There will be a hint of Fawlty Towers in England's approach to the second Test against New Zealand this week, with Andy Flower adopting the role of John Cleese to insist that his players do not mention the Ashes.
But Nick Compton and Jonny Bairstow, the two batsmen battling for one place in the series that must not be mentioned – assuming Kevin Pietersen is fit – can expect plenty of reminders when they come to the crease at Headingley.
Neither managed a half century in the first Test at Lord's, with Compton not even making 20. "We can thrive on that and try to put a bit of pressure on," said Neil Wagner, New Zealand's combative Pretoria‑born seamer in a highly entertaining press conference.
"Bairstow does have a bit of that at the moment. Compton is looking to find his feet a bit, he played a rash shot in the first innings out of nowhere, just tried to run down the wicket and charge one. Then he didn't score in the second innings. We'll try to put the squeeze on them and not give them anything."
Wagner was also delighted to confirm that would include some verbals. "We do tend to do that, but you've got to be careful," he said. "With Compton, when we tried to get under his skin a bit he played quite well and ended up scoring a hundred in Wellington. Some players thrive on something like that, others tend to be more nervous. There's a fine line. We'll have to see what comes up."
Bairstow and Joe Root will each be making a first international appearance on home territory, the first time England have gone into a Leeds Test with two Yorkshire players in the team since 2004, also against New Zealand – when Michael Vaughan led a side including Matthew Hoggard to a nine‑wicket win.
They seem unlikely to be joined by a third Tyke, however, with Steve Finn expected to retain his place ahead of Tim Bresnan – denying Yorkshire their greatest representation in a Headingley Test since Vaughan played alongside Craig White and Darren Gough against West Indies in 2000.
Root recalled watching Sachin Tendulkar on his way to 193 to set up an innings victory for India at Headingley as an 11-year-old in 2002, shortly after he had first made the journey north from Sheffield for county nets. "Since then it's been quite a special place," he said. "So to get the opportunity to play here in an international game is very exciting. I just want to keep living my dream really and making the most of it."
He made 236 in his last innings at the ground, against Derbyshire in the County Championship last month, and shared a fifth-wicket stand of 231 with Bairstow, who went on to 186. That suggests much friendlier batting conditions than those at Lord's last week.
Root also appeared to confirm reports that Flower has threatened to take disciplinary action against any player who refers unnecessarily to the Ashes before July. "Yeah, we've got a massive focus on this game and we've got to make sure that we prepare well for this and only worry about this," he said slightly sheepishly when asked about the gagging order. "There's a hell of a lot of cricket before that [the Ashes]."
Australia have taken a very different approach, holding a press conference in a hangar at Sydney airport ahead of their departure for England this weekend, with the Ashes dominating conversation, even though they will first face England in the Champions Trophy.
The captain Michael Clarke delivered confident reports of his own fitness and that of Ryan Harris – the seamer who left the Indian Premier League early because of an achilles problem – and another of their fast bowlers, James Pattinson. He also happily discussed Compton's technical flaws, and Alastair Cook's recent dismissals by left-arm bowlers.
Clarke even remained relaxed about his players' use of social media after the opening batsman David Warner was fined £3,600 for verbally abusing two journalists on Twitter over the weekend.
Back at Headingley, New Zealand confirmed that Brendon McCullum will be wicketkeeper as well as captain after BJ Watling was ruled out by the knee injury he suffered at Lord's.
Martin Guptill will take Watling's place in the middle order, and the veteran spinner Daniel Vettori is expected to replace Bruce Martin to make his first appearance in a first-class match since last July – although he will have a final assessment on Thursday.
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