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Three reasons why England will win the Ashes

Joe MacDougall Roar Rookie

By Joe MacDougall, Joe MacDougall is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    When the Ashes kicks off in earnest on 23rd November at the ‘Gabbatoir’ – as it has become known to the locals following years of Australian dominance over all international visitors to Brisbane – it is likely the Aussies will indeed be favourites.

    This may come as a surprise to many supporters, with England having won five out of the last seven Ashes series – let alone being the current holders after their 3-2 victory on home soil in 2015.

    Indeed, Australia even hinted at a dismal 2017 when they were at their fallible best throughout their campaigns against Sri Lanka and South Africa in the second half of last year.

    But a recent resurgence with the bat (thanks in no small part to uncovering two new finds in Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb), along with the much anticipated possibility of unleashing their ‘dream team’ of four fearsome quick bowlers, has meant that out of nowhere the Australian Test side could be on the verge of a period of success.

    » 2017 Ashes TV Schedule

    By their own high standards this is not a word that has been associated with them in recent years.

    However, England are no pushovers. Since the beginning of the 2015 English summer, there has been a tangible air of optimism around the entire England squad and management team in all formats of the game.

    Now, as we move into a new era of captaincy, it must not be forgotten that for all the Aussies’ scare mongering about the Mitch Starc/Pat Cummins/James Pattinson/Josh Hazlewood axis of chin music, there’s still several reasons why England are capable pulling off only their second win Down Under in thirty years.

    Here are the three biggest reasons why I can see why Joe Root and his Barmy Army could set sail back to England in January 2018 with the priceless urn safely tucked into their luggage.

    1. The Middle Order
    It’s safe to say that last time out in Australia, England didn’t have the best of winters.

    Mitchell Johnson quite frankly scared the bejesus out of the batsmen, and the 5-0 thrashing was, unusually, a completely fair reflection of the cricket played.

    Despite two of England’s finest batsmen who were part of that demoralised side now long gone (Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen), the rise of the team’s new age of swashbuckling fearlessness is nowhere more well portrayed than in their middle order.

    Back in 2013-14, the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes were fresh faced newcomers to international cricket, and although Joe Root had already made a start in Test cricket, none of them were ready for the onslaught brought to them by the rampant Australians.

    Four years on, those three players in particular, are a different class. World class. Joe Root has becoming one of the small handful of batsman vying for the number one in the world tag, and Ben Stokes, in a slightly different way, has become absolutely box office.

    The issue of whether Bairstow, who for the last year or more has been in the sort of form all batsmen dream about, should bat at number 5 or 7, is one that will need to be ironed out this summer during the South Africa series.

    If he ends up as a fixture at 5 (as is surely the preferred option), then suddenly a Root-Bairstow-Stokes lower middle order has the potential to win Tests in a session.

    Add to that Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes coming in further down, and England bat deep and destructively. The Aussies will still fancy their pacemen to knock them over, but at some point they will shine, and shine brightly.

    Keaton Jennings plays a shot for England.

    (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

    If Australia are expecting the England team to look like rabbits in the headlights just as they did four years ago, they will get a nasty surprise.

    England have added some fight and scrap to their armoury along with a huge amount of skill and no small measure of finesse.

    2. Mark Wood
    It might seem strange to rest so many of England’s hope onto a twenty-seven-year-old bowler with eight Test caps to his name. But Mark Wood is potentially a vital man to England’s chances of retaining the urn this winter.

    Australia have always had one or two bowlers who can send it down over the 90mph barrier (indeed, if they stay fit, they could have four this time), and the reason why they’re so talked about when Australia are playing at home is because on the fast, dry, bouncy wickets native to Australia, such pace can be unplayable, especially in Brisbane and Perth.

    England have for some time now relied heavily on the world class skill levels of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

    But neither has a great record in Australia, and especially in Anderson’s case, his lack of real pace while using a Kookaburra ball that loses its shine so quickly often renders him utterly ineffective.

    Likewise, England’s lack of spin options was brutally exposed during the winter in India, and there will be huge pressure on Moeen Ali if he doesn’t start either taking wickets or strangling an end soon – currently he’s doing neither job with much success.

    Chris Woakes has picked up a yard of pace and will be an important spoke in England’s bowling wheel, but in Mark Wood they have someone with genuine pace; his ability to bowl fast consistently, with serious bounce and hostility (especially considering his size), set him apart as England’s biggest threat in Australia conditions.

    England will need him to have a good, and more importantly injury free, summer.

    3. The Joe Root/Ali Cook switch-up
    As soon as any new England captain has been announced, every writer across the country starts to wax lyrical about how much the burden of captaincy will affect the new man with the armband.

    The chosen man is nearly always a batsman, and his average prior to him getting the job is always higher than when he leaves the job, however long his tenure.

    However, you get the feeling things might be different with Joe Root. No-one is saying he’ll find captaining his country easy, but if he is able to maintain his carefree attitude of enjoyment while taking on the extra responsibility, it is just possible that his batting might just flourish during the forthcoming period.

