How the tide has changed. From the 90s to the mid-2000s, it seemed that only one nation was contesting for The Ashes. England were merely there to make up the numbers. Even after the historic triumph in 2005 at home, chances of an English redemption suffered a major setback as in the very next series in Australia they were blanked 5-0. It seemed all back to square one for the Englishmen, but they have risen from the ‘ashes’ since, and have been outright dominant in the last three contests between the two sides. Considering their form and talent, they are definite favourites this time as well.
England have been aided by the fact that a number of Australia’s greats have retired over the last half a decade, but it is equally true that they themselves have discovered a few exceptionally good players in their own camp, none more impressive that their captain Alastair Cook. The most striking aspect of England’s performance during the 3-0 win at home was that they achieved the same without a single big contribution from their marathon man, Cook. The left-hander’s highest score during the series was merely 62. Cook though would be keen to repeat the magic he created when visited Australia last time. He notched up three tons on that tour.
In fact, Cook wasn’t the only one who struggled in that series at home. The England top order consisting of Joe Root and Jonathan Trott failed consistently, and England were three down without much on the board for most part of the series. The fact that they won the contest 3-0 in spite of this says something about the team’s quality. Joe Root did come up with a 180 in the series, but the decision to push him down the order is a fair one, and he should be more consistent in the middle order.
England have also done the right thing by retaining Trott at number three. Although the experienced bat has struggled in recent times, good players are only one innings away from coming back to their best. England and Trott himself would be hopeful that the knock comes early on the tour. After all, Trott’s presence out in the middle has a calming influence on the entire side. Although England won 3-0 without contributions from Cook and Trott, they would be keen to set things right. In this endevaour, Michael Carberry is being asked to open.
The middle order is one of the best in business, with Kevin Pietersen (who will be playing his 100th Test at The Gabba), and Ian Bell, who was the difference between the two teams the last time they met. With the ball, James Anderson and Graeme Swann would be expected to deliver the big wickets as always. However, it would be interesting to see how all-rounder Stuart Broad, who will be booed for refusing to walk after being out during the last series, handles the pressure.
Considering the build-up and the make-up of the two teams, England would be disappointed if they don’t pull this one off as well.
--By A Cricket Analyst