Aussie invasion in bid to end UK Ashes curse
NATHAN Lyon is set to head up an army of baggy green stars going behind enemy lines this winter, as Australia prepares to crack its Ashes curse in Britain once and for all.
Australia might have conquered England convincingly at home this summer, but they have not tasted Ashes glory in the old dart since way back in 2001, an agonising drought that stretches even longer than its failings in India.
In that period, batsmen have struggled to play the moving ball to the extreme of the 60 all out at Trent Bridge in 2015 and bowlers have often missed their lengths.
However, in a massive power play, a six-man core of the current Test side is set to infiltrate English county cricket this year ahead of the mission to retain the urn in 2019.
Mitchell Marsh has knocked back Indian Premier League riches to play for London-based county side Surrey, while his brother Shaun, will spend a season in Cardiff for Glamorgan.
Top order players of the future Cameron Bancroft, Peter Handscomb and Matthew Renshaw are all preparing to fine-tune their games on seaming decks, while spin king Lyon is expected to ink a county deal of his own and perfect is his game in English conditions as he has already done in the subcontinent.
Visa restrictions have made county contracts harder to come by for Australian players in recent years, but this year's enormous intake of current Test stars is a flashback to years gone by when Allan Border and the Waugh brothers honed their Ashes games season after season for teams across the UK.
Other Australian top-line stars including Joe Burns are also in the market for county contracts, with players personally motivated to prove themselves in England and in turn break 18 years of misery against the old enemy.
All-rounder Marsh didn't realise he'd be back in the Australian set-up so soon when he signed with Surrey, but he is refusing to bend on his commitment to his 2019 Ashes preparation, despite the million-dollar riches offered by the IPL auction later this month.
"I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to play 14 red-ball games over there," said Marsh.
"I want to try and improve and looking forward we have a lot of cricket coming up in England over the next few years and I want to give myself the best opportunity to be over there and to get used to the conditions.
"I certainly understood that when we went there for the Ashes a couple of years ago, playing in their conditions for a whole summer … that I'll get flat wickets, I'll get wickets that seam and swing and hopefully I'll be able to come up with a game plan to deal with that.
"I spoke to Boof (coach, Darren Lehmann) and Justin Langer about it and obviously my old man (Geoff), and they all said it was a good idea. But ultimately the decision was mine."
Australia's current drought in the UK is in stark contrast with the golden run from Border's 1989 side to Steve Waugh's 2001 team who were never headed in England.
It's no coincidence that Border and Waugh and many other Australians, including Matthew Hayden, had regular stints in English county cricket.
Two weeks ago after the Ashes were lost in Perth, England coach Trevor Bayliss made a point of saying how he wished he could get his players into the Sheffield Shield system in Australia.
Former Test great Ryan Harris, said England wouldn't be entirely happy about the class heading to the UK in the winter, but that it looms as an enormous boost for Australia.
"England are probably thinking, 'why are we giving these guys a chance when they come over to play and why are we helping them get better in our conditions when we know they're not that great at them'", said Harris.
"I reckon it's great. It's forward thinking and they'll get some really good experience in those conditions.
"We haven't won over there obviously for a long time and they (these players) want to be a part of it.
"The conditions are just so different as we've seen with England coming here. You can train so much in them and play practice matches, but the practice matches you play to an extent are almost a waste of time and are never a true indication of what you're going to play on.
"Knowing the (next Ashes) is coming up, we want to make sure. There's no better way than to get over and actually do it."