DIZZY: Three key factors ahead of the first Ashes Test

Jason Gillespie Columnist

By Jason Gillespie, Jason Gillespie is a Roar Expert

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    Darren Lehmann has escaped much of the blame so far - how long will this continue? (AP Photo/Rui Vieira/PA)

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    The first Test of the Ashes series starts in Nottingham later today at Trent Bridge. As always, it is a much anticipated series.

    This is the oldest rivalry in our great game.

    Regardless of results, Ashes cricket always highlights all the great things our game has to offer: history, tradition, sportsmanship and passion.

    One only has to listen to players, coaches, commentators, former players, journalists and cricket fans talk about Ashes cricket to hear the passion in their voices to understand what it means to people.

    A good example is listening to former players (captains in some instances) commentating when Australia play England (or when England play Australia, depending where you are).

    The pride oozes out of the likes of Taylor, Chappell, Gower and Botham, and you appreciate just what this sporting battle means even long after hanging up the boots.

    So what can we expect? Let me explore a few points.

    The playing surface
    I am going to put the blowtorch on England a bit here. The word on the street is that the Trent Bridge pitch is dry and will turn. This is in direct contrast to County Cricket pitches you encounter when Nottinghamshire play.

    England will come out and say they are playing to their strengths, with Swann spinning it (especially after Australia’s battles in India earlier this year) and their fast bowlers getting conventional and reverse swing.

    However, the cynic in me looks a bit deeper into it than that.

    I am of the opinion that England are more than concerned with the Australian fast bowling brigade. They are well aware the Aussie quicks are dangerous.

    In Pattinson and Starc, Australia have two of the fastest bowlers out of both squads who move the ball off the straight when bowling a fuller length.

    If these two get their lines and length right, they will be a handful, regardless of what surface but especially on a pitch with good bounce and carry.

    England would have also looked at Bird, who relies on bounce and carry, bowling disciplined length and line, and think they need not have pitches that give him too much assistance.

    They would have also looked at Siddle and Harris, both highly rated by England, who can move the ball away from England’s right handers at brisk pace.

    They do a lot of bowling, they have strong motors, and love doing the ‘hard yards’ for the team.

    England do not want them to have any advantage at Trent Bridge.

    Basically, England are backing that Swann will cause more problems than Nathan Lyon and that their pace attack can utilise the Duke cricket ball better on a good batting surface.

    Are they scared? Probably not, but they are a little worried, that’s for sure.

    Likely make up of teams
    England’s side will be very straight-forward. Root replaces Compton at the top of the order and Pietersen comes in; while Bairstow retains his place at 6. Their bowling attack will be Anderson, Broad, and most likely, Finn (they will consider Bresnan because of his skills with the old ball), with Swann as the spinner.

    Australia, however, is more difficult to predict. Perhaps it will be: Watson, Rogers, Cowan/Khawaja, Clarke, Hughes, Warner, Haddin, Starc/Bird, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon.

    ‘Boof’ Lehmann came out and publicly backed Watson and Rogers to open at Trent Bridge. Good decision.

    This ends speculation leading up to the match and gives those lads an opportunity to best prepare for the Test series. It also gives them a boost having the coach publicly backing them.

    I can’t predict which way Australia will go with the number 3 position. It is genuinely a coin toss.

    Who is the better long term option? Possibly Khawaja, but he would need to score big hundreds to justify the spot.

    It seems that Clarke will bat 4. To be fair, he probably needs to. His statistics at 5 are outstanding and I think they can be outstanding at 4.

    He is just a fantastic player.

    I like the look of Phil Hughes. But he will need to get runs early in the series to keep his place and I believe if he struggles, that might be it for him as a Test cricketer.

    He needs to play positively and Boof will encourage him to play with freedom.

    All the indications point to Warner playing at Trent Bridge.

    Boof has said all players have a ‘clean slate’ and he would have served his ban from his altercation in Birmingham.

