Stephen Adams looks at the upcoming Ashes he can be found on twitter here
1st Test Trent Bridge (10th to 14th July)
On First glance England clearly have the edge, they’re on the whole more settled very experienced and most of them have already had success in the Ashes against Australia before.
England Batting: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior
In this line up England have 2 new additions of recent times in Bairstow and Root. Bairstow arrived in the side first but has found it a little more difficult to pin down a place while Root seems to have been a natural, strolling out with a grin on his face on debut and picked up his first century in the last test against New Zealand. Nothing needs to be said about Cook, Trott or Bell really who are all as consistent as anyone in test cricket. Pietersen can be prone to rash shots but you can almost guarantee he’ll produce an innings or 2 that turn a game around and that is really what he does best. Prior is as good a number 7 as you could ever want with an average of 44 with 26 50’s and 7 centuries from his 101 innings. Often he’s done a sterling job of turning a struggling innings into a decent one.
Cook has averaged over 50 as captain
Australia Batting: Watson, Rogers, Cowan, Clarke, Hughes, Smith, Haddin (+ Warner)
Australia have some unusual picks on the face of it, Cowan is 31 but has played just 17 tests averaging 32. 35 year old Rogers has 1 test cap to his name back in 2008 but is expected to open the batting. He has a sterling first class record and some decent form playing for Middlesex but surely a 35 year old isn’t quite the replacement for the old guard that they should have been after? Steve Smith continually ridiculed after arriving in the team as a bowler and slowly being found to be a better batsman. Clarke is by far the most consistent of the Australian batsman but he has spent a fair bit of time out with injury of late and the 5 test series could be a strain on him, similar with Watson who has also suffered a lot of injuries but can be brutal with the bat from the top of the order. If David Warner gets back in the side I’m sure he will have a hard time of it from the England bowlers, not the most orthodox of batsman but brutally affective at his best and a top quality fielder as well.
Interestingly in article on the BBC this week they suggested England had batting issues with the first innings average dropping from 412 (between last ashes and 2011 4-0 win over India) to 323 in the last 18 months. I think this is partly down to who they played with South Africa being very strong against England last year.
In that article though we do see that in the same period Australia have averaged an impressive 412 and the averages for Cook, Trott, KP and Bell all drop.
The differences overall are still huge though with everyone apart from Bairstow in Englands top 7 averaging over 40. Australia quite amazingly only have 1 player (Clarke) in the top 7 who have a 40+ average
With all this in mind and home conditions taken into account you’ve really got to fancy that England have a strong upper hand batting wise despite an apparent drop off of late.
England Bowling: Anderson, Swann, Broad + Finn or Bresnan
James Anderson is a master with the new ball especially in home conditions where he averages 27 and will always pick up wickets. Despite frequently getting knocked for his bad spells Stuart Broad has an almost identical average to Anderson including the home average of 27. At times he can lose his way but when he finds his groove he is lethal. Swann remains one of the worlds best spin bowlers and despite his injuries of late enjoyed picking up plenty of wickets in the warm up game and will have a crucial role for England. I’d also expect some spin backup from Root who seems to be improving his bowling all the time. The final place is a tough call but it seems Bresnan is often the more likely to get picked partly for his ability with the bat. I don’t really agree with this as I feel Finn is a better wicket taker and has genuine pace that should be used.
Australia Bowling: Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon & Starc or Bird or Harris (+Watson)
Australia have had some good fast bowling talent coming through in the last couple of years, none more so than Pattinson who at 23 has already played 10 tests and averaged his age with 3 5wicket hauls and 2 4for’s. He took 7 against Somerset last week and with his pace I expect him to be a big threat. Siddle is another man with a bowling average of his age, this time 28. Siddle’s a really hard working bowler who at times has suffered with injuries but can be very dangerous and took 20 wickets in the last Ashes in England as well as 14 in the last Ashes in Australia. Nathan Lyon has done a decent containing role as spinner but isn’t a major threat and is a position Australia hasn’t really been able to have major success with since Warne retired. Starc is another young talent though doesn’t seem to quite be in favour at the moment while 26 year old Bird made his test debut in the recent series against Sri Lanka and picked up 11 wickets in 2 games. Ryan Harris hasn’t played a test for Australia since April of last year but is also in the squad and picked up 5 wickets in warm up, I’d make Starc the most likely pick but I might be wrong. Watson should also not be forgotten, though he’s trying not to bowl as much due to injuries he is still a very useful extra bowler for Australia and Michael Clarke may also if he is feeling comfortable put in some of his spin bowling.
Quite tough to call here, Australia’s bowling has slightly better averages over all but don’t quite have the settled bowling line up of England. That said Pattinson and Siddle are both effective bowlers up front. Swann beats Lyon every time. England have a slight upper hand as this is their home conditions but I certainly think the Aussies will provide a very tough test and should also enjoy the conditions.
All 5 grounds have a good recent history of producing results, with the first test at Trent Bridge producing 9 results in a row, England winning 7 of those games at a ground that normally produces plenty of swing. Lords has produced 9 results in the last 10 matches (though as balance I’m going to state that the match last year v South Africa would certainly have been a draw if England hadn’t required a result). Old Trafford used to produce a lot of draws but there have now been 7 results in the last 8 games there, the last draw however was against Australia in 2005. Chester-le-Street has seen results at all 4 of the tests played there while the last 5 tests at the Oval have all had results and traditionally it has always tended to have more results than not.
With that taken into account I’d expect we’ll get at least 3 results if not more. Both sets of bowlers should enjoy the conditions at times with some similarities in the style of bowling from both line ups.
Conclusion and bets:
I’m confident in an England win on this Ashes series but do feel that the Aussies could be underrated. That said I didn’t back England to make it through 2013 without losing a test for no reason and I do think they are capable of making it through at least the home series without losing.
I fancy the main weakness with Austrlia is with their batting but I wouldn’t underestimate the bowling and could well see them rattle a few quick wickets off at times if Siddle can find his way and Pattinson and Starc can impress.
4-0 @ 9/1 (Stan James)
3-0 @ 15/2 (Stan James)
Top Australia Bowler
Peter Siddle @ 4/1 (various)
Pattinson is favourite to be top Australia bowler but I think Siddle is value despite not performing brilliantly in the warm up games. He is in fact the highest ranked test bowler in the Ashes which would come as a surprise to many but he really shouldn’t be overlooked and I think 4/1 is decent value for a quality experienced bowler like him.
Most Runs from tailenders (7-11) – Australia @ 1.91 (Stan James)
Interesting bet this, but I fancy Australia have the better tail with the likes of Pattinson, Siddle and Starc all putting in some good performances with the bat while even Nathan Lyon has pulled in a few decent cameo’s. England aren’t too shabby with Bresnan, Broad and Swann but as I fancy Englands top order to be stronger there maybe times where 7-11 won’t need to bat or will have a lot more freedom so might get out quicker.
That’s all for now but if I see anything else come up I will post it in the comment section.