On Wednesday the 8th July, The Ashes commences at the Swalec stadium as Alastiar Cook’s England and Michael Clarke’s Australia go head to head for 25 days of the world’s greatest cricketing contest, all for the honor of lifting that little urn.
It’s sure to be a summer of excitement between the best side in the world and an English team with a vast amount of potential. But what can we really expect from this summer?
The favourites, the Australians, have the stronger of the two sides, are much more experienced and are on the back of yet another convincing series win. More importantly, they haven’t won in England since 2002 and will be chomping at the bit to take the Ashes back down under.
But despite all their recent glory, there will be nerves, they haven’t won here in 13 years, none of their top batsmen other than Watson who averages 46 here have ever really fired on English soil and they will be wary that if Anderson and Broad are at their best, their top order could be found wanting against the swinging Dukes ball.
Regardless Warner, Smith, Rogers, Watson and Clarke are vastly more experienced and better players than they were when they last played here and between them they form a batting line up that should be treated with care.
On the bowling front, their pace attack is outstanding. If Mitchell Starc, who’s one of the lead pace bowlers in the world at the moment gets the ball to swing he could cause some serious problems, if Mitchell Johnson, who tore England apart in the last Ashes finds the same sort of form, the English batsmen will be having many a nightmare.
Then there is Ryan Harris who took 24 wickets at 16 in 2011 in England, if he finds his stride again he could be the most threatening of the lot. That deadly trio is likely to have support from the very impressive Josh Hazelwood and finger spin of Nathan Lyon.
If England are to post grand totals against Australia’s pace attack they must target Nathan Lyon. He is far from a Warne and the best thing England could do to manage this outstanding bowling attack would be to hit Lyon out of it and force Clarke to rotate his top seam bowlers, hopefully tiring them out in the process, allowing Root, Buttler, Stokes and the rest of England’s exciting middle order to take them to the cleaners.
With Lyon turning the ball away from the left-handers and England’s current top three all of the sort, Clarke will bowl him early and he will fancy his chances. As a result we may well see the out of form Balance dropped and Bell promoted leaving a space for another middle order batsmen most likely to be Jonny Bairstow, James Taylor, Eoin Morgan or dare I say it Kevin Pietersen?
It’s a decision that the ECB would never make, it’s a decision far too radical for a conservative board. But just imagine the drama that would go with KP being picked, it would awesome. He’d be shoulder barging Mitchell Johnson, winding up Warner, switch-hitting Lyon for 6.
But this is an English summer, not a summer about KP and for that reason, the ECB and Strauss would never consider a KP comeback. All in all, a great shame really.
The home team has had an indifferent year in test cricket, but way they played against NZ who are now the 3rd best test and one day side in the world, has rekindled the public’s love of and interest in cricket. But can they really repeat that sort of cricket for 25 days against the Australian’s?
Cook has returned to form and it’s vital that he scores runs from the word go, Root is in the form of his life, Anderson had a brilliant series against the New Zealanders and will be the Australian’s biggest fear, we have a rare talent in Josh Buttler, a man the Australians will target, they know if he gets in, he can turn a game and the rest of the side is in good order.
Just like the Aussies, the one thing we are lacking is a world-class spinner and you can be assured that whether it’s Ali, Rashid or Root the Australian’s will try to demolish the spinner just like Watson did to Simon Kerrigan in 2010.
Whatever happens this will be a summer full of entertainment, the Australian’s typically will come at England hard, but this is not a weak English team, this is a team full of talent and no fear.
The defining factor that may swing the series the Australian’s way is that this is also a team of very talented players finding their feet in test cricket whereas these Aussies have been around the block, Graeme Swann described them as ‘Dad’s army’ but realistically that was just a petty blow.
If this series was a year later England would be odds on favorites, however it’s not and due to a slight lack of experience I predict Australia will narrowly win the series, but there is no denying it will be close, very close.
It will be a summer that has the potential to be as exciting as the 2005 Ashes and could well go down to the wire. All there is to do now is sit, watch and enjoy the thrills of an Ashes summer.