    Is it sending the right message? People will probably say no, but you could argue that once a ban is served, it’s served. The issue will be whether the selectors believe he has had enough good practice to jump into a Test match.

    Haddin picks himself at 7. Best keeper batsman we have. Simple.

    I think Starc may get the nod over Bird, although Bird brings control to an aggressive attack. I have only seen Bird on TV so Starc gets the nod for me.

    Siddle and Pattinson have to play, in my opinion. Pattinson is the quickest bowler Australia has and Siddle has performed strongly over the last two years.

    Both are wicket takers and Siddle can bowl long penetrating spells in all conditions.

    Lyon is the best spinner in Australia and Trent Bridge will turn. He is not given the credit he deserves. He gets turn, loop and bounce and he will perform a role this series.

    The Lehmann Factor
    It was a bold and courageous decision by Cricket Australia to sack Mickey Arthur and install Boof as coach. It was also the right call.

    I have known Darren a long time. I count him as a close mate.

    His people skills are outstanding. Combine that with a shrewd cricket brain and strong work ethic and you have the makings of a top coach.

    I’ve learnt as much about the game and life from Darren as I have from anyone.

    I will always remember my early days going down to South Australia practice as an 18 year-old net bowler.

    Darren was one of the big players in the side and went out of his way to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I saw this continue throughout our careers for South Australia and Australia, whenever anyone was new to the set up.

    Always up for a laugh, he believes the game should be enjoyed because, after all, it’s a game at the end of the day. Play it hard, play it fair, and entertain people.

    It sounds simple, but I can tell you, it works.

    He is a very inclusive person.

    We always looked to have a BBQ as a team with everyone’s families after Sheffield Shield games at Adelaide Oval on the bowling greens out back. Boof would usually sort out the arrangements and these are some of South Australian cricketers most cherished memories (not to mention watching Boof wearing his shorts and crocs, beer in hand, challenging any of the lads to a game of lawn bowls at these BBQs).

    His lawn bowls was not of the highest quality!

    But this is how he likes to operate: work hard, enjoy life and each other’s successes, not just cricket. He creates a positive environment.

    You watch this Australian team at training, in interviews and in the field this Ashes series.

    They will be having fun wearing the baggy green with big smiles on their faces because, after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

    Jason Gillespie
    Jason Gillespie

    After taking 259 wickets in 71 Tests to become Australia's sixth highest wicket-taker, Jason Gillespie has remained involved in cricket, coaching the likes of the Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the Adelaide Strikers. Follow Jason on Twitter @Dizzy259.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • July 10th 2013 @ 5:22am
      nickyc said | July 10th 2013 @ 5:22am | ! Report

      Don’t think they’re producing dry turning wickets because they fear the Aussie pace bowlers – after all they produced similar wickets at Lord’s and Headingley for the tests against NZ. I think it’s more about playing to their own strengths, ie. spin and reverse swing and Australia’s weaknesses.

      • July 10th 2013 @ 9:31am
        Shire Ump said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Funny how we just accept this sort of thing nowadays.

        Can you imagine if the English turned up at the WACA and found a dust bowl or if they arrived at Adelaide and it was a green top? Botham would go balistic and fleet street would scream blue murder.

        Australian curators simply don’t bow to the demands to produce pitches (not wickets) that are a favour to the home team, each pitch has its own characteristics and they are maintained…WACA bounces, SCG spins, at Adelaide you make a ton of runs.

        I think saying that this has been a hot English summer and the pitch reflects that is a joke, a hot English summer is a day when the temperature creeps above 18 degrees and there are occasional showers, a bit like this summer. Doesn’t anyone remember the Champions Trophy where a match in Cardiff was played with a maximum of 8 degrees?

        Doctored decks…not in the spirit

        • Columnist

          July 10th 2013 @ 9:59am
          Ronan O'Connell said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:59am | ! Report

          Not too sure about that… The Gabba, usually lively for the first 2 days, was flat as a tack against SA and their gun pace attack last year.

