The Ashes is less than four months away and England are red hot favourites to retain the famous urn while Australia are rank outsiders.
There have also been talks of back-to-back Ashes humiliations for Australia in both away and home series.
And Australia’s latest Border-Gavaskar humiliation at the hands of India probably back this theory up.
But if most things go Australia’s way and if the selectors make smart choices, something they haven’t done for a while, then Australia may just have a sniff.
England haven’t had it all their way either. They have performed very ordinarily in their current series against New Zealand.
Personally I don’t think Australia will win the series in England but it may be closer than some suspect.
1. David Warner
He’s made a reasonable start to his Test career with 1263 runs at just under 40 including three centuries and seven half centuries.
Over the last year and a half, Warner has matured slowly but surely into a Test cricketer.
Innings like the 123* off 170 deliveries against New Zealand in Hobart late 2011 shows that he has the patience to build an innings in tough conditions.
However innings like the 180 off 159 balls against India last year in Perth shows that he can still be aggressive and dominate bowling attacks when he wants to.
His aggressive out-and-out attacking style could be very effective in nullifying the English attack.
But it is also a huge risk.
Many of Warner’s dismissals so far in his career have been because of careless wafts outside off stump with no footwork.
Warner had a fairly ordinary series in India but England is almost the opposite conditions.
He has been a part of the Australian side in all forms of the game for over four years now. He needs a big series this series to confirm himself as a genuine Test batsman.
2. Shane Watson
I have Watson in the side but he goes back to his successful position in opening.
Unlike Cowan, Watson scores runs at a much quicker rate and he and Warner can easily get Australia off to fast starts and quickly silence the English crowd.
Watson’s success in every form of the game has come as an opener. Ever since he has been demoted down the order he has averaged less than 25. He still continues to open to ODIs and T20s and still is scoring runs heavily.
But Watson’s position will come with one condition, he must play as an allrounder, whether he bowls 15 overs or 25 overs.
He has had success in England with the ball before and if he either chooses not to bowl or is not fit to bowl then he should not be considered. This could a big breakthrough series for Watson that could see him return to his 2009/10 form. But it could also be a series where his position goes on the line.
He is too talented to not be converting 50s into 100s and needs to start doing so and stand up.
3. Usman Khawaja
I have Khawaja over Hughes for the start of the series simply because he has a much more sounder, fluent and steadier technique than Hughes. Khawaja was extremely unlucky not to get a Test match against India and also not to get a Test against Sri Lanka earlier in the summer.
Despite his ordinary record in first-class cricket this season, he is the more fluent batsman and his technique means he can play swing bowling better. This is also a big series for Khawaja as he can easily establish his position in the Australian Test team.
4. Michael Clarke
The all important captain Clarke bats at no.4. I initially wanted to keep Clarke at five simply because all his success has come at number five. But because Australia’s top order is not strong at all, he bats one higher.
It is predictable that Clarke has yet another heavy series with runs but his captaincy on the field will also be a huge factor. If Clarke performs well in both aspects, Australia will have a chance.
5. Ed Cowan
Many of you will think this is an extremely bizarre move considering I don’t have Cowan opening.
But because the selectors will never drop him, I’ve kept him at no.5.
Cowan’s numbers in terms of runs may not back it up, but he has the ability to stay at the crease for long periods.
Because he doesn’t score at a reasonable rate, he is not suited opening but in the middle order. In case Australia lose three quick wickets, Cowan can come and steady it for Australia by getting through the new ball.
If he comes in when Australia are 3/250, then Cowan will have more freedom and less pressure on him to score runs. But if Cowan does not perform in the first two Tests, then he should be axed indefinitely.
6. Moises Henriques
Henriques plays as the batting allrounder at no. 6. His average was strong with the bat in the Shield season and had a extremely good debut match. Despite scores of 5, 0, 0 and 2 in his next four innings, I would still retain Henriques as the main or back-up allrounder to Watson.
7. Brad Haddin
Brad Haddin starts as the keeper for the start of the series as has he been in sensational batting form this season. His keeping form is good too.
