I’m at a loss to understand why the recently named Australian Ashes squad has been written off as the worst ever.
Don’t forget England’s not too crash hot either, with their one-eyed scribes already trumpeting retention of the Ashes.
Last month England, minus offie Graeme Swann and medium pacer Tim Bresnan, both recovering from surgery, played a three-Test series against the Kiwis in New Zealand.
The vast majority of the England heavies were there – skipper Alastair Cook, in-form newcomer Nick Compton, grandson of the legendary Denis Compton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, and Monty Panesar.
It was to be a walk in the park for England, ranked two in the world, against the Kiwis ranked a lowly eighth, with only minnows Bangladesh below them.
Like hell it was a doddle, England was lucky not to be beaten 2-1, with New Zealand in command in both the first and third Tests at Dunedin and Eden Park.
The series was squared away with three draws, but look at these stats:
England lost 45 wickets for 1572 – average per wicket – 34.93
New Zealand lost 37 wickets for 1560 – average per wicket – 42.16.
You could have named your own odds pre-series that New Zealand bats would average higher than England.
Even the individual averages among the top six England batsmen saw some of the tall poppies chopped:
Cook and Bell both averaged just 38, Pietersen 28.33 – all three vital to England’s chances of victory.
Having had trouble with an ordinary Kiwi attack, they’ll have their hands really full with James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, and Ryan Harris, with a bit of Shane Watson thrown in to earn his keep.
So don’t write off the baggy greens yet, not by a long shot.
There’s enormous potential in these Australian batsmen, once they get their heads down and bat for long periods. That’s why Ed Cowan is so invaluable: he values his wicket.
He will never have the crowd on their feet with scintillating strokeplay, but he will settle an innings and do the right thing by his team by holding up one end.
If David Warner, Chris Rogers, and Phil Hughes ever set the English fields alight together, Michael Clarke will be declaring in excess of 600. That will win more Test matches than it will lose.
And there’s no reason why that cannot be achieved.
I have one reservation, other than the obvious brittleness of the Australian batting in recent times.
There are far too many left-handers, and England bowlers love facing the ‘mollydookers’.
Warner, Cowan, Rogers, Hughes, Usman Khawaja, and Matt Wade are all recognised batsmen. And you can add Starc and Pattinson, two lower order lefties to the tally – both can bat.
That makes eight of the top 12 batsmen in the squad lefties, leaving only Watson, Clarke, Brad Haddin, and James Faulkner as right-handers.
Not a good mix.
Obviously all the lefties won’t be in the Australian side at the same time, but they are on tour, where anything can, and probably will, happen over five Tests.
So we are in for a fascinating Ashes series.
Shades of 1989 when “another” worst Australian team left our shores under Allan Border?
The baggy greens hammered England 4-zip in a six-Test series.