          • July 10th 2013 @ 10:55am
            Brian said | July 10th 2013 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            Yes and I remember when Warne was at his pomp how the WACA went through a period where it lost its feared pace and became more spin friendly. The SCG too seemed to grow grass after he retired.

            I agree England are worried. Part of it is the general make up of the series being favorites I get the feeling they fear a greentop which each side could win in 4 days. Alternatively if its a draw they would back themselves in the other 4 games. The underdog benefits from juicer pitches. Before the SL series Jayawardene wanted a pacy pitch in Hobart, he knew that was his team’s only chance of getting the 20 wickets.

        • July 10th 2013 @ 10:31am
          nachos supreme said | July 10th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          these days?
          It’s called home advantage and has been employed by all sides since day dot.
          Including Australia.

        • July 10th 2013 @ 11:54am
          Disco said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:54am | ! Report

          Oh, please. Getting your excuses in early, much?

        • July 10th 2013 @ 2:04pm
          nickyc said | July 10th 2013 @ 2:04pm | ! Report

          Actually the drainage systems are so good at England’s test grounds these days that if the groundsmen did nothing you’d probably end up with the dry surface you’ll see at Trent Bridge. Believe it or not it doesn’t rain all the time in Eng – little rain is forecast for July – so it would require active ‘doctoring’ of the pitch to produce a greentop. Ironically by doing little Eng will get the surfaces that will likely suit them.

      • July 10th 2013 @ 12:23pm
        daveg said | July 10th 2013 @ 12:23pm | ! Report

        As Steve Waugh once said once, don’t have a toss and just let the touring side choose…problem solved…

        • July 10th 2013 @ 1:29pm
          James said | July 10th 2013 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          yeah or just flip a coin at the start of the game, heads team one bats first and tails team two bats first. its a nice idea but i still like the coin toss, usually in sports it doesnt matter that much the better team over the 5 days will win but it adds that extra something to the game.

    • July 10th 2013 @ 6:02am
      Rob Barrow said | July 10th 2013 @ 6:02am | ! Report

      Good article Dizzy, i would have gone for Khawaja at 3 but its a long series and i we do go for Cowan he will need to replay that faith as he as had 19 games in a row averaging in the low 30s. Anyway key thing is that we win, i just think UTK is part of that top 6 but i put my faith in boof. Will be interesting to see if we go for Harris, Bird or Siddle as the 3rd bowler.

      • July 10th 2013 @ 12:21pm
        Varun said | July 10th 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        Well said rob

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2013 @ 7:37am
      Tim Holt said | July 10th 2013 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      Great write up Legend

      I think i would add a 4th one in respect to the ‘Aussies Resolve’ – an entity that has improved under Boof, but with a recent history of being broken down so easily and being so ready to give up in games

      How will they fare when the English come at them hard?

    • July 10th 2013 @ 7:39am
      Nudge said | July 10th 2013 @ 7:39am | ! Report

      It’s funny how nearly most of the past players say nathon Lyon is underrated and a quality bowler but so many cricket experts on this site think he is average at best or a hack

      • July 10th 2013 @ 1:34pm
        James said | July 10th 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

        yeah but most of the past players are terrible at judging current players, at least in public. so scared of saying someones shite even if they obviously are. shane warne gave all the australians from the last ashes more than passing grades in an article i read, he gave most 7/10. im all for team unity etc but there is nothing wrong with saying bad stuff about a player if its the truth. like in the mid 2000s when federer was beating everyone, after every game he would say ‘yeah good game, the guy pushed me at times hes a good player’ after beating the guy 6-1 6-3 6-0. these are professional athletes their job is to be really good at what they do. if they dont play well, retired players should say so more. not in a mean way but in a you suck at this get better at this way

