So it’s less than a week to go now before the start of one of the biggest sporting events in the world. Up there with the World Cup, Olympics, Tour de France and the Superbowl, it’s the Ashes. Cricket fans are really in for a treat this year because this is just the first of back-to-back Ashes series.
Obviously England will be going into the first as hot favourites, having won the last two and playing in home conditions, but it won’t be as black and white as everyone think, this is the Aussies after all.
I’ll start with England. Clearly their strength is in their top quality bowling attack, with the pace spearheaded by Jimmy Anderson and Swann as a spinner they are always going to be a threat to any batting line up. Then there is a choice between Broad, Bresnan, Finn and Onions. Obviously Broad will probably play, as he can bat extremely well, but Bresnan is a far more consistent batsman. However they will be picked for their bowling and in a reacent warm up match with Finn, Bresnan and Onions, Onions was the stand out bowler. I feel he’s been a bit overlooked in favour of consistent selections, but this performance may just swing it back in his favour. Obviously Finn offers something different with his extra height and pace, so I think they’ll go with Broad and Finn. Whatever the pick it’ll be a very strong bowling attack with strength in depth incase there’s any injuries.
England’s batting is fairly more straightforward. It looks like the selectors are going with Cook and Root to open the batting, with Compton being dropped. Personally I think this is the right call because, apart from two centuries on the flattest of flat pitches, Compton has really struggle, and because he’s not young he doesn’t have the long term prospects Root does. This also allows Bairstow to continue at number 6 where he played some very good innings and showed off his power hitting, as well as a determination to dig in when needed, in the recent New Zealand series. Obviously the rest of the line up will be; Trott at three, KP at four and Bell at five, with Prior keeping and batting seven. The return of KP adds a lot more depth and allows Bell to move back down to five where he has excelled for England. Furthermore with the likes of Broad, Bresnan, Swann and Finn all having test match 50s to their name there really is batting most of the way down the order, and this should put England in a very strong position.
By comparison Australia are a mess. They do posses a very potent pace attack of Starc, Pattinson and Siddle and Watson normally contributes well. Although the left arm bowler Starc could help England by creating rough for Swann to bowl at. And the Aussies will struggle to exploit this themselves because they are really lacking in terms of spin options. The problem is they never replace Warne, one of the all time greats, and are now left with Lyon, or the part timer Smith, as their only options. This means that the Aussie attack is very one-dimensional and could struggle to hurt England’s batting line up as the ball gets older.
And then we turn to the Aussies batting and it gets really bad. Apart from the skipper, Clark, they really aren’t that good. Watson and Warner can both be good, although I feel both are more suited to the one-day game and will struggle to bat for long periods. It’s made even harder for them with Warner in trouble for his fight with Joe Root (which is surely child abuse, he looks about 7), and we’re unsure about if he’ll play. England really should have far too much quality for the Aussie batsmen, and they’ll really struggle. A final nail in the coffin, the Aussie changed their coach sixteen days, SIXTEEN DAYS, before the Ashes are due to start. That just shows what a shambles they are, that’s hardly the best preparation is it. And it’s this kind of thing that’s really hurting this young team and stopping them from developing.
Looking at the grounds, Lords will be interesting if we get another pitch like that in the New Zealand test match, which was just a bowler’s paradise. I could see the Aussie nicking a win on a ground like that. I’ve got no idea what Chest-le-Street will play like as there hasn’t been a test match there since 2009, so I’m not even going to try and predict that one. Trent Bridge, Old Trafford and the Oval will all probably have enough for the batsman that England should be able to win most of those matches. Obviously I’d love a whitewash, but I don’t think it’ll be the straightforward win that some people think it will be, as I’ve said these are the Aussies after all, but I think England will come out on top with a 2-1 or 3-1 series win.