    Certainly when asked about the possibility of the burden proving to heavy, his response is simply that it doesn’t seem to both the likes of Smith, Kohli and Williamson.

    (AP Photo/Jon Super)

    And he’s absolutely right. And Root is deservedly in the same category as those three gun players, so with any luck, the so-called ‘burden’ of captaincy may well work in his favour.

    In complete symmetry, England fans will hope that Alastair Cook will now find himself released from his metaphorical captaincy shackles and be happy to concentrate on doing what he does best: scoring runs.

    In case any Australian supporters had forgotten (which I suspect many have), the last time Alastair Cook played in an Ashes series Down Under in a non-captain capacity, his stats were as follows: five Tests, 766 runs at an average of 127.66 with three hundreds, including a stoic 235 not out in Brisbane.

    Anything like a repeat performance and England are in business.

    Listen in to Joe and the boys talking through England and Australia’s chances each week throughout the year on the Sticky Wicket Cricket Podcast – the cricket show produced by four fans of the game, for fans of the game. Available on all major podcasting platforms.

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    The Crowd Says (72)

    • June 8th 2017 @ 9:41am
      Sarah Krause said | June 8th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      One question: when have you actually heard anyone from Brissy call it the ‘Gabbatoir’? I live in Brisbane and haven’t missed a test since I was 8, Australia have never even lost a test at the Gabba in my lifetime. But never, ever have I heard anyone from around here use ‘Gabbatoir’ so I wouldn’t exactly say it’s what the locals call it. I love it though.

      • June 8th 2017 @ 12:18pm
        James said | June 8th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

        Haha yeah iv never heard it called that either.

        • June 8th 2017 @ 4:18pm
          qwetzen said | June 8th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

          Current score: 2-1

      • Roar Guru

        June 10th 2017 @ 3:03pm
        Rellum said | June 10th 2017 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        I have seen us loose a few at the GABBA and no one calls it Gabbatoir. No one.

    • June 8th 2017 @ 9:52am
      jameswm said | June 8th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

      reasons why they won’t win.

      1. It’s in Australia

      2. Hazlewood, Starc, Pattinson and Cummins

      3. The 1-2 punch of Steve Smith and David Warner

      4. New guys Handscomb and Renners

      5. How well will the English spinner go in Australia?

      My worries are Wade and Lyon (assuming he plays ahead of SOK). Who will bat 6? Maxwell? Cartwright? Lynn? Lehmann? Patterson? Other? Who have I missed?

      • June 8th 2017 @ 2:58pm
        matth said | June 8th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        I would add Khawaja’s home stats to that list.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 8th 2017 @ 9:57am
      JamesH said | June 8th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

      Is this the same Mark Wood who was mediocre on much friendlier bowling surfaces in the last Ashes series? Hmmm.

      Root is world class but their middle order will be very hit and miss. Buttler hasn’t really done much in test cricket to make me think he will be dangerous against one of the best pace attacks in the world. Bairstow has been strong but will be severely tested by the short ball. Stokes can be a world beater but is still his own worst enemy (with bat and ball).

      If they all fire then yes, England will probably win. I just think the odds of that happening aren’t great.

    • Roar Guru

      June 8th 2017 @ 10:18am
      Ryan H said | June 8th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      Interesting re: Wood
      I’m not sure how effective he will be in Australia yet as a lot of quick-ish bowlers that can move and hoop the ball in friendly conditions like NZ/Eng come to Australia and become fairly stock up and down bowlers that offer very little in the way or swing or seam movement. I agree he is probably England’s biggest weapon with the ball though, and I’d suspect they will play Broad, Wood, Woakes and Stokes as pace options.

      • June 8th 2017 @ 7:45pm
        James said | June 8th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

        Why do people not give Broad credit with the ball, he performs well everywhere.

    • Roar Guru

      June 8th 2017 @ 10:35am
      Giri Subramanian said | June 8th 2017 @ 10:35am | ! Report

      Not sure about Mark Wood. He hasn’t played much test cricket and Australians are pretty good against pace. Also the English batting will be against Starc, Hazlewood, Cummins and Pattinson on Australia pitches which is a fantastic pace attack for home conditions. Nathan Lyon is an excellent spinner and he is particularly good in Australia.The English spinners are not good enough and I am not sure that Moeen or Rashid will have any effect on these pitches. Australia bat very well at home so I am not sure it will be that easy for English bowlers.

      • June 8th 2017 @ 11:46am
        George said | June 8th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        Unless one/some of those bowlers are injured.

        Australia do bat well at home… most of the time. Most recent Tests in Perth and Hobart suggests it’s not an impossibility that good bowling can trouble them.

        • June 8th 2017 @ 1:06pm
          jameswm said | June 8th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

          There’s 4 top pace bowlers, so it would take more than one to be injured. Even then, we bring in Bird, Sayers or the Dorf, who offer something different.

          • June 8th 2017 @ 2:55pm
            George said | June 8th 2017 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            Indeed. But no certainty first-choice four *will* face England.

        • June 8th 2017 @ 3:00pm
          matth said | June 8th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

          Yes but that team has been dismantled with three of the top six replaced. Renshaw, Handscomb and (probably) Maxwell were not part of those losses.

