Adam Voges already has much reason to thank English cricket as he seeks to make up for lost time in this summer’s Ashes.
The veteran batsman is just two matches into his Test career, at the age of 35, despite more than 11,000 first-class runs on his CV. Many of those were made in spells at Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, and the Western Australian is convinced he owes his elevation in part at least to the improvements he made in this country.
It was only after a prolific winter back home that Voges at last broke into the Test team – and promptly marked the occasion with a man-of-the-match hundred on his debut in last month’s victory over the West Indies in Dominica.
Before this year, he admits it was hard for him to retain his belief that he would eventually play in an Ashes series.
“At this stage of my career, probably not,” he said. “I’ve had to wait a long time to get this opportunity.”
He is hoping to cash in belatedly, in a series set to start tomorrow, and is confident that extra grounding in England has been a big help.
“I’ve got no doubt county cricket has made me a better player,” he added.
“I think having to deal with different conditions, a different ball, different type of bowling has – over the years – improved my defensive technique. I’ve had five seasons at Notts and a couple of seasons at Middlesex – who looked after me fantastically well – and I thoroughly enjoyed my time here. It has helped me become a better cricketer.”
The problem for Voges was that for so long there was simply no vacancy in the Australia middle order.
Asked why it took so long for him to find a way in, he said: “If I had the answer to that, I’d have been here ten years ago. The Australian team is a tough one to get into.
“I had to consistently make runs at first-class level and until the last two or three years, I wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked to have been. I probably didn’t demand a spot until the last couple of years. It has taken me a bit longer to work it out than the other guys maybe, but I’m glad to be here now.”
Voges joins a squad described recently by former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie as a “Dad’s Army”.
“Yes… we are,” he said. “There’s no point tip-toeing around it. We’ve got a number of guys who are over 30.
“That does bring experience but I think, in today’s game, we are a lot stronger, a lot fitter.
“Physically, we are a little bit older, but I can’t see that being an issue throughout the series.
“We train incredibly hard and we are all fit guys. If we didn’t think we could get through five Tests, we wouldn’t be here.”
England paceman James Anderson believes Ryan Harris’s career-ending injury means Australia will pose a reduced threat in this summer’s Investec Ashes.
Harris had to bow out before the start of the headline series in Cardiff tomorrow, having suffered a serious recurrence of the knee problems which restricted him to just 27 Tests – including 12 against England, in which he took more than half of his 113 wickets.
Anderson said: “Obviously it’s less threat. He’s been a fantastic bowler throughout his career. It’s very sad to see a fellow bowler being forced into retirement.”
Anderson, who turns 33 at the end of this month, is back for his sixth Ashes as England seek to soothe memories of their 5-0 whitewash defeat at their last attempt two winters ago.
He is keen to improve personally, as well as helping the team to a better result.
He said: “You always try to improve on your past performances, constantly.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, fine-tune and come up with plans for their batsmen as well.
“You always try to outdo your previous performances – so that’s what I’ll hope to do.”