Also his last Ashes series in England yielded 278 runs at 46 (4 Tests) which is more than acceptable for a keeper-batsman. His experience will be vital to the side considering Watson, Clarke, Hughes and himself are the only batsmen to have played in the ’09 series.
If he under performs then Wade comes right back in.
8. Mitchell Johnson
I have Johnson ahead of Starc because I don’t think rushing Starc into the side straight after surgery is the right thing to do for such a young talented player.
And also having Johnson isn’t a big loss as both players are very similar.
Johnson’s experience is also vital to Australia’s chances as he will know the conditions better now having already been a part of the ’09 series.
His batting form over this season has been solid but not great, but it may come in handy at times. I thought he was unlucky not to have played more Tests in the India series but this will be a big chance for Johnson.
9. Peter Siddle
For the last two years he has been Australia’s most consistent bowler. At 28 with 41 Tests, he is now one of the more experienced players in the Australian side. The last Ashes series in England, Siddle proved his qualities with 20 wickets including 5/21 in the fourth Test.
He had a mediocre series in India but the swinging and seaming conditions of England suits Siddle’s style of bowling.
10. James Pattinson
He was probably Australia’s best bowler in the India series despite his stats not showing it.
He gave it his absolute all on pitches that were never going to assist fast bowlers. The England conditions like Siddle will suit Pattinson nicely and if he gets his rhythm going, he can easily rattle the English batting line-up.
11. Nathan Lyon
His nine-wicket haul in the last Test against India proves that he is still the best off-spinner in Australia at the moment.
The conditions will not be the best for an off spinner especially for a touring side but given Graeme Swann has had success, Lyon will have an impact. If he bowls like he did in that first innings against India, and around the wicket more often, then he will take wickets.
12. Mitchell Starc
Given he proves his fitness, Starc will replace either of the three starting fast bowlers if an injury or poor performance occurs.
His height and ability to swing the ball both ways makes his Australia’s Chris Tremlett.
Throughout the Australian summer, Starc was also able to bowl up to and around 145km/h. He will be another bowler that can threaten the English batting line-up.
13. Pat Cummins
He has faded away slightly since his Test debut against South Africa due to injuries. But he is certainly not forgotten. I wouldn’t rush Cummins straight into the side, given he has barely played a first-class game in the last 18 months but if he should be selected in the tour matches and certainly considered later in the series.
14. Stephen O’Keefe
He was very unlucky to not be selected in the India series but he should be given a chance at the baggy green this series. He is the leading wicket taker for all spinners in the Shield this season and he also is a very good back-up for Nathan Lyon.
Not only that but he is a very capable with the bat and can play as the spin-bowling all-rounder. At 28 he is no rookie and his experience as captain of the NSW team will come in handy.
15. Alex Doolan
I haven’t seen much of this guy bat but his stats this year are nothing to scoff at. Doolan has scored 715 runs at 42 this season including one century and four half-centuries. The conversion rate and the average may be a minor issue but he definitely deserves a chance this series given the amount of talent he possesses.
16. Phil Hughes
I wouldn’t write this guy off just yet. Hughes had a torrid time in India but England is a totally different story. Hughes has been tormented by the English bowlers in the five Tests he has played against them.
But Hughes has enormous talent within him. His record right now is almost identical to Ricky Ponting’s when he was the same age and not many 24 year olds have scored 21 first-class hundreds.
He will be seriously tested by the English bowlers but this time he will know what to expect and be much better prepared for it.
17. James Faulkner
Many of you will be extremely surprised by this selection of mine. But Faulkner this season has impressed domestically and internationally.
This season he has taken 38 wickets at just over 20, strike rate of 42, best of 5/23.
With those stats you can’t walk passed this guy without considering him. Faulkner also has the ability to swing the ball back into the right handers and bowls extremely well bowling at that angle.
He can also swing it away from the left-handers. He is inexperienced but could make a huge impact.
Well Roarers, I’d like to hear your comments and thoughts, if you agree or disagree with me.