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Why Australia will reclaim the Ashes

Australia's Peter Siddle, 2nd left, claims the wicket of England's Graeme Swann during the first day of the fifth Ashes cricket test match at the Oval cricket ground, London, Thursday Aug. 20, 2009. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
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16th November, 2013
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The return Ashes series for 2013/14 promises to be one of the closest fought over the history of duels between the two old enemies.

After three consecutive drubbings, the Australians appear as though they will field their most competent squad since their last series victory in 2007.

The English will no doubt be eager to retain the Ashes for a second time running on Australian shores and their commitment and resolve shouldn’t trammel their aspirations.

This Australian team however, shall come up trumps this time around and reclaim the urn they have so long coveted.

Here is why.

Finally it appears the selectors have been on a steady dose of commonsense pills and are content with fielding the most consistent players available, rather than enduring a futile search for imminent world-beaters.

They have conceded players of the calibre of Shane Warne, Matt Hayden, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist aren’t churned out on a production line like Uncle Toby’s oats and have ceased with their foolish ploy of experimenting with players who exhibit patches of potential.

Now we have opted for our best current crop of players to take the field in the first Test.

This is most evident in their retention of Nathan Lyon and Brad Haddin; two reliable players who have performed almost without fail for the national team, yet have previously held positions as precarious as a Labor Party leader’s.

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Now we have some continuity and, what’s more, a squad with familiarity.

Then there’s the case of Steven Smith. An indisputably talented player, one who has the faculty to become one of his country’s greatest ever players, Smith has long been one of the biggest victims of the transitional phase the Australian team has undergone.

As the selectors went on their irrational spree of handing out baggy greens like they were Fitness First promotional flyers, Smith was given a different set of instructions for just about every series.

For a while he was touted as the new Shane Warne, playing as a frontline spinner who batted a little.

He also fronted as an explosive top order hitter in limited overs formats, a bit-part Test player who was of the Ronnie Irani mould, possessing roles with neither bat or ball that should warrant selection and even as a specialist fielder who bowled a couple of overs and was good for a couple of late innings boundaries.

Now, however, the brains trust have settled on their depiction on Smith and devised a cunning plan.

He will be utilised for his pre-eminent batting skills and hold a key position in the middle order he should make his own for a decade to come.

His role has been established and the man has a clear head. There will be plenty of runs coming off his bat this summer.

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A player who has been dealt similar fortune is Shane Watson. While his role hasn’t enjoyed the undulations that Smith’s might have, he could have been forgiven for his indifferent stretches of form due to the expectations placed upon him.

A man whose career has been harshly curtailed by injury, too much was asked of Watson to open the batting and bowl 20 overs an innings in a battling side.

Although one of the few world-class players in the side, his credentials cannot be maximised if such a load is placed upon him.

The extra breathing space afforded to him at first drop should see a highly productive series. If his injuries subside, his wares with the ball will no doubt come to the fore as well.

On that note, it appears Ryan Harris has also seen the worst of his troublesome battles with his hulking body.

A late bloomer, Harris has become the spearhead of the attack and should he and Peter Siddle stride out alongside one another in each and every Test, the English batsmen will have more than their work cut out for them.

Regarding the English side, their attack isn’t as formidable as it has been in the previous three series.

Yes, James Anderson is a class act and proved to us on his last tour of Australia he isn’t just a green track burglar or a master exponent of the Dukes ball, but what will his support be like?

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Stuart Broad was arguably England’s best in the most recent Ashes series but he hasn’t completed a Test match in Australia before, in fact he hasn’t even played a one day international match here.

There is no questioning his capabilities with a cricket ball but how long is it going to take him to find his groove in completely foreign conditions?

Furthermore, the English maintain they have a luxury of choosing between three high quality quick bowlers for the third seamer’s position, yet if Chris Tremlett was half the bowler he was last time he came out here then the selectors wouldn’t even need to consider another option.

Then of course there’s the jovial, charismatic Graeme Swann. The world’s best finger spinner over the past five years and a competitor in the ilk Pat Symcox.

His returns weren’t bad last time he toured down under, yet they were hardly superb and his virtues of subtle variation off the surface, moreso than in the air will again be nullified by the harder, truer Australian surfaces.

Viewers worldwide will be fixed to their boxes to enjoy one of sport’s most famous contests. A preponderance of those onlookers will regard the English as firm favourites for their notable consistency this epoch of cricketers has provided them.