It would be a tough job to find a bookmaker this summer that does not have Australia as favourites to win the Ashes. Before their test series against New Zealand, many were completely writing off England.
An abysmal showing in the World Cup, followed by a disappointing test series draw with the West Indies, England fans were losing confidence in captain Alastair Cook and his team. Off the field dramas surrounding a campaign to bring Kevin Pietersen back in to the England fold seemed to be disrupting the side.
Recently, however, England have found a new lease of life. During the test and one day series against New Zealand, we started to see a new form of exciting cricket from England. New Zealand were just coming off a successful World Cup campaign, and are seen as the second best side in the world behind Australia. In the two test series, England earned a respectable draw, however it was in the five game one day series in which England started to really show an incredibly attacking and positive form of cricket.
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Under one day captain Eoin Morgan, England won the series 3-2, thanks to phenomenal performances from batsmen Joe Root, Jos Butler and Jonny Bairstow in the final game, and bowlers Adil Rashid and the exciting Chris Wood.
If England are to stand a chance against the Australians, they will need to take this kind of form from the one day games into test match cricket. Of course it is a much longer form of the game and to produce such an attacking level of cricket as they did in the one day series will not be possible. However, if England are to regain the Ashes, their best chance is surely to carry on with a more attacking form of cricket that gave them success against New Zealand.
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England looking good
Confidence in the England camp has grown significantly since the successful series against New Zealand, and new coach Trevor Bayliss sees no reason as to why England cannot regain the Ashes. He said: "It's been quite exciting, the series against New Zealand, the tests and the one-dayers... got some new, young players in there with plenty of skill, plenty of enthusiasm.
"So it sounds like they're in a good place, looks like they're enjoying themselves out in the field and that's the main thing.
"Looking forward to it, to be involved in an Ashes series will be some good fun, I think," he added.
"I will be just doing the things I normally do with any of the cricket teams I've been involved with, and hopefully that means England will be playing some good cricket. I'm confident of putting up a good show and if they play some good cricket they'll be a chance of winning."
Class of Root
If England are to overcome the enormous challenge of Australia and regain the Ashes, they will need their star players to step up and be counted. It is widely believed that any success that comes England's way this summer will be determined by the form of Joe Root. The Yorkshire batsman has been in sublime form as of late and is more than comfortable batting in all forms of the game. England need batsman with flair, and Joe Root has it in abundance.
He is an exciting cricketer, not afraid to try a variety of shots and is a favourite amongst England fans due to his exciting nature. At the age of 24 he is still young, however he has gained some vital experience over the last few years in the England fold and there is no reason as to why he cannot handle the pressure of an Ashes series.
England have an exciting batting line up with the likes of Jos Butler and Ben Stokes both more than happy to play an exciting form of cricket to entertain the fans. Both have brought an aggressive and confident way of playing the game to the England team, and if both are on form, the Australian bowling attack may be in for a tough time.
Ben Stokes has been showing a similarity to the great Andrew Flintoff as of late. There is something about him that that excites England fans. If he is not bowling particularly well, he can suddenly just turn it around and get a wicket with his next ball. He is an incredibly exciting prospect and could turn out to play a significant role for England this summer against Australia.
Sir Ian Botham is a fan of Stokes and believes he can have an impact on the Ashes series. He said: "Ben Stokes could have a massive impact. He’s a genuine all-rounder, good enough to be in the team in both departments – bowling and batting – plus is an exceptional fielder.
“He could have a massive part to play in this Ashes series, he just gives the captain more options.”
England will also need their all time leading wicket taker Jimmy Anderson to be on form if they are to scare the Australian batting line up. Anderson has enjoyed some rest since England's last test match against New Zealand on May 29 so will be fresh and ready to take on the Australians in the first Ashes test on July 8 in Cardiff.
England are in for an incredibly difficult challenge when they face Australia this summer, many have ruled them out of having a chance before a ball has been bowled. However, England can take many positives from their recent series against New Zealand. If they continue with this new form of attacking cricket and their star players are on form, anything can happen.
Of course, Australia are the favourites - they are the best team in the world and are just going to get stronger. However, England have to believe that victory is possible, and by showing confidence and a lot of heart, they may just be able to regain the Ashes. Whatever has been said in the build up, one thing is for sure, we are all in for a fantastic Ashes series.
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