Thursday, July 4, 2013

Preview, 2013 Ashes Series

It would not be out of line to attach an air of inevitability to the upcoming Ashes with the holders England at unbackable odds to retain the coveted Urn compared to Australia having all the appeal of a lame thoroughbred before a big race.

You can justify this too by running a cursatory glance over the teams and players that will lead you to the conclusion that in all departments England lords it over Australia. Whether it be from a playing sense or intrinsic intangibles such as leadership, experience and belief that are so crucial in a Teams success. There is no compare between the two. If it was a Boxing bout you would feel the need to administer a standing 8 count on the Aussies before they even got in the ring with you imploring them to throw in the white towel before things get real real ugly.

So, put down your glasses for the Ashes are over already?????????????

Well...a spanner has been thrown in the works for our Pale skinned English friends who have already planned sickies in advance to attend the Ashes celebration parade with the Aussies making one move that could flip the series on its ear.

In regards to the sacking of Australian Coach Mickey Arthur and replacing him with Darren Lehmann.

A move that has already instigated a renaissance in the spirits of individuals and the Team as a whole which makes you question whether this fire starter can ignite a few chronic under achievers in the group with noted ability.....

If it does, well we might be in for a humdinger of an Ashes series that we must dissect further.

Pitches/ Conditions

Wed Jul 10 - Sun Jul 14
11:00 local | 10:00 GMT
1st Test - England vs Australia
Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Thu Jul 18 - Mon Jul 22
11:00 local | 10:00 GMT
2nd Test - England vs Australia
Lords, London
Thu Aug 1 - Mon Aug 5
11:00 local | 10:00 GMT
3rd Test - England vs Australia
Old Trafford, Manchester
Fri Aug 9 - Tue Aug 13
11:00 local | 10:00 GMT
4th Test - England vs Australia
Riverside Ground, Chester le Street
Wed Aug 21 - Sun Aug 25
11:00 local | 10:00 GMT
5th Test - England vs Australia
Kennington Oval, London

The best thing about Test Cricket in England is you can be rest assured that the Pitches will uphold the ethos of the traditions of the game with them providing a test for all players with only the truly skilled surviving. Of intrigue in this schedule is Trent Bridge hosting the first test, which could set the series on fire with its tendency to favour fast bowlers meaning it could actually favour Australia over England.

Most of all, we can all look forward to none of the shameful 'Road Pitches' appearing in this series that are killing Test Cricket.

Likely Teams


Going into the first Test the English have a reasonably settled line up with the top 6 now being set with Joe Root moving to the top of the order as opener and Jonny Bairstow being given the number 6 position. Feeling the axe to allow this move was Nick Compton with failures against New Zealand.

The only question in the bowling is who gets the nod over Steve Finn and Tim Bresnan. Common sense would dictate the strike bowler potential of Finn wins out, but new age thinking that preaches depth in batting could mean Bresnan gets the nod. Going on recent warm up matches, it would seem that Finn will be hard to overlook leaving the 11 as follows

Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steve Finn


The best thing about Lehmann replacing Arthur is a bit of certainty has been restored with him ordaining Watson and Rogers as the series openers before the ink dried on his appointment. Michael Clarke will bat at 4 with Phil Hughes assured of a place in the top 6 with the only question being where. Playing Hughes would be a huge mistake with his flaws against both swing and seam being gaping, and too easily to exploit. But he leads a charmed life in selectors eyes so will be in the Team.

It would seem from the two warm up matches that Lehman favours solidity at three with him running the rule over Usman Khawaja and Ed Cowan for the role meaning Hughes will more than likely slot in at 5. 

Which leaves 6 and the choice between Steve Smith and David Warner......

Going on Lehmanns backing of Warner in the press, you can see the first shock in the Ashes will be seeing him in the line up at 6 for the 1st Test.

The bowling raises an interesting poser especially with the 1st Test at the Seam friendly Trent Bridge

In regards to do you forsake variety, and drop Nathan Lyon to play 4 pacemen.

Shane Watson's ability or in fact desire to bowl will decide this with him being a lethal medium pacer with a mastery of reverse swing. If he bowls, Lyon will get selected, otherwise you can see Australia rolling the dice with 4 seamers. With the potentially lethal combination of Ryan Harris and James Pattinson leading the attack with the shock value of Mitchell Starc adding to their cutting edge rounded out by the steadiness of Peter Siddle.

