The wait is finally over. For any cricket fans in Australia and England, this is it – the biggest event in the game, greater than the World Cup and the series that provides ultimate bragging rights.
“Welcome to the second instalment of Young Academic’s Ashes 2013 specials. On the eve of the first Ashes test at Trent Bridge, we look at some final analysis of the Australia and England sides… “
914 days have elapsed since stumps on the last day of the 2010 Ashes series and in that time, both sides have undergone transitional periods. England ran out emphatic winners on that tour, winning by three games to one, and rounded off the season with an innings and 83 run victory. The game is probably best remembered for England’s mammoth score of 644 and beautiful centuries from Alistair Cook, Matt Prior and Ian Bell. Australia’s Steve Smith was the only one able to pass fifty in that match for the yellow and greens. Anderson, Tremlett, Swann and Bresnan were hardly required to move into third gear that day and England were able to wrap up a historic win in style.
The England faithful will be hoping for similar scenes this summer as England look to win three consecutive Ashes series for the first time since the incredible tests in 1981. And, if the hype is to believed they could do just that. Indeed, the gulf between the teams in terms of quality is greater than it was when Australia thrashed their visitors 5-0 in 2006-2007 – despite the sides being largely the same as the ones that contested England’s first Ashes victory in the summer of 2005.
Australia have lost Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey since the last Ashes as well as the form of bowlers such as Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus. The departure of the aforementioned batsmen cannot be understated and coupled with the fact that Ponting captained his team with aplomb; the complexion of the Australia team is very different indeed. This is not to take anything away from the stewardship of Michael Clarke but his tenure as captain is surely about to get its most thorough inspection to date.
All doom and gloom for the Australians then? It would seem so. Darren Lehmann’s late appointment as coach in place of South African Mickey Arthur has boosted morale but whether this is a stroke of genius by Cricket Australia or simply a ploy to give the visitors at least some momentum remains to be seen.
The England camp has not been without its fair share of ups and downs since the 2011 Sydney test match either. Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood, and Chris Tremlett have all departed the side for various reasons and Kevin Pietersen’s “textgate” saga has meant that he has enjoyed very little time in the middle for England during the last twelve months – enough said on that one. Aside from this however, Matt Prior has developed into test cricket’s finest batsman wicketkeeper, Alistair Cook has revelled with the bat since his inception as captain and youngsters such as Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root have all but enhanced the world’s third best test team. Everything seems to be pointing towards a convincing English success this summer but as Ian Bell has himself conveyed this week – it would be foolish to underestimate any Australian side.
The Trent Bridge wicket awaits the players tomorrow on what looks like a stunning day to open any test series, let alone one of the ilk of the Ashes. The wicket is said to be dryer than usual and could well suit the spinners, something Glenn McGrath thinks is odd given Australia’s success in India in terms of turning the ball. England will however be confident that Greame Swann should enjoy himself more than Nathan Lyon once England’s formidable seam attack have taken care of their duties. Starc, Siddle and Pattinson themselves pose a threat with the new ball setting up what will be a fascinating first morning whoever wins the toss.
Batting wise, England’s team looks to be far more straight forward to predict compared to an Australian line up which has been far from stable over the last eighteen months. Whereas England have been steady and up until the trip to New Zealand, very consistent – the Australians have been injury ravaged and short of form over a sustained period of time. Michael Clarke’s back had even been a concern in the lead up to their last warm-up match – he did however dispel these fears with a typically swashbuckling knock.
This all said and done, England have taken the late decision to drop opener Nick Compton in favour of raw young talent whereas Darren Lehmann has backed 35 year old Chris Rogers to partner Shane Watson despite only a handful of international appearances. The ‘left-right’ partnership is clearly seen to the prudent way forward for the visitors.
All of the above conjecture will surely be thrown out the window tomorrow at 11am when battle commences and in true Ashes style, the formbook is torn to pieces. Young heads, new captains, new coaches and quintessential British hype all add their flavour to what is surely going to be a scintillating encounter. What you can guarantee is passion, wickets and lots and lots of sledging – with Jimmy Anderson and Brad Haddin on the field in an Ashes series you can put your house on that.
Probable Teams for the First Ashes Test at Trent Bridge
Alistair Cook (c)
Matt Prior (wk)
Selectors Dilemma: None really, Cook and co could be tempted to play Jonny Bairstow to boost the batting at the expense of Tim Bresnan
Shane Watson (c)
Brad Haddin (wk)
Selectors Dilemma: Many. This could be nothing like the team that plays tomorrow with the likes of James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Jackson Bird, Usman Khawaja and Ashton Agar also vying for places.
In true Young Academic style, we thought we would sign off with a sweet little video from some cool people and a couple of tories wishing the boys the best of luck – #RISE. If you enjoyed this article, why not read our feature on Kevin Pietersen, Darren Lehmann and the build up to the 2013 Ashes Series.