      • July 10th 2013 @ 2:45pm
        davos said | July 10th 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        too true nudge…I recently voiced my opinion to a S oz state cricketer that lyon was overated ….and nearly got my head chewed off ….got a barrage of expletives and a rant about know nothing noughies and keyboard warriors that have no f…..g idea …I was merely trying to suggest that lyon had had the opportunity a few times now to bowl us to victory on a fifth day pitch and he wasn’t up to it …he certainly invokes fierce loyalty form those who really know ….also GREAT ARTICLE DIZZY …makes a difference to read about it from someone who has been there and can actually walk the walk

        • July 10th 2013 @ 5:19pm
          Nudge said | July 10th 2013 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

          Are you s.oz davos if so good to hear. Geez I’m nervous

          • July 10th 2013 @ 5:35pm
            davos said | July 10th 2013 @ 5:35pm | ! Report

            nswelshman supporting south oz …I go down a fair bit and watch em…. about being nervous..I think you just gotta sit back and enjoy it….. if we don’t do so well …its only a game …and someone is getting the experience …being forged in the fire if you like for future great performances ….but what if we give it to em against all the odds that will be something special then

    • July 10th 2013 @ 8:25am
      Adam Weinberg said | July 10th 2013 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Im shocked that Warner is in the Aussie XI

      Australia (probable) 1 Shane Watson, 2 Chris Rogers, 3 Ed Cowan, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Phillip Hughes, 6 David Warner, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 James Pattinson, 11 Nathan Lyon

      Is he performing well in the nets or something???

      Does the game actually start at 20:00 AEST ??

      • July 10th 2013 @ 8:42am
        Lancey5times said | July 10th 2013 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        I like how Steve Smith may be overlooked as he has had problems against swing bowling. Doesn’t our friend Davy suffer from the same illness. When set they both can take an attack apart and turn a match in a session while I can’t split them in the field. Further to that, Smith’s bowling is better, he has played cricket recently and hasn’t punched anybody in the Chevy Chase.

        It’s a no brainer

        • July 10th 2013 @ 9:25am
          Christo the Daddyo said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:25am | ! Report

          If its going to be a dry, dusty pitch that should favour selecting Smith over Warner. Smith was one of the few batsmen who seemed to cope with the Indian pitches. Plus he provides a backup spin option. I would have very low expectations in that regard, but if he can roll his arm over and give Lyons a break (without costing too many runs), that could prove quite valuable.

          Clarke is too valuable a batsmen to risk as a bowler.

          • July 10th 2013 @ 9:38am
            Lancey5times said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:38am | ! Report

            Another right hander wouldn’t hurt either

        • July 10th 2013 @ 11:56am
          Disco said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          I agree. But Davey’s King Pup’s mate.

          • July 10th 2013 @ 12:37pm
            Christo the Daddyo said | July 10th 2013 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

            King Pup isn’t a selector anymore.

            • July 10th 2013 @ 1:06pm
              Disco said | July 10th 2013 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              So, what, you don’t think he has any influence, especially when on tour?

              • July 10th 2013 @ 2:49pm
                davos said | July 10th 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

                according to Praveen he is great mates with uzzie too …that hasn’t worked out so well

    • July 10th 2013 @ 9:15am
      Arthur fonzarelli. said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Can’t wait to hear what songs the pommy crowds come up with for Warner . He will cop an absolute pizzling fielding in the outer .

      • July 10th 2013 @ 9:39am
        Chui said | July 10th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        You can be sure they’ll be amusing the first couple of times, and then boringly repetitive – like all the rest.

        • July 10th 2013 @ 11:47am
          James said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:47am | ! Report

          he bowls to the left he bowls to the right that mitchell johnson, his bowling is shite. really never got old

          • July 10th 2013 @ 4:44pm
            Ricky Pontings beard said | July 10th 2013 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

            News on SEN saying Smith at 6

        • July 10th 2013 @ 11:57am
          Disco said | July 10th 2013 @ 11:57am | ! Report

          As repetitive as Watson getting out plonking that big front pad down the track.

          • Roar Guru

            July 10th 2013 @ 1:35pm
            wisey_9 said | July 10th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

            or lashing out at a ball he shouldn’t.

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