Only three months ago, England had lifted The Ashes back at home for the third time in a row. Under normal circumstances, Australia would have got longer to prepare for their revenge series at home. But, with the World Cup being scheduled in Australia-New Zealand for 2015, The Ashes in Australia have been brought forward. If Australia look at it positively, it is a chance for them to heal the wounds of the 3-0 loss back in England earlier than expected. They have been sounding confident about the series, but whether they can deliver is another matter altogether.
Both in the batting and the bowling department, Australia are short of talent and experience, which could be a major setback for them even in familiar conditions at home. For any side to perform well, they need their top three to fire. This is what did not happen in England, and was one of the reasons why Australia could not cash in on situations when they were on top. If the Aussies want to retain The Ashes, which seems like a humungous task as of now, they would need the first three names in the batting order to be in peak form.
Of the three, Chris Rogers performed credibly well considering that he was making a comeback at the age of 35. He even registered his maiden century on the tour, but the desired support did not come from the other end. Even when David Warner was recalled to the squad midway and asked to open with Rogers, he could not deliver the necessary back up, and only looked good during a couple of cameo performances. Above all, Shane Watson was a disaster at No. 3, his smashing ton in the last Test coming only after the series was gone. Better will be expected of experienced pros like Warner and Watson at home.
Even since the retirement of Mike Hussey earlier in the year, the middle order has looked shaky. This is why the contribution of skipper Michael Clarke in England was going to be significant. However, like Watson, even he only managed one innings of note, which meant that Australia were forever struggling. The captain, who has been criticised by former leader Ricky Ponting in his book, will have the opportunity to redeem himself in front of the Aussie fans. George Bailey will make his much- deserved Test debut, and it will be interesting to view how he adjusts to the challenge.
In comparison to the batting, the bowling department is slightly stronger. Ryan Harris had an excellent time in England, moving the ball around and getting bagful of wickets. He would again be leading the pack, but his fitness will remain a concern as always. James Faulkner has been impressive in his short career, but wickets won’t come easily to him against England. While Peter Siddle will continue to be the workman, Mitchell Johnson’s return has been facilitated by injuries to the younger fast bowlers. With not much option, the Aussies will have to make do with Nathan Lyon as the main spinner.
An honest assessment says Australia do not stand a great chances, but if a few of their players put their hands up, who knows…
--By A Cricket Analyst