Australia v England, The Ashes, 5 Tests
So another Ashes test cricket series is approaching fast and barely a few months since the dust settled at The Oval with England completing a 3-0 series win.
This Aussie summer sees 5 Test Matches as follows:
1st Test, Brisbane, Nov 21st 2013
2nd Test, Adelaide, Dec 5th
3rd Test, Perth, Dec 13th
4th Test, Melbourne, Dec 26th
5th Test, Sydney, Jan 3rd 2014
So just 9 days between the first and second Test, then about 3 days rest until the third, then 9 days until the Xmas Test and just 3 days gap until the final Test in Sydney. No chance for much rest so injuries could well be a key factor in this series.
The tourists then play 5 ODIs and follow that with 3 T20 matches before departing in early Feb 2014.
A packed summer down under then and who’s going to win? Well, the tourists will be confident and are justifiably favourites; they will also remember their last visit here when they pretty much dominated the whole series and won comfortably. They were well beaten in Perth but hammered the hosts 3 times elsewhere, winning by an innings each time. There were plenty of runs for England’s top batsmen with Cook amassing 766 runs – there were plenty of big centuries and huge partnerships and the Aussie bowlers toiled long and hard more than they would care for.
Predictions of doom and gloom haunted the Aussies before the most recent series but these were dispersed due to some spirited performances and some crucial decisions; the history books will record a 3-0 scoreline but it could have been very different indeed with the Aussies coming close in the first Test and denied possibly by the weather in the third. Englnad may well have clinched the 5th test but overall, the 3-0 scoreline possibly flattered the hosts a bit.
Standout performers were clear, Ian Bell was superb all series for #England and Ryan Harris was the pick of the Aussie bowlers, turning in many effective spells throughout.
Bell faced 1157 balls, scoring 562 runs at an average of over 62, notching 3 centuries and 2 fifties. A superb, consistent, classy effort and the still under-rated batsman (although he’s 31 and scored 6,500 test runs!) improved his test average to an impressive 46, reached 20 test centuries and had his best and most influential series yet.
Harris played in 4 tests picking up 24 wickets at an average of under 20 but was the one bowler to clearly rattle the English batsmen regularly. The reformed bowler is always going to be an injury worry but if he stays fit and healthy this summer, he may well be the rock on which others cling to; he really needs Johnson and Siddle to pick up some of the wickets too and provide a genuine three-pronged attack, supported by the (also) under-rated Lyon in the spinner’s role.
Some batters masked average efforts with a big century in that series; namely Root, Clarke and Watson – all of whom scored big tons but never really reached the consistency required. Root indeed scored just 159 runs in 9 innings, with the 180 helping banish criticism of his performance. He may well enjoy the pitches down under but needs some early runs or else may be cast aside as the series unfolds.
Anderson started well but faded, Broad turned up when required and when he’s good, he’s very good (as predicted in my last series preview). Swann ticked along and Bresnan did better than his figures show but overall the English attack wasn’t as deadly as many thought and showed signs of a lack of depth once the series closed. This may well be a big factor this time as if their big guns fail, there don’t seem to be many solutions. There are options with plenty of part-time bowlers but if the Aussies can cut out the daft shots and bat with a bit more concentration (and technical improvements in the case of mr lbw, watson) then they could compile big enough scores to give their bowlers something to work with.
#Australia had to chop and change a lot last year and with injuries and form, they never settled into a balanced side – again they have injuries to many bowlers (Bird, Pattinson, etc) and have reverted back to Warner opening and will try Bailey at 6 it appears, so they are still trying to decide on their best XI. Cowan, Khawaja and Hughes have all been discarded again, for now. I am sure we will see the talented Alex Doolan make his test debut before the series ends however and he could well make an impact as he is an extremely classy player.
I am plumping for a 2-2 series score. I can see the Aussies steaming into the tourists at the Gabba and with a bit of luck with the weather, they may well start off with a win (and let’s hope we don’t have another flat track with 500/1 scoring as per last time here). Adelaide Oval has been rebuilt recently (still completing the work currently as I can see when I drive by!) and the pitch has been relaid; whether this will again be a batter’s paradise remains to be seen so this one is a bit of an unknown – the weather has been glorious for a while now so it should be dry. England may well win this one as they settle a bit and maybe find some runs.
Perth will be the usual fare no doubt with bounce being the operative word – the Aussies will hope for another MOTM performance from Mitch and look to go 2-1 up here. Melbourne could be anything, weather and form wise and perhaps this could be the catch-up for the tourists. Sydney could then be the decider, or not! a draw there would mean 2-2.
An alternative is that the 2nd Test is drawn, and the Aussies go 2 up after Perth. Then, the English dig deep, find their form and perhaps the strains hows on the Aussies by Melbo and they let the lead slip with England fighting back to win the final two Tests. Either way, I fancy a 2-2 scoreline as I think the Aussies are better than people think, and the England team is a bit worn around the edges now and not quite as good as they were a couple of years back. They don’t seem to have the new blood coming through in style and are reliant on a core of players who are now getting on a little bi tin terms of age, and maybe haven’t got quite the desire of previously. That urgency and desire in the home ranks, with the coaching of Darren Lehmann may well add the extras impetus they need to be able to hold their own or even nick a series win!
Having just checked the betfair prices, I see the 2-2 draw is the lowest price for the series correct score! Not impressed with that as was hoping it would provide a bit of value! it shades the 8.4 for England 3-1 which shows how fine the margins are; one result going either way and the series can have a dramatically different outcome.
The 1-1 series score at 22 may be worth looking at then as well – if the weather/pitch turn the Gabba Test into a draw, then it only needs Adelaide to be a batters track again and one of the others to be either rain-affected or a flat pitch and we could have a surprisingly low two results series.
Other bets >
Top Aussie batsman market has Clarke way clear – Smith at 11.5 may be worth an interest as if early wickets fall often, he could get a good amount of time out there and he does have the ability for sure. Top bowler is tricky but Lyon at 8 may be value as he may well play the whole series, and will appreciate a bit of bounce this week and obviously Sydney too
Top English batsman boils down to Cook, KP, Trott or Bell I guess – Bell is unlikely (although capable) to have another wondrous series so that narrows it to 3; Trott and Cook will be solid but have found ways to get out it seems so that leaves KP who is probably going to score a big ton at some point and at 6.0 on betfair looks worth pursuing as that seems generous. Top bowler for the tourists could be Broad as he may well respond well to the ‘encouragement’ of the crowds!