I’m still undecided as to who will go on to win the Ashes. An away tour for the Ashes against a fantastic, balanced and experienced English side is always going to be among cricket’s greatest tests.
However, I’m willing to be optimistic, fly in the face of articles written before mine and look for reasons why Australia, the clear outsiders, can win back the precious little urn.
The batting isn’t as bad as some may think. We’ve been exposed to collapses at times, but as long as a couple of guys manage to dig in and get big runs, as we did against the Proteas, we’ll be able to match the output of the English top-order.
Michael Clarke has carried us before and he can do it again. Who is to say that Clarke won’t have another huge series? And if he does, look out England. He’s easily the best number five in the world and has led Australia with great distinction thus far in his captaincy tenure.
Phillip Hughes is carrying a lot of confidence and is a proven run-scorer. If Hughes can continue his recent form for Australia, England will look very silly. They consider him an easy wicket and might get a serious shock when balls they’re used to seeing fly to second slip, start dissecting gully and point as they fly to the boundary.
Hughes also played most of the county championship last season, where he experienced a great deal of success and gained an inside running on conditions.
David Warner has been cited as a wicket waiting to happen when the masters of swing in the English pace attack bowl to him. I would argue quite the opposite.
Warner has played two Tests at Australia’s greenest, and most testing venue for batsman, Bellerive Oval. In those two Tests he scored a hundred and two 50s. On all of those occasions he has tempered his attacking game in an effective effort to dig in, survive the tough spells and grind out runs.
If Australia faces tricky conditions in England, expect Warner to adapt, work hard and find a way to score runs that may be a step away from his natural game.
Shane Watson may find himself back at the top of the Australian order. Watson has experienced a great deal of success opening the batting and has done so in England before.
Watson at the top of the order looks far better to me than Ed Cowan and may be just the right move to balance the team and add solidarity at the top of the order.
Usman Khawaja is a man in waiting. He has been biding his time and has demonstrated good form in both the Sheffield Shield and Big Bash League. He’s the next man in line and deserves his place now. Four Tests in India may be an excellent way for Khawaja to slot into the side.
If Khawaja gets the chance, his technique and knack for scoring in testing conditions will place him in fantastic stead to succeed.
Our bowling can be world-class. If the selectors get it right, we can easily assemble a bowling attack among the best in the world. Australia finds itself in the fortunate position where we have depth in quality fast-bowlers. There’s no reason we cannot out bowl the English.
Peter Siddle and James Pattinson are unquestionably among the top fast bowlers in the world. They will likely lead the Australian attack and both have been in fantastic form of late.
Pattinson dominated the start of the Sheffield Shield, was solid against South Africa and then broke down. He now has the opportunity to get some first-class cricket under his belt and then will likely play in India.
Siddle likewise has been in formidable form, and has shown himself to be a reliable work-horse for any circumstance. When Australia needs a wicket, it’s Siddle they turn to.
Jackson Bird has been dominating the toughest domestic cricket competition in the world for two years, he’s clearly got the ability to make it in the Test arena and his bowling style will suit English conditions nicely.
Mitchell Starc is among the most improved cricketers in the world and has a deadly inswinging Yorker at his disposal. I don’t expect him to start many Tests, but when called on, he’ll do the job admirably.
Mitchell Johnson looks reborn. On his day, he is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous quicks in the world. If we’re lucky enough to see that version of Johnson, England will be well and truly worried.
Let’s not forget to mention Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris. Hilfenhaus performed fantastically last time he toured England and was the leading wicket taker that series.
Ryan Harris, who will be busting a gut to make the Ashes, is a very dangerous prospect when on song, which has been pretty much every time he’s worn the baggy green.
Nathan Lyon is under-rated. Had Matthew Wade’s keeping done him justice, Lyon would have collected a bag full of scalps this summer. He’d be talked of among the top spinners in the world. We would all be confident he will match it with Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar.
Lyon is always creating chances, is a tight and very economical. He will tie down the English batsmen and then as the pressure builds, they will play false strokes. We’ve just got to hope Wade and his fellow close-in fielders will be ready this time around and snaffle any opportunities that come their way.
Finally, Australia matched it with South Africa, the world’s number one side, for the best part of a three Test series. It could be argued that Australia outplayed the Proteas throughout the entire first two Tests. If it weren’t for the shambolic selections of the WACA Test, we may well have gone on to win the series.
Australia did this with a team that carried an out-of-sorts Ricky Ponting and Rob Quinney, the scorer of the most polished nine in Test history.
If we can match it with them, what’s to say we can’t do the same, or go even one better, against England?
If the Australians are fit and firing, we can well and truly do a job on the English. I wouldn’t be surprised if Australia is taken lightly and they’ll be determined to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself.
Over to you Roarers, am I being too optimistic or have we got as good a chance as I think we do?