Recently I pointed out how readily cricket statistics lend themselves to misinterpretation, bias, manipulation and downright skulduggery.
The next Ashes may be hard to imagine in this current climate, but as sports fans it is a remarkable occasion we look forward to.
Nothing beats Ashes cricket in Australia; the daunting and intimidating venues like the Gabbatoir, chirpy crowds and fast wickets lie in wake for the visiting England team who will strive to try and reclaim the Urn, something they have not done since 2015.
Here, I start with the hosts’ potential line up. As you may know I have tried selecting some rugby XVs for the British and Irish Lions, so if you’re a fan of union give them a read.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments – as an English native I may not as know as much about Sheffield Shield stars as some others.
1. David Warner
Struggled against Broad in England last time out, but in Australian conditions he is a batting master. Impressive return last home summer with a stand out of a 335* against Pakistan in Adelaide. This is likely to be his last or penultimate Ashes series.
While his record away from home will largely be questioned, in Australia and against the Old Enemy, with even more personal pride at stake for Warner, this is a series he will want to grab by the scruff of the neck.
2. Joe Burns
In all fairness I am unsure whether Australia, fans or myself want a Leftie-Right or Leftie-Leftie combo at the top of the order. Cam Bancroft struggled last time out in England and had a quiet Ashes series in 2017-18. Few fans remember that before the tampering fiasco, he was looking strong in SA, with a couple of fifties. However, I think Burns will get the nod.
I feel he is a player who gets a lot of stick from fans and media, but the fact that Australia have never really given him plenty of game time when he has been in form has damaged confidence.
Had some solid displays last summer and should definitely be given some chances against England. Marcus Harris may also be one to watch if he continues his normally good Sheffield State form.
3. Marnus Labuschagne
Loose-bus-change. Probably been the stand out player in the last 18 months.
Fantastic temperament and appetite for big runs, resulting in four big tons last summer and an impressive run out in the Ashes series, scoring four fifties in seven innings.
What has impressed me so much about Marnus is his technique. It is classic, old-school and simple. However it is perfected so well with his knowledge of leaving outside off that makes it even more impressive.
Write off another big series against England at your own will, Marnus has all the makings of a big star in Australian cricket.
4. Steve Smith
Who else but him? The term big match player may be overused, but Smith is clearly the big match player in world cricket and no one else is near him apart from Ben Stokes in match winning knocks under pressure.
Edgbaston twin centuries, Old Trafford 211 and the opening Test 141* in Brisbane in 2017 all showcase Smith’s freakish record against England. A proper great of the game who will look to further terrorise England’s bowling think tank. And oh boy it would be no surprise if he adds up to his 11 centuries in Ashes cricket.
5. Travis Head
No.5 is the second batting space the Aussies have issues with. I thought Travis Head showed he could grind it out n England with some impressive cameos and handy knocks combining with Smith.
The knock against the Kiwis at Melbourne should restore some faith that southpaw is certainly good enough to warrant some more caps for the baggy greens.
6. Tim Paine c/wk
Now this is the start of the surprises. Paine should retain captaincy, even if there were Cricket Australia plans to restore leadership with Smith. Paine has turned around Australian cricket alongside Langer for the greater good, and stripping him of captaincy would only be disrespectful to such an influential figure.
Paine has a decent average of 31 for a WK and regularly comes up with a captain’s 50.
Ironically Paine has been criticised for his batting as well, whereas a lot of fans do not seem to realise that Paine’s batting has been sound to say the least. Another Ashes win under his captaincy would complete a remarkable rise for a figure no one ever thought would become Aussie skipper.
7. James Pattinson
Yes, this is a four-man 90mph able bowling attack. Pattinson has had his career harnessed by injury, but he is fresh enough to face the English at home.
He probably won’t be given the new ball but his raw pace and willingness to go for runs but offer that wicket taking threat should be utilised.
Can give it a knock too, which is going to be crucial for him and Cummins with a longer tail.
8. Pat Cummins
The world’s best bowler right now. 29 wickets in England was a huge compliment to his awesome skill. Cummins has worked a few of the English top order out, none less than that of Root.
In the 17-18 series, Cummins threatened Root for LBW calls numerous times, in the 2019 series he was castled and nicking off to Cummins. 23 wickets in the 17-18 series, Cummins will look forward to bowling to the Englishmen with little experience of Ashes cricket.
9. Mitchell Starc
Starc recently added 5kg of muscle to his tall frame. Searing pace, Starc may not get picked away from home, but like Warner, in Australian conditions Starc is truly lethal and brutal.
May be expensive, but offers too much of a threat to overlook. His abomination of bouncers to the English tail last series and success against New Zealand last summer showed how valuable Starc is to Paine.
10. Josh Hazlewood
All round package. Like Cummins, Hazlewood has it all in is locker with pace, accuracy and sizeable movement. I think he should have the new ball for this series.
He will surely Test England’s top four with disciplined line and length at quick pace. One of the world’s best and most adaptable on surfaces.
11. Nathan Lyon
Not much to say here. The GOAT. Australia’s best offie has 400 in sight and of course he’ll want to do it against the Poms at his Adelaide crowd if possible.