Cricket Insight – Ashes Preview

November sees the start of probably the most open ashes series for decades. Both teams have made major changes to the squad, which puts an uncertain look on each batting line and major pressure on key players to step up.

England will go into the series with better form, after beating South Africa and West Indies. Australia have struggled on the sub-continent but playing at home, write them off at your peril.

England are hoping that Alistair Cook can regain the form of 2010/11 down under. England have toiled with opening partnerships of late but they have found someone in Mark Stoneman that knows his own game and has proved himself, year after year, to be a prolific runs scorer in the County Championship Div 1.

England’s batsmen have found some form coming out of the warm up matches, Malan contributing with a methodical 100 but the number 3 slot still is a main concern. James Vince looks to be the player getting the chance at the moment. Is he the answer? Personally I think not. Neither is Ballance, who is extremely lucky to be on the plane. If Joe Root wasn’t Captain, would Ballance be there?

With Stokes waiting to see if he can jump on the next flight out to Australia, Englands bowling looks a little thin. Do they have the fire power to get 20 wickets in a test match? Injuries on bowler’s means Anderson and Broad will need to do a lot of the damage but aren’t getting any younger. If fit, will Moeen Ali be able to restrict the flow of runs on pitched less suited for spin?

Australia on the other hand has got what seems the right combination in Starc, Hazlewood and Bird to really give the English batsmen a thorough test. I think Australia will look to use Starc in short sharp bursts and then let Hazlewood and Bird needle away at the technique of the English batters.

Australia is going through the transition period with their batting line. Uncertainty lies in so many different positions. Renshaw missing out for Bancroft to partner Warner at the top of the order, Shaun Marsh looking as though he will take the No 6 spot and out of nowhere we see Tim Paine recalled to the side. This uncertainty means that England know if they can return Warner and Captain Steve Smith  to the pavilion early, they have the upper hand.

If England can win the toss in the first test, bat and get through the first session unscathed the pressure will be right on the Australians. England then, in the field, needs to control the run rate of the Australian batters. Frustrate their two talismans in Warner and Smith and ask questions of the other players.

If it doesn’t go right for the Aussies in the first test, I feel the Aussie public will soon turn on their own and England will ride the wave and gain confidence.

Overall, it’s going to be a cracking series. I think England to win 3-1.

Richard Waite is a former player and now highly regarded coach and is currently Hong Kong women’s and development coach

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