Birmingham, Jul 31: England all-rounder Ben Stokes said he was surprised by the 'nice-guy' image of the Australian side, and expects both the teams to show their "real competitive side" once the Ashes rivalry gets under way at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Ever since the Cape Town Test, under the new leadership of Tim Paine and Aaron Finch, Australia have worked hard – in their head coach Justin Langer's words – on being "more humble". "We got to work hard on being more humble in what we do and being focused on playing good cricket," Langer had said earlier this month.
"But also being good people as well. I know there are some English people who will laugh at that, but it's true. We had to work hard on that."Stokes is one of the English people surprised by this version of the Australians. "It is weird, Aussies trying to be nice to you," Stokes said ahead of the first Ashes Test. "I think once you get out in the middle and cross the white line, the real competitive side of both teams will come out and Ashes are the biggest Test series played in the world."
"There is always something that happens between teams in Ashes series and I don’t think this will be any different," he continued. "Both teams are desperate to win, both sets of players are desperate to perform because Ashes series are where you get scrutinised and criticised more, or praised if you do well."
Stokes believes the first morning of the Test is going to be crucial. "I think that first morning of any series is when you want to stamp your authority as a team with bat and ball. Getting off to a good start can make it flow throughout the series."
"You want to be the team on top and win that first day because hopefully, that can carry on into the next four. If you go 1-0 down in a series it can be hard to come back from so you want to start very well," he said.
Australia opener David Warner is one batsman England will want to get rid of early in the innings. "He is a player who can take games away from you," Stokes acknowledged. "He is a phenomenal batsman and very dangerous opener. So to tie him down and not let him establish his authority against us would be a really big plus."
Stokes, who missed out on the last Ashes series in Australia, which England lost 4-0, said his side "desperately" want to get the urn back, "because it’s not good them (Australia) having it".
"We don’t want to give anything away to any of their batsmen," he insisted. "We want to let them know we are here to be serious and everyone in the changing room is desperately trying to get that urn back because it’s not good them having it."
The 28-year-old has also been reinstated as his side's vice-captain, and he's ready to do all he can to help his skipper, Joe Root "What I’ve always tried to do is in the past is to take all the little pressures off Joe’s shoulders," he said. "He’s captain and all the pressures he has are ginormous. In an Ashes series that goes up 50%. There are other little things that can affect a captain mentally, so it’s a case of anything I can do to help him." (UNI)