on July 8.