The tourists have endured a torrid week, losing the first Ashes Test with a day to spare before seeing Jonathan Trott head for home citing a stress-related illness.
With the second Test in Adelaide a week away England are on their knees, with the 3-0 destruction of the Aussies in the summer series now a distant memory.
Australia are buoyant, but Yorkshire’s first-team coach Gillespie – who tormented England many a time with his quick delivery and quick tongue – is wary of a backlash.
“England are no strangers to being adrift in a Test series, they were 1-0 down in India last winter and won 2-1,” said Gillespie.
“Only a fool would write them off, they’re a very good side.
“They have a real team feel, they’re very open and honest and that really stands out.
“Australia will realise this, they’re not sloppy. They know they’re in for a heck of a fight this summer.
“They can be optimistic after winning the first Test after what had been a difficult summer for them here in England.”
As England made their way towards Adelaide for the start of the second Test and Yorkshire’s Tim Bresnan marked his arrival Down Under with a useful half-century for the performance squad, the debate about sledging continued to dominate the agenda.
Michael Clarke has been fined for his advice to tailender James Anderson to “get ready to have your ****ing arm broken”, when facing Mitchell Johnson, while Anderson himself appears to have got away with similar words for George Bailey.
David Warner’s public criticism of Trott, whose batsmanship he described as “poor” and “weak”, has escaped censure but are the words that have most irked England, given Trott’s subsequent departure.
“Sledging should be left on the pitch,” continued Gillespie.
“I’m not sure broadcasters should have stump mics open when there’s going to be an exchange, the public doesn’t need to hear that.
“Knowing David Warner, he was just looking to highlight the fact that Australia had found a chink in England’s armour and he was looking to exploit that.
“There was no malice intended. He probably wishes he could take back what he said, but it should be left on the pitch.”
England coach Andy Flower has been at pains to rule out any direct cause and effect between Warner’s remarks and Trott’s exit,
Stuart Broad, however, has returned to the theme of England’s disquiet – insisting that “mistakes have been made” off the field in this nascent Ashes series.
“I think the on-field stuff has been fine,” he said, reflecting on the controversies amid England’s unexpected 381-run trouncing.
“You’re playing in an Ashes Test match – you expect it to be tough.
“I grew up hearing all sorts of stories about ‘sledging’, and on the field I don’t think a line’s been crossed.
“It’s been tough, (but) we’re grown up; we train ourselves to expect that.”
Broad was careful yesterday not to mention Warner by name, but there was no doubt about his reference point.
“Off the field, there have been some mistakes made,” said Broad, who took eight Australian wickets in the opening Test.
“As an England side, we pride ourselves on how we conduct ourselves when talking about the opposition, because you never know what’s going on in their changing rooms and lives.”
Across the divide, Mitchell Johnson is unrepentant about Australia’s hard-nosed tactics, and has spoken up for captain Michael Clarke over his behaviour in the first Test. Johnson took nine wickets during the match and is determined to stick with Australia’s recipe for success.
“I think it’s worked for us. I definitely think they’re rattled by it,” he said.
“They don’t like it at all.
“Obviously their coach has come out and wanted a truce from what I’ve heard.
“That’s not going to change from our end.”
Johnson does not think the level of ‘sledging’ was extreme in the first Test, and believes Clarke was entirely in order to engage with Anderson as he did.
“It was pretty quiet the whole match until close to the end,” he added.
“We know there is definitely tension there – there always has been.
“I thought it was really good what Michael did, as a captain.
“That’s what you want your captain to do – stand up for the players – and that’s what he did.
“It just happened to be that the stump mic was up at that time.
“It’s nothing unusual, but I was really happy with how he stood up for the team.”
Bresnan returned to action with an unbeaten 57 on his comeback after a stress fracture of the back.
Playing for England’s performance programme against Queensland 2nd XI in Brisbane, it is the report on the Yorkshireman’s bowling that will be most keenly awaited by Flower and the England selectors.
It is hoped that the 28-year-old can prove his fitness in the four-day match, which got under way yesterday, and therefore be added to the full squad and be available for selection as a third seamer in the second Test.
England’s match against a CA Chairman’s XI begins tonight in Alice Springs.