Leaving the 1st Test Team as follows:

Shane Watson, Chris Rogers, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke, Phil Hughes, David Warner, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird/Peter Siddle/ Nathan Lyon

Assessing the Teams Batting


One of the great battles in this series will pit the excellent English top order against the potentially lethal Aussie new ball attack. It will ultimately have a huge bearing on the series for if the Aussies can control the likes of the prolific Cook and Trott it will put extra pressure on a middle order that has a few question marks against it. Most notably how will KP return from injury, will the out of form Ian Bell regain touch and how will the relative green Jonny Bairstow go in the pressure cooker atmosphere of an Ashes battle.

If the English top 3 can hold sway and see off the Aussie new ball attack you can see them being their normal prolific self and setting up the stage for the under performing, but potential lethal middle order to be a real factor.

The changes of the line up has given the batting more balance as well with Joe Root's more proactive style of playing being a perfect accompaniment for Cook and Trott's dourness at the top of the order. Also having Jonny Bairstow at 6 provides the side with a real attacking edge that could be decisive in the series.

Lastly, and crucially is the decisive nature that the English tail plays in England's prospects......

Commandeered by the excellent Matt Prior at 7, who has a three year average of 48.52 with 4 centuries and complimented by the bowlers who range from the attack minded likes of Broad and Swann to the stonewallers in Anderson and Finn.

A 7-11 that can add valuable runs through a counter attack or support of an established batsmen with it being one of the Teams rarely mentioned strengths

Rating- 7/10

Any Team with the names of Cook, Trott, Pietersen and Prior in its batting deserves the highest of respect and will invariably take a colossal effort from the Aussie to neutralise.


The teams recent struggles in batting have centred around frequent collapses and insipid displays that will ultimately it will decide this Ashes.

If the batting continues with these struggles then the team has no hope, but if it can rise and show some fight, and grind out some totals to allow the Teams excellent bowling to target the English then there is a very outside chance of an upset. While enduring the current batting struggles it forced you to ponder whether there basis was the lack of ability or the absence of belief. On this point, you can conclude that the Team does indeed lack ability, but what ability does exist in its ranks has been sullied by mismanagement which has evaporated individual belief.

Lehmann has played a huge role in condemning this to the best forgotten file, but he needs to take it a step further and hone the need for the basics to be strictly adhered too with more charisma added to their mindsets. Too many of the batting struggles has revolved sacrificial soft dismissals because of the failure of the individuals style and the absence of a back up Plan B or even Plan C for them to fall back on.

In this endeavour Shane Watson, needs to lead the charge with his wish to open granted with him in this role ultimately becoming the key to the teams batting. He needs to be the role model to the others in the line up by being more discreet in his attacking mannerisms and adding a multi dimension to his batting by a more selfless mindset that encompasses the involvement of his partner through him being open to become an accumulator of runs. By doing this, it will not only take pressure of him, but also his batting chums giving them their best chance to succeed.

His opening partner in Chris Rogers is an interesting prospect with him feeling as though he is a gambler playing with Bank money. After playing his last Test 5 years ago and invariably thinking his chances of another was remote he has been recalled up at 35 which means in his mind he know he has nothing to lose meaning he could become a factor

The relative success or failure of the Top 3 will represents the dominos that impacts on the rest of the batting and ultimate the Teams Fate rests largely on it.

Away from the 'if, buts and maybes' of the teams top order the focus will invariably fall of the masterful Michael Clarke to carry the batting again. A big ask when you consider his has been stifled by his troublesome back as well as the little matter of virtually being made out to be the Teams Anti Christ. This would bury lesser beings, but the man known as 'Pup'  seems to thrive when people target him and with this in mind I think he will dominate to such an extent in this series that we might see a few 'Best Since Bradman' headlines be dragged out.

Crucially, if he could have one or two rise in support of him then my word we could be in for an Ashes treat...

Lastly, you can see Lehmann pulling an Ashes shock by employing David Warner in the 6 position in the line up in the hope of turning the maverick strokemaker into a consistent force.

Very like Andrew Symonds was in his all too brief time donning the Baggy Green.

Away from the top 6, the Teams obvious batting flaws finds redemption in a very dangerous lower order that could become a factor in the series.

