Almanac Cricket: Regaining the Ashes

 

After the interminable pay dispute gets resolved, and Australia’s cricketers can finally turn their attention to actually playing the game, they should be well and truly upbeat about their prospects for the summer’s Ashes series. For, although England achieved a highly creditable win over Sth Africa early this week to take a 2-1 series lead, its team is in relative disarray.

 

England played three debutants last weekend, one of whom played particularly well and another who looked promising. But, by any measure, a team with three newcomers plus an opening batsman who looks well short of Test class doesn’t inspire confidence for a competitive series when hostilities begin at the Gabba in November.

 

Australia may have got lucky. It has been the big under-achiever of world cricket for the last four years – there have been at least ten failed campaigns since the infamous ‘homework’ fiasco in India in 2013 – but it will be a monumental shock if our boys aren’t able to defeat England comfortably this summer.

 

Memories of Mitchell Johnson’s heroics four years ago will still be vivid in many English minds, and things might be just as difficult this time around given the benefits of home conditions and a fit and threatening pace attack.

 

Despite the merits of Alistair Cook, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, England’s batting is highly vulnerable and has been for the last couple of years. In that time it has more often than not needed its middle and lower orders to drag it to competitive scores.

 

The demise of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell on the last tour was the catalyst for this downward trend, and England has never really been able to adequately replace their solidity since. In addition, Cook has had more opening partners since the retirement of Andrew Strauss than he’s had hot dinners.

 

Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad have been one of England’s great opening bowling partnerships, but one wonders how much petrol they’ve got left in the tank for Australian conditions. Chris Woakes and Mark Wood might be competitive, and Toby Roland-Jones has impressed on debut, but he looks very much your typical ‘English seamer’.

 

And surely the time has come for some retribution on Moeen Ali after the role he played in our defeat in 2015. Erstwhile cricketer he may be, but we wouldn’t swap Nathan Lyon for him in a fit. Maybe it will be time for England to invest in Adil Rashid on a permanent basis, as he should enjoy our bigger grounds and has some good Big Bash experiences to call on.

 

By contast, and against many recent trends, Australia’s best XI looks remarkably settled. Usman Khawaja replaces the Marsh dynasty, as he should have done in India, and the four big quicks will battle it out for three places.

 

We played remarkably well in India in March in tough conditions and were desperately unlucky not to have at least squared the series, but the time has come for an end to the excuses and a bit of honesty rather than brushing failure under the carpet.

 

Our resources, talent pool and facilities are the envy of the world. It’s time that Pat Howard sorted things out properly and directed us back to the glory days of the past. Regaining the Ashes in emphatic style would be a good way to start.

 

Comments

  1. yes the side will seem like world beaters for a few months, it is hard to see Warner Renshaw Khawaja Smith Handscomb Cartwright Wade Starc Cummins Hazlewood Lyon going under in home conditions.

    Stokes and Root will fire, but England have only done well here recently when we have been in disarray. Only the selectors can stuff this up I think.

    However I hope I am wrong and it’s a cracking series of bowler domination and low scores and goes down to the wire, either way.

    Agree re the leggie, however our historical superiority complex over tweakers leaves us vulnerable to them. but LB will be out of the equation on most of the pitches.

  2. I am with you, Bushy. I reckon the English team is very much in a state of transition at present.
    I just cannot see how they can win on the back of Anderson and Broad. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them does not make it through the series.
    Much will depend on their skipper.

    Yes, Khawaja must come back in, especially as the selectors have nailed their horses for courses policy to the mast.

Leave a Comment

*