Paine: ‘This game is like a sixth Ashes Test’
It is not much fun facing Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson or any of our quicks in the nets at the best of time, but there's some extra spice in the contest at the moment and it is not going to get any better come the practice game on Tuesday.
There are 25 of us in Southampton, staying at the hotel in the ground and preparing for the first Test.
On Tuesday we begin a four day match and the results of that will go some way to deciding who makes the squad of 16 for the Ashes series.
The quicks will be bending their backs big time.
It is a great piece of planning by our backroom staff. For years we have had tour games that have petered out and not provided the competition we needed.
Clearly there are spots up for grabs and selection pressure on this game, but the main aim is to have one really competitive hit out before the first Test on August 1 and to ensure that we hit the ground running in that first game.
Justin Langer is really big on fierce competition for spots in the side and I think he is going to get it. He came from a time when brilliant players like Brad Hodge and Martin Love battled to get a place in the Australian team despite scoring lots of runs and we want to get back to the place where you have to bash the door down to get in.
Competitive environments make everybody better.
You know when someone is unlucky not to be in the side that your cricket is in a pretty good place.
We know that you can never replicate the crowd pressure or media scrutiny of an Ashes series, but hopefully with the game set up we can go a long way to replicating the pressure of playing a Test.
We have the best 25 cricket players from Australia in Southampton and we're looking at this as a sixth Test. We'll be emphasising to the players that this is not just a selection trial, but a way of sharpening our skills against each other.
The World Cup players, the Australian A squad and the county players all arrived on Thursday and on Friday we had a team function to name the two teams which are each made up of 12 players.
We did it draft style, a bit like an IPL auction. I was the captain of one and Travis Head captain of the other. It was a fun night and there's already a bit of competition between the two groups.
Graeme Hick will coach one side, Brad Haddin the other and both teams have separate training schedule. JL is going to sit back in a selector like role while his two assistants get full control of the program.
Last year we said that we hoped one of the silver linings that would come out of the difficult circumstances we were in was to have guys come into the Test team and perform in the absence of two senior players. I think that's happened and I'm confident we are in a better position than we were back then.
To have people like Marnus Labuschagne and Matthew Wade out there scoring truck loads of runs creates a really good problem. We have a number of guys with bat and ball creating really healthy competition and good depth which is what any good team needs.
We have a group of 25 who have been performing well and who give us great flexibility in all departments when it comes to picking the group of 16 for the Ashes.