          • June 8th 2017 @ 5:17pm
            George said | June 8th 2017 @ 5:17pm | ! Report

            Still, not an impossibility that collapses could return. More-experienced top 7’s than the current one have floundered in the past decade

    • Columnist

      June 8th 2017 @ 11:30am
      Ronan O'Connell said | June 8th 2017 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      Hi Joe,

      I always love a bit of pre-Ashes banter!

      But I can’t agree that Wood will be a bigger threat than Broad. Broad was outstanding in the last Ashes, despite getting zero support from his fellow bowlers.

      Broad’s become an all-conditions bowler who has that rare ability to adapt to virtually any type of pitch. Broad will be far and away England’s most important bowler in this series.

      Wood is really over-hyped. In county cricket this summer he averaged 69 with the ball, in division two, the same division in which James Pattinson averaged 11.

      As for Cook posing a major threat to Australia …. he has a bad Ashes record, with 5 poor Ashes series out of 6. Australia have had his measure.

      I agree the English middle order looks good. Bairstow is a very good batsman and Stokes seems to be ready to take that next step as a Test batsman after years of inconsistency with the blade.

      I think Root, Bairstow, Broad and Stokes will have good series but the likes of Cook, Anderson, Moeen, Wood, Woakes, Jennings/Hameed and Buttler will struggle.

      • June 8th 2017 @ 1:07pm
        jameswm said | June 8th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

        Broad comes across as a real tosser.

        But the guy can play.

        Ditto Root.

        • Roar Guru

          June 8th 2017 @ 4:14pm
          Ryan H said | June 8th 2017 @ 4:14pm | ! Report

          Yep they have a few players who appear very easy to dislike as blokes, but you can’t fault they are simply phenomenal cricketers.

          • June 8th 2017 @ 5:20pm
            George said | June 8th 2017 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

            Based on? Broad snarling like Starc does?

            Is anyone as thoroughly unlikeable than the sledger Wade?

            • June 8th 2017 @ 9:11pm
              Nev said | June 8th 2017 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

              Broad is a far better bloke since he turned out for the Canes…

      • Roar Rookie

        June 8th 2017 @ 7:00pm
        Joe MacDougall said | June 8th 2017 @ 7:00pm | ! Report

        Cheers Ronan,
        I’ll agree that the Wood prediction is perhaps based more on potential than his current stats. But if we can keep him fully fit, there’s no doubt he’ll be a massive weapon for England Down Under. He’s the only guy that can bowl over 90mph consistently (145 kmh in your money) , and although the Aussie batsmen do bat well in home conditions, I believe it’s rare in recent years that any bowler has come with such natural pace and variations – the ones that have done have generally succeeded there (the SA seamers spring to mind).

        Broad is a brilliant bowler still, and he’s going to be key, but its having the back up that will make England dangerous, and it’s unlikely Anderson will pose a threat bowling around 130 kmh with a Kookaburra ball that barely swings, which again brings the focus into how well Wood will do. What Wood did vs SA last week and NZ on Tuesday (admittedly in ODI’s) is a good picture of what he can do – he takes those big wickets when the game goes flat, an important attribute. England will probably spend long, hot periods in the field in Oz so they’ll need wicket takers!

        My colleague Marty Drummond has just put a piece up with 3 reasons why the Aussies will win – the spinning option being one of them – and I can’t really disagree with him unfortunately!

        • June 8th 2017 @ 9:48pm
          Liam said | June 8th 2017 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

          Here’s your issue, though.

          Rabada, Stein, Philander; these guys are good bowlers first, fast bowlers second (might be a bit of a stretch to say Philander’s fast, but you know what I mean). When last they toured Australia, India brought 3-4 blokes who could all bowl fast enough supposedly to trouble Australia; Shami, Sharma, Yadav, and Aaron. All of these bowlers, with the exception of Shami, got smashed; they got seduced by the conditions, all too good for bowlers who can make the ball bounce, and thus bowled too short, too wide.

          All too often, people emphasise the pace and bounce of the wickets, without remembering that you still need to bowl good areas for significant periods. Just having the pace is not enough, and there lies the issue with your statement that Wood will be able to take wickets here. From what I saw of him last series, he’s a bang it in kind of a bloke; those guys get figured out over here, by batsmen capable against the shorter ball.

          Watch Warner just pile on runs, if he starts to drop it short.

          • June 8th 2017 @ 11:50pm
            davSA said | June 8th 2017 @ 11:50pm | ! Report

            This is a good post Liam . Steyn himself has often spoken about the need to control the ball at pace rather than out and out speed. Even if it means slowing down a bit . Think Mitchell Johnson . He was always fast and aggressive but those golden periods of his were when he was able to put the ball into exactly the right areas that he wanted too. When he just went out to blast the batsmen he was not always that successful.

            • June 9th 2017 @ 7:48am
              George said | June 9th 2017 @ 7:48am | ! Report

              Both line-ups will be challenged to get the accuracy bit right. Not as though Starc always has his radar on.

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