A talking point that often comes up regarding the state of cricket is the balance between bat and ball.
It couldn’t be more obvious what one big battle we are looking forward to in the upcoming days.
The build up had started from the time Australia trounced their old enemy down under the previous series. Not that the hosts England hold a significant edge this time – given their share of vulnerabilities against the pace bowlers – however, the James Anderson-led bowling attack will start as marginal favourites.
England’s mauling of Australia in the semi-final of the World Cup – and succeeding them as the world champions – further spices the clash.
Tim Paine’s men have been under the hammer since their shattering loss to Virat Kohli’s men in the most extended format at home earlier this year.
It also happened to be the first-ever Test series defeat that the baggy greens endured to an Asian nation on their home soil. Kohli – who has had Australia’s number in all formats for a long time now – entered the Australian shores with an affluent reputation.
Much as the expectations from this Indian side arose with each game, the Aussie bowling attack possessed the venom to single-handedly win games.
Alas, the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner from their ranks hurt them in a way so that no other batsmen looked listless against the Indian bowlers.
Make no mistake – Kohli is someone who Australians may love to hate. He is also someone who’s Australian-ness has him better prepared against the verbal confrontations and the mind games from opposition, especially against Australia. Amidst this, his advice to crack the code on beating England could be throbbing in the tourists’ minds ahead of the Ashes.
After winning the Test series down under via a 2-1 margin, the Indian captain’s blunt message to the Aussie batsmen was to leave their egos behind if they are to succeed in England.
The world’s leading Test batsman opined that patience is the crucial factor in thriving in the English conditions. He said that the Australian batsmen would have to play an old-school style of cricket, which meant grinding games out in the middle to achieve those precious runs.
The Dukes ball – as pointed out by Kohli – can sink egos quite rapidly, and thus slogging it out would be critical for Australia to achieve triumph for the first time since 2001.
The Delhi batsman – who had been under immense pressure on landing in England – ended the 2018 Test series in the UK as the highest run-scorer.
On the contrary, the right-hander tasted a substantial failure in 2014, mainly exposed against James Anderson and Stuart Broad on the English green tops. Despite an abject failure of batting which lead India to lose the Test series last year, the 30-year old shone against the Dukes ball amassing 593 runs across five Tests.
Australia’s problems with the moving ball isn’t a new story, but something that traces back over a decade. Despite cleaning out the English batsmen relatively cheaply, Australia relinquished those advantages and failed to show the mettle in testing conditions.
If the tour match against the English Lions is anything to go by, we could witness some more strings of batting collapses from the visitors.
Sam Curran’s stocks have been on the rise ever since he led his side to some unlikely wins against India. The left-armer’s burst at Canterbury would only encourage the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad to replicate their performances from The Oval back in 2009, from Trent Bridge in 2015, from Lord’s in 2009 and from Trent Bridge again in 2013.
Undeniably, the return of Steve Smith and David Warner will boost the tourists’ growing batting stocks. However, the perennial antagonistic welcoming by the English crowds is also something that the entire side would have to deal with.