Hot reception awaits Aussies at ‘Fortress Edgbaston’
IT is what it is.
That's the five-word mantra underpinning Australia's public attitude to what's about to smack Steve Smith and David Warner, and probably Cameron Bancroft too, right in the face from the ammunition-filled, target-loving English crowds during the Ashes.
Smith and Warner have been the two most uttered names in the build-up to the first Test.
Banned for a year, banned from all leadership roles too for their part as leaders in, and organisers of last year's ball-tampering scandal, the pair are back under their baggy green caps this week for the first time since it all went down.
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Where else but England for those first Test steps.
Every time an Australian player, or coach, has been put in front of a microphone since arriving in June for the World Cup, it has comes up.
Are they ready for the boos? How will they handle it? Do you talk to them about it?
Smith and Warner have played 138 Tests between them, they have scored 12,562 runs. They've been through a lot. They got through the World Cup, too.
They have never been through this before though.
It will be 25 days, should all the matches go the distance, of not just booing.
The Barmy Army has them in their sights. They've got nine songs planned, at least, to sing all day, every day.
Former Aussie bowler Mitchell Johnson copped it relentlessly in 2011. They sang and they sang, about him, his family, his mum. He conceded it got to him.
The locals call the Birmingham ground "Fortress Edgbaston". The Hollies Stand is the most raucous in English cricket.
They will be going off from ball one, especially if Warner and Cameron Bancroft walk out to bat together.
"Something about the crowd here they do just love a big game," England captain Joe Root said.
"That Hollies Stand gets very rowdy at times and I'm sure will have some sort of an input into the game over the five days."
Despite all that, all that fervor, all that expectation about what might come, the theme emanating from the Australian camp, a deliberate one, is of calm.
Or it could be just a brave front.
"It is what it is," Aussie coach Justin Langer said, not once, but numerous times.
"They'll be prepared. It will be new for Cameron. But it is what it is, there's nothing we can do about it. I thought the boys were brilliant during the World Cup, they handled it with dignity, kept smiling their way through it and played really well."
"It's 100 per cent out of our control. There's nothing we can do about it. That's OK."
Steve Waugh has been an English enemy, too. Called "ruthless" when he was Test captain, chided for his work in the area of mental disintegration, he knows all about trying to get under someone's skin.
He didn't quite say "it is what it is", but it's what he thinks.
"I think they're prepared but you are never quite sure what's going to happen. There will be a small element that's going to make it tough for our guys but that's professional sport. But that's water off a duck's back that sort of stuff,' he said.
"They're ready for it and they've experienced it before. Their main focus is playing well. And once you go out in the middle, you are cocooned from all that sort of noise and that atmosphere. You are aware of it but you're not focusing on it."
Travis Head is the vice-captain instead of Warner. He's never played in a Test team with the pair, but said when they made runs, which they are determined to do, the crowd might not have too much to work with anyway.
"I think if we play really good cricket, I think we can keep them as quiet as possible. But again, it is what it is,' he said, repeating the mantra.
That's the other thing, too. For Australia, it's not all about Smith and Warner, and certainly not about their Test "redemption" as the locals like to see it.
There's something much bigger at stake.
"There's a lot of attention on Davie and Steve," Langer said.
"But Australians like to win. We like to beat England. I don't think it's got anything to do with redemption.
"They are just happy to be playing, and want to beat England. They want to beat us, too.
"That's why the Ashes is so great."