Cricket

Ashes 2013-14: England prepare to touchdown in Australia

Move along, nothing dour to see here. (©GettyImages)
Move along, nothing dour to see here. (©GettyImages).

With the England team arriving in Australia on Friday, can Alastair Cook's men keep the momentum going with another comfortable win over their Australian counterparts?

This series has already seen the tension being built up and up by both sides of the proverbial equation and whoever wins this particular series may just have even more bragging rights than we've seen in a while.

What with Darren Lehmann telling BBC Radio 5 live that England play "dour" cricket and Jonathan Trott pointing out to the Australian coach via BBC Sport that he'd rather win the Ashes 3-0 than lose with style, relations between the two cricketing nations have been better.

And after Ian Botham told Radio 5 live that England can win the series 5-0 (he's made a habit of making such predictions recently), I want to look at whether England really are as strong as the 3-0 scoreline suggested in the summer.

It pains me to say it, but England were not very impressive in the last Ashes series. Fortunately, Australia were even worse but if England come up against the likes of India and South Africa and play like that the boot will very much be on the other foot.

England's squad undoubtedly had much more talent and depth than that of the Australians, but they didn't get close to utilising their squad like the Aussies did. Although they did end up winning 3-0, England were lucky that the series wasn't a lot closer.

People say that were it not for a few poor umpiring decisions Australia would've won the first test, but I think that England were the dominant side and deserved to win. The second test was the only time England played to their true potential. In the third test England would've lost quite badly were it not for rain and in the fourth test England could've very easily lost had Stuart Broad not produced one of the most devastating spells in his career.

It's hard to say what would've happened in the fifth test had things gone Australia's way in the third and fourth tests (and maybe even the first).

Since Australia are playing in front of a home crowd and Darren Lehmann has now had time to prepare his squad properly, England will have to raise their game if they are to win this series as easily as they did over the summer.

One reason why England didn't producer their best was that Australia sussed out Cook and Trott brilliantly. The two of them utterly destroyed Australia's bowlers throughout the 2010-11 Ashes series and naturally the Aussies were wary of them. However, in this last Ashes series Australia changed their line and length to the two of them with very successful results.

If Australia are able to keep those two quiet (along with the rest of the top six) things will be very close indeed. But on the much harder and bouncier Australian pitches Cook will be more in his element as more deliveries will be easier to play off the back foot. Trott just needs to learn to adapt to whatever they throw at him if he is to regain the success of 2010-11.

If Australia are to get their own back on England they will have to find a way to silence Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. That particular deadly duo were the only reason England were able to consistently put more runs on the board than Australia. When those two are on form there is very little you can do to stop them, but Australia must look to put them under pressure from the off so that they can stop them from getting into a rhythm.

If England are going to keep their momentum going they have to make sure that the players who had success over the summer (Bell, Pietersen, Swann and Anderson were the most successful) keep doing what they were doing and try to drag those who were struggling (Root, Cook, Trott, Bairstow, Prior and Finn) back to their normal high standards.

Certainly for predominantly back-foot players like Pietersen and Cook the pitches of Australia will be right up their street and for the likes of Finn and Tremlett the pitches could really help them both get their wicket-taking back on track.

Certainly, if England are going to live up to Sir Ian Botham's expectations of a 5-0 win they must do more than just turn up on the day: they have to fire on all cylinders from the word go.  

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Topics:
Jonathan Trott
The Ashes
Cricket
Ian Bell

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