Like many, I’ve been watching the Road to the Ashes series hosted by Brendon Julian and Mark Waugh.
On a recent episode, former Australian spinner Shane Warne and former England captain Michael Vaughan were on to talk about England’s chances in the coming Ashes series.
And the point was made that England don’t have the batting line-up to contend against Australia. Even Travis Head, who was recently dropped from the Australian side and lost his Cricket Australia contract, has a higher batting average than every English batsman apart from Joe Root.
Another point made was that England don’t have the right tactics, firstly the rotation policy, in that England decided not to pick a team and stick with it and rather give players a rest (often a whole series) to try and give some new talent a go.
It clearly didn’t work, as they lost to both New Zealand and India in consecutive series. But at the same time, Australia decided to stick with relatively the same team in the recent India series and ended up losing that 2-1.
They also criticised the decision not to play a spinner in the New Zealand series. This I disagree with, as New Zealand themselves didn’t bowl a single over of spin in the World Test Championship final played in similar conditions, instead playing five seamers, with India only playing three.
Although, I agree that Joe Root shouldn’t have bowled 10-15 overs an innings as a part-timer. He’s much better being the bowling change and bowling four overs an innings. Their fast-bowling attack is good enough to bowl out the innings.
So, what do England need to give themselves a chance of winning this coming Ashes series?
Well, firstly, they need to find about five new batsmen, as Root is currently the only one up to standard.
Even Ben Stokes isn’t up to standard in terms of his average but can give you some handy overs with the ball and is a match-winner (let’s not go there!).
The chances of five batsmen who will average around 40 popping up within the next five months are very slim.
Everyone talks about Zak Crawley as a player who can average 45 and we “just have to wait”. But he has a woeful average of 29, which becomes 19 if you take out his 267 against an average Pakistan team.
The upcoming series against India who will probably have a similar bowling line-up (four seamers, one spinner), and is probably his last chance.
The batsman I’m keeping my eye on is Jake Libby from Worcestershire County. He’s averaging 64 in this current County season and has faced more balls than anyone at 137 balls per dismissal.
In terms of the bowling, Jack Leach is a lock. He has better stats than Nathan Lyon and is a very consistent bowler.
Jofra Archer is a lock, as well, seeing as he has had success across all corners of the globe. But seeing as he is a fast bowler and because of England’s rotation policy, he probably won’t play all five Ashes Tests.
The same can be said about Chris Woakes, who is not only a quality bowler, but has a batting average of 27, very handy for a No.8.
England only have one of him and Australia don’t have a player like that, but would if they selected Michael Neser, Jack Wildermuth or Joel Paris (maybe I’ll talk about that in the future).
Once again, the chances of him playing all five Tests are next to none, especially considering he said recently he “can’t play two days in a row”.
I expect Stuart Broad to be the fourth seamer, along with Woakes, Stokes and Archer, with James Anderson and Olly Stone to rotate.
So, England’s strength is their bowling attack, but that’s not different to Australia.
Pat Cummins is the No.1 bowler in the world according to the ICC rankings, Josh Hazlewood is fourth and Mitchell Starc is ninth. I struggle to see where they have the advantage.
England are going to find it very hard this summer – their line-up at the moment is not good enough, and it’s going to have to drastically change before December to give themselves even the smallest chance of winning the next Ashes series.