Rating- 4/10 

If it was still with Arthurs in control I would have marked them 2/10, but Lehmann has engendered a belief that was so lacking, and that cannot be under stated. In fact you can see a few rising in the Ashes and being factors.

Assessing the teams Bowling


On paper, the English have an attack that has claims to be the best in Test Cricket with it having variety in both pace and spin as well as depth which makes it truly lethal

Highlighting them is James Anderson, who amongst the English Media and fanzine is viewed as better than Dale Steyn. Which is a true nonsense, but in English condition with the ball swinging he is nigh on unplayable. With Australia having essentially a substandard batting line up outside of Clarke, you could see Anderson frequently destroying them in merely his first spell

Then you have Stuart Broad and likely Stephen Finn in support who might lack Andersons consistency, but when they get it right are equally as devastating.

Look for Finn in the next few year rise to real prominence.

Rounding them out beautifully is Swann's off spin, who will be primed for a great series after being cannon fodder with a bowling average over 40 in his 10 previous Ashes tests

After watching the Australian batting against spin in India you really like Swann's chances in this series!

Series Rating- 8.5/10 

You can see them being lethal in this series


In an Ashes that is seen as a potential one sided affair, the Aussies have justifiably claims that their bowling is comparable to England's

The main difference between the two teams from a bowling sense is threefold with Australia's pacemen lacking experience in English conditions as well as being injury prone which are sadly factors out of their control.

The third factor will be decisive in regards to their ability to master the use of the Duke ball which has lead to their downfall on previous Ashes tours to England. Highlighting this plight is the inability of the bowlers to make this ball swing and logically if they find the same struggles in this series most of their potential will be blown a way.

Assuming they can stay fit, adjust to conditions and share a love affair with the Duke ball then they could rip any batting line up to shreds

In James Pattinson and Ryan Harris they have two A Grade standard spearhead with both being masters in their craft.

As with the batting, Shane Watson will impact heavily on the bowlings chances with his masterful reverse swing being deadly dangerous. If he bowls he gives the attack a lovely balance and allow the inclusion of Mitchell Starc, who might be high risk, but also high reward. He would be selected for his potential threat, but also with an eye on Alastair Cook, who in his past has shown a weakness in playing left handed pacemen. As seen in his struggles against India's Zaheer Khan and Pakistan's Mohammad Amir in the past

If Starc can have a similar effect over Cook that would be worth his price of admission alone

Series Rating- 7/10

On paper they look exceptional, but I still doubt their ability with Duke ball in hand.....

Series X Factors

England- The KP Factor

Since him bursting on the scene every headline of every paper in the lead up to any series he has been involved in has been about Kevin Pietersen......

Symbolic in the lead up to this Ashes we have  heard next to nothing about him which you know will rankle him in the extreme by challenging his Narcissist deameanour

Resulting in him doing his darndest to regain the spotlight in this series

 Australia- The Teams Resolve

The renaissance of Australian attitudes due to Lehmanns appointment has made many think that it will make the Ashes a contest. Going into the series the key will be the individuals and group as a whole ability to keep up this renewed feel when they are confronted and challenged by the English.

Which is a big IF when you take into account how easily they have been broken down and lorded over in the recent past.


The first Test will be crucial in this series for if Australia perform well or even win it, the series could become an interesting affair, but if England win it you can see the series being a romp.

I say this because Australia as a group are mentally frail and would struggle to come back from being behind.

You can see Australia are improved under Lehmann, but they still are lacking in all the key areas when compared to England which will prove decisive.

I can see England being relentless from ball one which will prove too much for the Aussies

4 nil to England


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  2. "Crucially, if he [Ckarke] could have one or two rise in support of him then my word we could be in for an Ashes treat..." I agree entirely.

    It appears to be a battle between certainty and big 'ifs'. Two of them being whether aussie batsmen other than Clarke will run into form and have character; and whether the bowlers will stay out of injury (esp Ryan Harris) and master the Duke ball. One certainty ofc is Darren Lehmann having a positive and a rallying influence over a bedraggled team.

    I am not sure Swann will pose a huge threat considering not only his past record against Australia but also because the aussies have gone thru the mill facing Indian spinners in Indian conditions and hence becoming better exposed to what good spin can do to them.

    England's certainties are mildly questioned by the ability of Broad/Finn to remain injury free nad Bresnan playing upto expectations. KP has a point to prove, eternally to the English media and Andy Flower and if he does then this series will be a no contest.

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