Welcome to the all new Young Academic cricket section and in particular our coverage of one of the highly anticipated summers of English cricket in years. The “Ashes Year” is now upon us and a tumultuous few weeks has set things up remarkably. The return of Kevin Pietersen, the sacking of Mickey Arthur in favour of Darren Lehmann in the Australian camp and some encouraging performances from both sides in recent warm up games have all added their own spice to a mix that could make the forthcoming series less clear cut than previously thought.
“Darren Lehmann, Kevin Pietersen and The England Squad – Young Academic Profile It All!”
This is the first of a number of features coming your way during the summer regarding the 2013 Ashes series and we will continue to bring you our take on things as one of cricket’s most famous encounters unfolds. England are of course favourites to retain the miniature urn and the home crowd will be expecting them to do just that. This said, even an under strength Australian side are not to be written off – especially one that has been buoyed by the resurgence of some key players and the stewardship of one of their most infectious characters from the nineties and early noughties. So what are the key factors to be considered just 3 days before the start of the 2013 Ashes Series?
Darren Lehmann – The Boof Factor…
Darren Lehmann has enjoyed an incredibly successful start to his coaching career – starting his own academy in Adelaide and winning some fantastic titles in the IPL with the Deccan Chargers. A fantastic player in his own right, Lehmann was unlucky to have hit his peak at a time that the Australia side was dominated by the likes of Hayden, Langer et al at the top of the order.
Rather ironically, Lehmann would stroll into the current Australia side. ‘Boof’ made some valuable contributions for the team when called on over the years and was a fan’s favourite at Yorkshire where he scored runs for fun as an opening batsman. Despire this, he never cemented his place in the test side. Lehmann nonetheless ended up with 5 test centuries and 10 test fifties at an average of 44.95 – figures that many test players would be extremely proud of.
This talent has inevitably shone through during his fledgling coaching career and along with his infectious character and likability – Lehmann could well be the morale boost Australia are looking for going into a series in which they are undoubtedly underdogs.
The Return of KP…
No pre-ashes feature would be complete without mentioning the return of England’s talismanic batman Kevin Pietersen. KP has come through some intricate fitness tests and been in the runs during his comeback matches to suggest that he is indeed match fit and raring to go for another Ashes series.
In a candid interview with Andrew Flintoff on Radio 5, Pietersen has reaffirmed his commitment to the English cause following a tumultuous year – what better a time for England to welcome back the man who undoubtedly possesses the largest arsenal of shots with which to dismantle the Australian batting attack?
England fans will be wanting to forget the furore that surrounded his South African debacle and simply watch an in-form Pietersen giving the English middle order some very welcome flamboyancy and aggression. A knock of 177 not out for Surrey against Yorkshire towards the end of June and some solid scores in England’s last warm up will have put him in good knick and the England faithful will surely have forgiven one of world cricket’s great talents.
To listen to the full Flintoff – Pietersen interview, download the BBC podcast by clicking here.
England’s Ashes Preparations…
England’s preparations for the 2013 Ashes Series have largely gone well. An up and down series against New Zealand ultimately ended with the lions on top and an (albeit farcical) warm up game against Essex gave many players a last chance to stake their claim for a place in the final team and squad.
The game started as a first-class cricket match, giving many players a chance to boost their season stats. As well as this, Essex players were given a rare opportunity to see how they would fare against the second best cricket team on the planet. The game started in earnest but some injuries and replacements controversially resulted in the match being downgraded. The fixture was nonetheless played in great spirit by both sides but the likes of Tim Bresnan (century), Greame Swann (5-fer), Tom Craddock (5-fer) and Jaik Mickleburgh (battling 90) will be hugely disappointed that their efforts will not be reflected in their first class figures.
All of this said and done, the game provided a good insight into the form of England players and how such talents as Boyd Rankin are developing. The players seemed in great spirits following the game, which was played at Chelmsford in beautiful conditions. The full scorecard can be found on the ESPN Cricinfo site by clicking this link.
The 2013 England Ashes Squad
So, all that was now left for England’s preparations for the 2013 Ashes was to confirm the all-important final 13 man squad. The only real selection dilemma had been caused by the excellent form of young Yorkshireman Joe Root, who has impressed with ball and wherever he has been asked to bat. A natural opener, Root has shown incredible maturity in the middle in all forms of the game and left the selectors with a real headache. Would they leave Nick Compton to open with Alistair Cook and mess with the middle order or drop the Somerset man in favour of younger blood? Compton was of course omitted from the final warm up match and sent to play in a guest performance for Worcestershire, scoring runs in the process.
The squad was released on Sunday 6th July and can be confirmed as:
Alastair Cook (Essex) (C)
Joe Root (Yorkshire)
Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire)
Kevin Pietersen (Surrey)
Ian Bell (Warwickshire)
Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)
Matt Prior (Sussex) (WK)
Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire)
Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire)
Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire)
Steven Finn (Middlesex)
James Anderson (Lancashire)
Graham Onions (Durham)
So, Compton duly dropped from the squad despite two winter centuries and a fifty in favour of Joe Root. An unenviable decision made by the selectors and Alistair Cook and one that, following initial backlash from Compton himself, was eventually accepted and the South African born opener took to Twitter to encourage the boys and wish them all the best. This will surely not spell the end of the Ashes for Nick Compton, as injuries are bound to occur and the ability of England to call on a batsman in decent form will offer some fantastic depth in squad.
Apart from Compton, the rest of the squad largely picked itself. Graham Onions took the last bowling space after some solid spells in the final warm up match and despite a lack of cricket this summer, Jonny Bairstow keeps his place and will also offer some great depth for the middle order.
Young Academic’s Ashes 2013 Prediction
There you have it, the Young Academic build up to the 2013 Ashes Series. An England win is expected and the most optimistic out there will be dreaming of a whitewash. Indeed, the gulf between the two teams is greater than it was when the Australians destroyed England down under. Calming down somewhat, we have gone for a 3-1 England victory and the inclusion of the traditional Lords draw. New coach Darren Lehmann will have injected the aforementioned confidence boost into the Australian ranks but quality will surely prevail this summer. England will need to be very aware that the Australian press have labelled the current away squad as “the worst Australia side tour England for years” – the last time this happened (albeit by the British press) an Allan Border inspired side defeated England quite comprehensively!
This is the unpredictability that makes cricket cricket however and we can’t wait for the twists in the tail that are sure to occur. Read our first test at Trent Bridge preview, right here.