Can England cope with being favourites?
The first Ashes Test is so close you can almost smell it. Unfortunately what you actually can smell is the stench of the Australian performance in the Champions Trophy.
Perhaps that was what caused England to choke so horribly in the final of the same tournament so bad was the smell England choked again in a (pointless) T20 against New Zealand a few days later.
Jokes aside, the form of the two sides is very different. Plus the lead up for Australia has involved everything from fast tracked visas to fired coaches and errant punches.
England on the other hand have had to worry about how to squeeze Kevin Pietersen back into their squad.
Poor old Nick Compton took one for the team – likely as a nod to the future, that future being Joe Root opening and captaining England once Alistair Cook has had enough of the top job
My concern is that England are not used to being favourites, and overwhelming ones too if you believe the hype. This could be an issue come the Ashes.
Australia have a very potent looking fast bowling attack.
Sure Ryan Harris and James Pattinson are more fragile than Nasser Hussain’s “poppadom fingers”, but with Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc, Jackson Bird and James Faulkner in the squad the odd injury is manageable.
They are largely unproven in Test cricket and even less so outside Australia, but they all seem suited to English conditions (particularly Pattinson and Bird) – and will cause problems for England.
If Australia start strongly this could be a very interesting series.
England are expected to win. The UK press have all but written off the Australians, before a ball has been bowled.
How will the team react if they go 1-0 down, particularly as it would be followed by a volley from all corners and calls for Ian Bell and a couple of others (Bairstow, Finn) to be dropped (standard reaction to any poor England performance).
If Australia are to do the unthinkable and win back the Ashes it will come down to two things, their batsmen and getting a fast start.
If England win the first Test, you fear the worst.
The fragile nature of the batting mentally (excluding Clarke – who could go down with back problems at any second but that is a separate problem) – may not recover if Anderson and co rattle them first up.
If they hold their own and can get a few mental blows in of their own in the first Test, things could be very different.
With any luck Boof Lehmann will have installed some steel into the side by the time the Test starts (including Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin in the XI will help this).
Perhaps as a fan who wants to watch as much cricket as possible this English summer, I am being overly generous to a side in turmoil, whose leader is by all accounts very unpopular, a new coach and a group of young players who appear not to know the value of graft.
Perhaps. But sport is not as simple as that…and momentum counts for a huge amount.
If the Aussies can get hold their own in the first Test doubts will creep into the England side (Cook can’t play left armers, Trott is a run out waiting to happen, Pietersen and Bell are flat track bullies etc etc).
Those are some very big ifs. All I am saying is that Australia winning the Ashes is far from impossible.
Will it happen? No. But it won’t be as easy as the press will make you believe. Much of this depends on Clarke’s fitness…If he misses any significant playing time a mauling could be on the cards.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.