Swann is set to put Australia to flight – Appleyard

NOT many Englishmen know what it takes to win a Test series in Australia. Bob Appleyard, though, is one of the few.

The former Yorkshire seam and spin bowler was a member of Len Hutton's victorious tour in 1954-55.

He played in the last four Tests of the series as England recovered from going 1-0 down to win 3-1.

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It was the first time England had won a series Down Under since the Bodyline tour 22 years earlier, and remains one of only four post-War England Ashes victories in Australia.

Ray Illingworth's side won 2-0 in 1970-71, Mike Brearley's team 5-1 in 1978-79 (when the Australians were decimated by the Kerry Packer World Series) and Mike Gatting's men 2-1 in 1986-87.

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But like the 2005 Ashes triumph under Michael Vaughan, which represented the first time England had beaten Australia home or away since the Gatting tour, the 1954-55 success was extra special as it broke such a long sequence of Australian dominance on their home soil.

Another man hoping to mastermind an England Ashes win in Australia for the first time in over two decades is Andrew Strauss, whose side go into the forthcoming rubber with high expectations.

Not only are England the current Ashes holders (as Hutton's side were in 1954-55, following their 1-0 home victory in Coronation year), but Australia are no longer the force of recent decades.

The team that thrashed England 5-0 on the last tour in 2006-07 have been decimated by a raft of retirements, while Australia have slipped below the old enemy in the International Cricket Council world rankings.

Although it will be far from easy for England, who have only 13 times won the Ashes in Australia since its inception in 1882, Appleyard is among those who believe they have an excellent chance of retaining the urn.

"We've got a better chance this time for the simple reason Australia are not so strong," said Appleyard, who is still going strong himself at the age of 86.

"If you took the best 10 bowlers of any era in Australian cricket, you'd probably have to put in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, and they've lost those two now so that's left a massive hole.

"Australia just don't seem to have the wicket-takers anymore. There's certainly no-one who can go through a side like McGrath and Warne, while Brett Lee is another quality pace bowler who's missing.

"Beyond that, Australia no longer have Adam Gilchrist.

"I was in Australia for the last Ashes tour and saw Gilchrist almost make the fastest Test hundred of all time.

"It was an absolutely brilliant innings. He smashed it all around the ground and you have to ask yourself how many wicketkeepers have been as good as him with the bat?

"I always liked Gilchrist – he wasn't a sledger like some of them nowadays and he always walked when he was out. You can't replace a player like that.

"Australia are a much-weakened team from four years ago and in a state of rebuilding, so I certainly think we've got a chance of retaining the Ashes."

Appleyard said it was difficult to put one's finger on what it takes to win in Australia – beyond the obvious requirements of batting, bowling and fielding well.

He certainly does not believe there is any magic formula.

"The bottom line is it isn't easy to win over there," he said. "The records tell their own story, and Australia are always very difficult to beat in their own country.

"There are so many different factors you have to take into consideration – pitch conditions, the weather, and all that type of thing, but you have to play well: simple as that.

"If you don't, Australia is the sort of place where you get found out."

The success of Hutton's side was founded on the pace bowling strength supplied by Frank 'Typhoon' Tyson and Brian Statham.

Tyson was a revelation, taking 28 wickets, while Lancashire's Statham played a vital supporting role as Hutton chose to attack with pace.

"Len always believed that quick bowlers won matches in Australia," said Appleyard.

"His plan during that series was basically to unleash the quick bowlers against the new batsmen and then, when the quick bowlers got tired, to use the likes of Trevor Bailey, Johnny Wardle and myself as supporting bowlers.

"If myself, Trevor or Johnny got a wicket, Len invariably took us off and put the fast bowlers on.

"He believed the best way to get a new batsman out was to attack him with pace as soon as he emerged from the dressing room into the bright light."

There was no suggestion of the glory to come when the series got off to a disastrous start for Hutton's team.

Hutton put the Australians in to bat during the first Test in Brisbane and then watched aghast as they racked up 601-8 declared en route to an innings victory.

Tyson returned figures of 1-160 from 29 overs as it seemed the decision to leave Yorkshire's Fred Trueman at home would backfire on the selectors.

But Tyson spared their blushes with splendid performances in the second and third Tests as England recovered to get their noses in front.

Appleyard, who did not play at Brisbane and was never on the losing side in any of his nine Test matches, said Hutton deserved credit for the skilful way he captained the side.

"I think Len's leadership had a lot to do with us winning that series," added Appleyard, who captured 708 first-class wickets at the remarkable average of 15.48.

"He conducted the game very well – his bowling changes and field placings were very good – and he led the side well in all respects. As it turned out, the decision to pick Frank Tyson was inspired. Frank bowled better than anyone could have expected and he received terrific support from Brian Statham."

This time, England's bowling hopes rest not so much with pace but with off-spinner Graeme Swann.

The Nottinghamshire man is the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket this year but off-spinners have traditionally found the going tough Down Under, with Swann now facing a key test of his credentials.

Appleyard believes Swann will need to adjust his game if he is to prosper in Australian conditions.

"I think he might have to change his style a little bit," he said.

"He might need to flight the ball a little more than he does normally and change his pace accordingly.

"I certainly think Swann has got a big part to play; even if he's not taking wickets, he can keep the runs down and prevent the Australians from scoring.

"I've been very impressed with him and I think he's matured into a first-class bowler in the last couple of years."

There was nowhere near the same hype when Hutton's men set sail for the Antipodes 56 years ago.

Saturation media coverage was some way away, and Appleyard said the side felt no added pressure of trying to follow in the footsteps of Douglas Jardine's successful team of 1932-33.

"Although England had gone 22 years since beating Australia in Australia, I can't say any of the players were particularly conscious of that fact," said Appleyard.

"All we were concerned about was doing the job to the best of our ability; there wasn't the same sort of media focus you find nowadays, while the game itself has changed in so many ways since the 1950s."