On Wednesday July 8, the battle for the Ashes will begin in Cardiff. On current Test match form, nobody really gives England much chance of regaining the little urn.
Having drawn their last two test match series, away in the West Indies and at home to New Zealand, England will face an Australian team who have recently battered the West Indies in the Caribbean and prior to that series, beat India at home during the winter, and of course they have recently won the cricket World Cup in their own backyard.
The Aussies in a buoyant mood, and as all English cricket supporters know, when they are in this sort of mood they are a very hard team to handle. Compare their situation to that of the current English test team and we are a million miles apart and have some serious ground to make up in the next couple of weeks.
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They have a settled side with a coach they totally believe in, and we have a side with a new coach taking over the reins at the start of the series, and a team that is not in the best of form and somewhat unsettled to say the least. However, a big factor in England's favour should be their success in the recent one-day series against New Zealand.
It would be nice to think that the test match squad will have been re-energised by the one-day teams success and are able to take that form and feeling into the Ashes series. That is the big question.
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A lot will depend on how the key men who haven't played in this ODI series - the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Alastair Cook - return to camp. It's important that stand-in head coach Paul Farbrace continues to have an influence. He will be replaced as head coach by Trevor Bayliss for the Ashes, but he has done a brilliant job in his interim reign and has worked well with Bayliss in the past when they were in charge of Sri Lanka together.
There has to be changes in the side for the upcoming series as the likes of Ian Bell, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad and Moeen Ali have not been that successful in recent test matches and we need to have a balanced side in place to take on the Aussies.
In making changes, the selectors need to be bold and include young vibrant players in the squad who are ready to make the step into the international arena without fear of failure, much like the players have done in the recent ODI series. We need to play bold, aggressive in your face cricket against the Aussies and give as good as we get because that's how they will play against us. No quarter asked, none given.
Another factor that could be in England's favour, is the current age of a number of the Australian squad. Former Australian pace bowler Jason Gillespie has labeled the current Aussie squad as a Dad's Army, and believes that England could surprise them in the series. There are at least five players in the Australian team who are over 34-years-old and although experience is useful age can catch up with you in the heat of battle.
The first match in Cardiff is very important. England can't afford lose that first Test. They will have to play at the top of their game to beat Australia, but I don't think anyone would write them off.
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