Much has been written and spoken about Australia’s fast bowling stocks after the drawn Ashes series.
With the World Cup in all its triumph, tragedy and controversy over, the focus now turns to what can be described as the real pinnacle of cricket, at least in Australia and England.
The Ashes is now less than two weeks away, and selection talk is starting to come to the forefront of the minds of every Aussie with an opinion. Suddenly, it seems everyone is a cricketing expert.
However, for some with a longer-term memory, the visions of South Africa 2018 are still all too clear. A year and a half later, the Aussies are gearing up for what could be the most decisive Test series in living memory, if not all of history.
Since the infamous events in South Africa, Australia’s Test match results have consisted of a 1-0 loss to Pakistan in a two-game series, a 2-1 loss to India in a four-match series at home and a 2-0 series sweep of Sri Lanka. The win against Sri Lanka definitely showed promise, however, the overall vibe of Test cricket in Australia in the Tim Paine era has been one of disappointment.
This was to be expected with arguably three of our best players out with suspensions, however, this excuse won’t work anymore. England are fresh off their World Cup win and will be full of confidence in their home conditions. However, the Aussies seem to be holding their own in the warm-ups and around the county circuit.
Peter Siddle has taken 34 wickets in 15 innings at an average of 20.08 playing for the table-topping Essex in Division 1. Marnus Labuschagne has scored 1114 runs in 18 innings at an average of 65.52 playing for Glamorgan in Division 2. Pending selection, it seems some Aussies have been able to adapt to the English conditions rather well.
This should give us Aussies some confidence moving into the Ashes. This series is vitally important to the revival of Australia as not just a cricketing nation, but a cricket-loving nation. The fallout from South Africa can still be found today as seen by the constant jeering of Steve Smith and David Warner in the World Cup.
However, a strong Ashes performance and a series win would not only put a zip on some English supporters with big mouths, but it could also kick start and reinvigorate the growth of cricket in Australia. In 2017, cricket is only the tenth most played sport in Australia according to the Australian government AusPlay survey.
This Ashes series has the capability to recapture a love of cricket. I dare to say, a strong series win could put the memories of those fateful days in South Africa to bed for good.
With the Big Bash tournament and a full home summer ahead, the boys in England are playing for more than some small perfume container trophy. They’re playing for the state of cricket in Australia. Up the Aussies!