Wednesday 10 July 2013

#Ashes of Cricket: Australia v England 2013 Test Series Preview - Are we any hope? | Follow @AustCricket

2013 Ashes of Cricket:
England v Australia Test Series Preview
By W D Nicolson - July 10, 2013

Here we are... the non-event that was the Australian Tour of India is thankfully long forgotten, and the Australian Cricket Team will take on the old (but far superior lately) foe of England for the 2013 Ashes Series in England.

England are the holders of the Ashes and Australia haven't won a series in England since 2001... as an Australian that hurts. And I'm sure a lot of the English know the feeling... given Australia won in England from 1989 through 2001 before Michael Vaughan's team snapped the streak in 2005. If England get the job done again in this 2013 home series - then that stat reverses to look like this:
  • Australia won the Ashes in England 1989-1993-1997-2001
  • England have won the Ashes in England 2005-2009-?
Win this Series England and those two stats are just four years from matching up... proving that nothing lasts forever... until someone else keeps winning and winning and winning...

So to the actual 2013 Series - who wins?

Australia have the game's best player in Michael Clarke... and England have perhaps 3 or 4 of the 10 best in the world.

So in this case - the old adage of 'A Champion Team will always beat a Team of Champions' applies to England on both counts right?

We shall see... below is's Keys to the Series and 5 Test Predictions. You can follow our in-Test Tweets during the Series @AustCricket or below in the widget and note that the official hashtag on Twitter is #Ashes.

If you have any questions or comments you want to pass on during the series grab me on Twitter.
1st Test Match - Live Scores
July 10-14 @ Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Umpires: Aleem DAR/Kumar DHARMASENA
Here is the rest of the 2013 Ashes Series Schedule

Alistair COOK (c)
Jonathan TROTT
Stuart BROAD
Graeme SWANN
Steven FINN
Tim BRESNAN (12th Man)

KEYS to the Series:
  • Cook, Trott and Bell... 
    • If England get their three best batsmen firing in the same match - England at worst will be looking at a draw in each game - if not a commanding win. Cook and Trott will aim to anchor each innings but Bell has the ability to take the game away from Australia (as Pietersen might still be able to do) with one of Cook/Trott at the other end.
  • Bairstow can't be a liability.
    • He gets the call ahead of a bunch of more familiar English names for the #6 spot... and the kid who should be batting here - Joe Root (who can play) - is forced up into the opening slot. This is a big gamble from England. Not so much on Root opening - like we said, technically the kid is a huge talent - but if Bairstow fails to score then the pressure on Matt Prior and the bowlers becomes a problem. As long as Australia haven't watched the Top 5 bang out 400 runs already, making sure Bairstow doesn't score is a chink in the English armour they HAVE to exploit.
  • Lower order runs will frustrate Australia big time
    • Broad and Swann (and Bresnan if preferred to Finn) can give Australia fits if they can stick around once/if Australia get through the vaunted English top order.
And the real key to retaining the Ashes for England:
  • Anderson must take early wickets and Swann needs to remove the lower order. 
    • Sounds simple - well it is. Anderson's mastering of swing bowling makes him the most potent weapon this series and as important as support from Broad and Finn/Bresnan might be - Jimmy is the key to England getting on top early and staying there. Then there's Swann... a ridiculously smart spin bowler who will make it his mission to remove the Australian lower order cheaply if his swing bowlers have done the job early. England might not have the best batsman in the series (but they've got like spots 2, 3, 4 and 5 wrapped up) but they undoubtedly have the best two bowlers.
      And the latter are the key to England making it 3 straight home Ashes wins people..
Michael CLARKE (c)
Phillip HUGHES
Mitchell STARC
Ashton AGAR
Nathan LYON (12th Man)

KEYS to the Series:
  • Clarke, Clarke and more Clarke:
    • He is the best batsman in the world and he has to keep proving it in almost every innings for Australia to stand a chance of pushing England in this Series. At the peak of his powers even in defeat last summer against South Africa - he must back it up. And his back must allow him to do that. Tactically he must be shrewd with his bowling attack but probably just as importantly - his batting order. I'm fine with him batting at #4 but what he chooses at #3, #5 and #6 will shape his impact with the bat. Over to you Pup.
  • Ruthlessness in choosing the bowling attack:
    • It looks like Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc hold their spots alongside James Pattinson - the only universal choice in the pace attack entering the 1st Test. That leaves Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris on the outside looking in at Trent Bridge. James Faulkner's only chance of playing is if Shane Watson gets hurt - he should not and hopefully will not be there on the strength of his left arm mediums alone.
      So yes - that's a lot of options and a lot doesn't mean a lot of quality ones. Personally I think Bird is perfect for the English conditions with his action fluid and the chances of swing much more likely than Siddle's dig it into the turf approach and Starc's bowl it and hope approach.
      Translation: If Siddle or Starc don't get the job done in the 1st Test - BIRD must play. Even if Bird isn't picked, then Harris needs to. Australia simply cannot afford to carry bowlers in their team with that English batting lineup and indeed - their more potent bowling attack. Australia must be willing to pick the right players in form, not the ones who did the job in different conditions in Australia 18 months ago...
  • Watson MUST contribute with bat and ball... and be a TEAM man:
    • He got Mickey Arthur sent packing for not agreeing with his assertion that the only reason he's scored runs at Test level is because he opened... yikes, if that's how Watson sees things he sounds like he's a mental case waiting to be exploited by England's bowlers. It's bad enough he stopped bowling (his best asset to the team of late) when Australia needed him most - injury smidgery... suck it up - but the 'homework' saga in India said all you need to know about who not what he puts first in his career. But we can't give up on Watson... because Darren Lehmann comes in and that's gotta be a positive... even for Watson. He'll open the batting and maybe bowl 15-20 overs a Test if we're lucky... but if he doesn't score runs opening the batting - who/what can he blame then?
  • Agar must chip in:
    • The below initially applied to Nathan Lyon in the spinning role... now Ashton Agar gets the job... he basically needs to do the same thing.
    • He won't change the Series in a session but he has to finish off a session or two for Australia when they need him too. Will Agar trouble the top order of England? Well Lyon's track record said no but Australia's biggest use for Agar will be to do what England want Swann to do - finish off the tail. Agar doesn't need to take 4 wickets an innings, but 1 or 2 late in each innings will be massive in giving the Australian batting order every chance to start their innings with a positive frame of mind.
And the real key to retaining the Ashes for Australia:
  • The batting order with surnames not reading 'CLARKE' must turn starts into scores.
    • Watson, Rogers, Hughes and Cowan/Warner/Smith/Khawaja - whoever gets a start must go on with it. With England's mix of talent - 1st innings totals have to be 400+ and that only happens if Clarke gets some support. And perish the thought Clarke struggles... because then Australia's chances rest FIRMLY on the shoulders of the other members of the Top 6 - no matter how well Australia's bowlers go.
In short:

1st Test Prediction: Draw
2nd Test Prediction: Australia
3rd Test Prediction: England
4th Test Prediction: Draw
5th Test Prediction: Ask me in a few weeks...

Whoever wins the Series wins it 2-1... that's my gut feel.
But it all rests on Australia either grabbing a draw or (dare we hope) a win in the 1st Test starting tonight.

Good luck Australia... you are going to need it.