Stuart Broad has suggested England's freshness could stand them in good stead for their attempts to regain the Ashes. The final day of their intra-squad warm-up in Brisbane became more of a practice session for the batters, but with both England and Australia experiencing disjointed preparations for next week's first Test at the Gabba, Broad said the mental battle would carry greater significance.
"Mistakes will be made by both sides but whoever can capitalise and grab the key moments next week, will come out on top," he said.
As on day three at Ian Healy Oval, Ben Stokes was in the thick of the action, making 42 before retiring not out. Rory Burns also enjoyed some time in the middle in compiling 37, but there were single-figure scores for Joe Root, Dawid Malan and Haseeb Hameed, while Jonny Bairstow batted twice for 0 and 11.
Broad had sent down 11 overs on Thursday, his first gallop since suffering a calf injury in August, as England's frontline bowlers were given a workout by the Lions. That followed four straight rained-off days of cricket - England's first warm-up game last week saw only 29 overs bowled - with Australia also deciding to cancel a planned intra-squad game because of the weather.
"I don't think any cricketer leading into Wednesday can say they will be fully ready physically, but you can be 100% switched on mentally, and every player in that 22 is going to be finding their way into that game," Broad told reporters in Brisbane. "And that's where you've got to fall back on previous experiences that you've had. That's where the mental side of the game is going to be so strong come Wednesday.
"We know Test cricket is a mind game, we know 80% of that's going to be getting the brain right, making sure our competitive juices are flowing and making sure that we're switched on to what's coming, but we just needed that extra bit of physical work to make sure that we will be ready."
Broad will be taking part in his fourth Ashes tour, though success has been fleeting - he was involved in two Tests during the victorious 2010-11 series before being ruled out by injury, and couldn't prevent a 5-0 whitewash in 2013-14 despite taking 21 wickets at 27.52.
He was happy just to have got "some miles in the legs" ahead of the Gabba opener, with England's analysis suggesting that Australia, where conditions are often suited for batting and the Kookaburra is less responsive, is one of the most demanding places to bowl. England's pack of seamers includes two aged 35-plus, in Broad and James Anderson, alongside Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Craig Overton, as well as allrounder Stokes, meaning rotation is likely.
"It's my first bowl in the middle since early August, which is a long time but we've got a recovery strategy in place that we've talked about in quarantine and how we're going to approach it," Broad said. "The backroom staff have done some great numbers on bowling in Australia, it's quite obvious that it's the hardest place physically to come and bowl.
"Your workloads go up, the hardness of the ground puts more through your body, you need more energy levels, and you travel more distance, so I've got a lot of respect for what the Aussie bowlers have done here for their careers. But we know we've got to take our recovery very seriously because the Tests come thick and fast and we might rotate our bowlers through the series, but we need our bowlers available for selection."
England have not won a Test in Australia since sealing the series at the SCG in 2011 - losing nine out of ten in the interim - but with the home side having not played Test cricket since defeat to India in Brisbane in January, Broad said that the lack of preparation on both sides could ultimately work in the tourists' favour.
"We've just been scrambling around to get physical prep right," he said. "So I think getting closer to the game is when we start focusing on where we're going to bowl, what specific plans will be at the Australian team. Normally in an Ashes series leading in you'd probably have had those discussions earlier and build it into your practice, but half the squad in the head coach only got out of quarantine three days ago.
"So it's been a unique start, but I see that as a positive actually. I've been on Ashes tours where we've been extremely well prepped to play three or four first-class games before and we've come out on the losing side. Arguably, we're going to be the freshest England team ever going into an Ashes series. We should have a lot of initial energy, we should have a lot of buzz throughout the next few months. So yeah, I'm sort of seeing that as positive.
"We know that it's the first couple of days at the Gabba that's important and can set up our series. Australia lost their last game at the Gabba, so will that be on their minds? Probably not as it's quite a long time ago. But I think for us it will just be not coming here with too many preconceived ideas about how the pitch will play, how the Aussies will play. It's a bit of a lottery. I don't think anyone knows how batters will settle, having not faced a red ball [in Tests] for 10 months. It's going to be a mental game, and mistakes will be made by both sides, but whoever can capitalise and grab the key moments next week will come out on top."