The weather outside may be bitter and unforgiving, the grass may be sodden and the skies may be dark and threatening, but once again the Ashes are upon us. While the home climate may leave much to be desired, the Australian summer is in full swing and it promises to be a special one.
That time of year is upon us again – where cricket fanatics curl up on the sofa as the evening rolls in, desperately trying to stay awake as David Gower and co. fastidiously talk us through Alastair Cook’s technique and whether Australia will put faith in the much maligned Mitchell Johnson. While a large majority of the population will throw in the towel after the first hour of play, the true die-hard fans will raise themselves from their self-imposed superstition and turn on the kettle to see them through the lunch break. They will ensconce themselves in their cricket haven until daybreak and then retire to bed, ready to repeat the whole torrid affair the following evening.
That is the magic of an away Ashes series. With the first test starting on Wednesday, we’ve decided the time is right to make a few predictions.
Beth says: England
The build up to the Ashes has been, quite frankly, embarrassing for the Australian’s. For once I’m not talking about their squad, which is actually the best side they’ve put out in four years. The posturing and ‘pommy bashing’ has been in full force and it’s been quite a pathetic attempt to disrupt the England psyche. Even Michael Clarke was at it when he ‘predicted’ the England starting XI for the first test. Calm down Mourinho. It would be more understandable if Australia had won the past three series – but they haven’t, they haven’t even come close. Having said that, it will be much closer this time around, England didn’t play nearly as well as they can in the last series and they will have to play far better Down Under. But they have a wealth of experience to fall back on and the likes of Cook, Anderson, Swann and Prior will be absolutely vital to England’s chances. I predict a 2-1 score line in England’s favour.
Lewis says: Draw
Tough one this series, England were good in the summer but the Aussies fought back towards the end and probably deserved to take something out of that series. Also, I don’t think England quite hit the heights we all expected of them during last summer’s series. Having said that, the momentum is with England and on paper I would argue they have the better squad. However, Australia are always a formidable force to be reckoned with in a home series. I can’t separate them, England will retain the urn but I think it will end up 2-2.
Leading Run Scorer
Beth says: Alastair Cook
Class is permanent, or so they say, and Alastair Cook oozes class. While his form somewhat deserted him during the home series returning to the place he broke multiple records and Australian hearts can only boost his confidence. 766 runs in a series is not just impressive, it’s phenomenal. While the Aussie pacemen have a bit more zip and swagger this time around, Cook is certainly capable of putting them to the sword. His biggest asset is his ability to grind out runs and keep going, allowing more fluent and flashy batsmen to play around him. England will need Cook to be the solid rock at the top of the order to counter balance the lack of experience at the other end.
Lewis says: Michael Clarke
I wasn’t sure about this one at all but I’ve gone with Clarke. He is, undeniably, a world class batsmen and has been one of the few positives for an Australian team that in recent years hasn’t hit the dizzying heights of previous generations. I feel that in front of his home fans and with the buzz of captaining his first full home Ashes Test series, Clarke will provide the goods. We saw flashes of his class in the summer and I’m sure the harder pitches and more familiar conditions will favour him over some of England’s batsmen
Leading Wicket Taker
Beth says: Stuart Broad
Although my heart says Jimmy Anderson, my head says Stuart Broad. He’s no way near as consistent as Anderson and he isn’t as skillful but when Broad gets on a role it’s a magnificent sight to behold. Lately, he’s been in ferocious form and those magical spells have been coming more and more often. England were unlucky to lose him in the second test during the last series Down Under but there were seriously capable understudies available in Tremlett and Bresnan. This year, England are struggling to find a third seamer who will take wickets to compliment the consistent wicket taking abilities of Anderson and Swann. If Broad can stay fit for all five tests he’ll improve every game, and he’ll be a real handful on the quick, bouncy Australian wickets.
Lewis says: James Anderson
For me it has to be The Burnley Express. He was on top form throughout the summer and I think he will be the best seamer in the forthcoming series. Harris and Siddle will run him close but Jimmy is a master of swing and although that may not play such a big part Down Under with the Kookaburra ball, I believe he has enough talent and experience to continue his rich vein of form. Furthermore, he does have the ‘wobble ball’ in his back pocket, something he developed a few years ago to add variation to his game in the Southern Hemisphere. That certainly could help him send a few more sets of bails flying
One to Watch
Beth says: Peter Siddle
Siddle is a consistently brilliant performer for Australia and he is so often under appreciated and undervalued. But England’s disastrous start to the Brisbane test in 2010/11 and their equally disastrous start to the Lords test in 2013 was all down to that man. He’s a real work horse and he’s put in some monumental performances for Australia over the years, particularly when they’ve had very few bowlers worth writing about. He’s the leader of the Aussie attack and he’ll be asking the England top order plenty of questions next week; for the sake of the England fans, I hope they have better answers this time around.
Lewis says: Michael Carberry
Personally, I’m delighted that Carberry has been selected in this Ashes squad. It’s a testament not only to his excellent work ethic and his ability to bounce back after being dropped after his performances against Bangladesh in the 2009/10 series, but also to the County Cricket system which has allowed a player to flourish and regain selection for England. He has been in fine form for Hampshire in all formats of the game over the summer and has done well in the warm up matches too, making 153* in his first innings of the tour. I would be surprised if he didn’t open with Cook and I think he could hit a lot of runs if he takes on Australia’s openers. If not, then Joe Root should also be worth a watch if played lower down the order. Apart from his big 180 at Lords in the summer, Root never quite fulfilled his potential in his first Ashes series. However, the move lower down the order may take the pressure off and allow him to play his shots and enjoy more big innings.