Three reasons why Australia will win the Ashes

Martin Drummond Roar Rookie

By , Martin Drummond is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    Australian cricket was in a dark place on 15 November 2016.

    The team had lost the first two Tests of the Australian summer and fallen to a humiliating series defeat to the rampaging South Africans.

    The cricket watching public had just witnessed back-to-back batting collapses that resulted in an innings loss for their team donning the baggy green. A truly horrible defeat after conceding a more than manageable first innings total to the men from another great southern land.

    For the cost of their 20 wickets the team had faced a mere 528 deliveries. A wicket every 26 balls. This was the lowest ratio of wickets to balls in a home Test since Don Bradman’s debut in 1928.

    As those last two Australian batsmen trudged from that cold Hobart field the grey skies of doom closed overhead. The media pundits inside the shed had sharpened their proverbial scribes. A lack of skill. No application. No desire or pride in the rich history of the national team. The end of Test cricket in Australia.

    What would become of Steve Smith’s team?

    Australian captain Steve Smith leaves the field

    But as has oft been written – it is always darkest just before the day dawneth. The captain bravely faced the baying media and publicly drew a line in the sand.

    To the surprise of many, this desperate call in the dark was heeded by the powers of Australian cricket. The same circle of suits and boardroom elite many feared lost to the gods of T20 capitalism. Selectors fell on their sword, failing players were dropped, promising youth selected.

    The results followed.

    The third Test against South Africa fell to Australia. Then Pakistan became cannon fodder for a once great team regaining its swagger. But, it was the series against India, on the sub-continent in March, where this new Australian team finally found the drive and application the cricket watching public had longed craved.

    The traits of determination and aptitude long feared lost in this new era of high octane big bash cricket.

    So now, with only six months before the first ball is bowled in anger, the Australian cricket team is once again on the precipice of regaining the Ashes from the old enemy. While we can wax lyrical in generalities about this improvement we can identify three key areas that will once again secure the sacred urn for Australia:

    1. The Fast Bowling Cartel
    The awesome speed and left arm swing of Mitchell Starc, the raw aggression of James Pattinson, the unerring accuracy of Josh Hazlewood and the ‘once in a generation’ skills of Pat Cummins.

    This fast bowling unit, now coming into their prime, may just be the strongest Test cricket has seen in a generation.

    While some cricket writers, perhaps in a mood of giddy excitement, have suggested that the selectors may ‘quadruple down’ on four pacemen in Brisbane and Perth, the strong likelihood is that the four will be competing among each other to not be the drinks vest come November.

    Australia's Josh Hazlewood (C) celebrates bowling out Englands Joe Root

    Next to the Australian line-up, the pace line-up of England, still led by the swing of James Anderson and the line and length of Stuart Broad, presents a distinctly pedestrian and ageing façade.

    While there are strong supporting pacemen in Mark Wood and Jake Ball, plus the all-round abilities of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes, the lack of searing pace from the lead duo may result in long spells on these hard and flat Australian wickets.

    While these English players are conditioned to excel on the seaming and swinging decks of England, these same skills are generally wasted on the flat, hard decks of the Southern Hemisphere.

    2. Nathan Lyon
    While it may seem controversial to suggest that an off-spinner could be the difference in Australian conditions, the increasing ability for Nathan Lyon, to not only bowl tightly but to a clearly defined plan, will be crucial to successfully breaking English partnerships (and hearts) in Australian conditions.

    The bowling numbers don’t lie, at the age of only 29 years he has now played 69 Tests for 247 wickets with a strong Test bowling average of 33.39.

    While he may be walking in the domineering shadow of Shane Warne, and the constant media speculation about his place in the side, the ability of Lyon to turn matches in the favour of Australia has increased markedly.

    This is in comparison to the sorry state of English spin. Since the retirement of Graeme Swann, and the problems suffered by Monty Panesar, the England Test team has relied most often on the bits and pieces spin bowling of Moeen Ali.

    While Moeen has been serviceable in the role of the key spinner, he is nevertheless a batsman at heart, and his inability to bowl to a consistent plan has left England with a distinct lack of options.

    If the Australian batsman can dominate Moeen, forcing him from the attack like they did Graeme Swann in 2013, then the leadership skills of the new English captain will be sorely tested.

    It will be crucial for England’s chances that he can hold an end for prolonged periods to allow the rotation of the England pace bowlers – an area in which Lyon excels for the Australians.


    3. The Gabba
    From Nasser Hussein’s error of judgment at the coin toss, to the first ball bowled by Steve Harmison, to the destruction of the England middle order by Mitchell Johnson in 2013, The Gabba has been a graveyard for visiting English cricket teams.

    The pace of the wicket, combined with the heat of the early Queensland summer, provide the most foreign of playing conditions for the visiting English. Conditions in stark contrast to the swing of Trent Bridge or the chill and seam of Headingley.

    If Australia can once again make a strong statement in the first Test, with the pace and bounce of Perth to follow, like 2006-07 and 2013-14, it could be a long hot summer for the touring English.

    Listen in as Marty fights the good fight for Australian cricket each week on the Sticky Wicket Cricket Podcast. The weekly cricket podcast produced by four fans, for other fans, of international cricket. Find us on iTunes, Soundcloud and all good podcasting platforms.