x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

England squad visit war graves for inspiration

The England team paid a two-day visit to Flanders Field in Belgium, scene of one of the First World War's most bloody battles, as part of their preparations for the Ashes.

The England team paid a two-day visit to Flanders Field in Belgium, scene of one of the First World War's most bloody battles, as part of their preparations for the Ashes series against Australia. The trip appeared to have the hallmarks of John Buchanan, the England and Wales Cricket Board's new coaching consultant, and coincided with the Armed Forces Day on Saturday. As the Australia coach Buchanan organised squad trips to First World War battlefields at Gallipoli in 2001 and the Somme in 2005 ahead of previous Ashes series in England. The 16-strong Ashes squad and management team visited war graves, laid wreaths at the Menin Gate in Ypres and took part in a memorial service to commemorate those servicemen who lost their lives in World War One.

As part of the service, England fast bowler Stuart Broad laid a specially-made stone cricket ball at the graveside of the former Kent and England spinner Colin Blythe, who died at the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. The two-day visit concluded with players seeing trenches preserved from the First World War before they took part in a team meeting to discuss tactics and strategy ahead of the Ashes.

"It's important to take a step back from cricket at times and this visit was a deeply moving and humbling experience for all of the players and management," said the England captain Andrew Strauss in a statement. The coach Andy Flower added: "This visit was part of ongoing efforts designed to broaden horizons and learn more about the role of leadership and team ethics. Everyone came away from the visit with a greater understanding of what it really means to stand shoulder to shoulder and fight for your country.

"We hope it will help strengthen our own bonds within the team as we prepare for what should be an exciting Ashes series." * AFP