With the most awaited encounter just a few hours away, the anticipation of the Ashes has rocketed to the sky. A lot has been spoken about Australia’s dominant and intimidating pace attack and the kind of upper-hand they have against England going into the series. And now it’s time for them to deliver. With the number of series’ win being equal between both the teams, this winner of this edition will get a precious lead.
Australia’s pace battery boasts of intimidating Mitchell Starc, swift and deadly Josh Hazlewood and fast and fiery Pat Cummins. Add Nathan Lyon as the specialist spinner to this, and the attack inspires immense confidence along with variety.
The last time England toured Down Under back in 2013-14, Mitchell Johnson was the talk of the town for his menacing pace and deadly bounce. They were whitewashed in a five-match series. This time too, Australian bowlers do have the potential to rekindle memories of Johnson’s magic and help the side emerge victorious.
All the planning, strategies and game plans are being formulated for the big battle and it’s time for execution. Talking about England’s batting, they quite clearly have few concerns in the line-up. They have some inexperienced yet promising candidates. James Vince, Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan fared well in the warm-up games, but Australia will certainly be a tough nut to crack.
In Australia, a team needs to have diversity in their batting line-up to succeed, but England’s batting line-up rather looks one-dimensional. Their top-order, including an ageing Alastair Cook bats the same way. They are all accumulators. None of them maybe with the exception of Joe Root have the ability to transfer pressure back to Australia, which could turn out to be costly.
When England won the Ashes Down Under back in 2010-11, they had such variety along with diversity in their batting. It had the perfect mix of solidity and flair, which is great to have for any batting line-up in any condition. With players like an on song Cook, firing Andrew Strauss at the top and Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott in the middle along with Matt Prior, was amazing to watch. England’s batting breathes fire. All of them were distinctly different from each other.
That team had a perfect blend. The current English batting has sameness, in their lower-order too. They have accumulators at the top and attacking batsmen in the lower-order, there is sameness. Cook, Vince, Stoneman, Root (who could also be an exception) are all accumulators. While Bairstow, Ali, Woakes, Malan give an impression of being attacking batsmen.
This kind of batting will only make it easy to plan for Steven Smith and the Australian think-tank. It will make it even easier for bowlers to be consistent and hit the same areas for different batsmen. Bowlers do have to come up with different strategies and game plans for different kind of batsmen. But with England’s batting, they can afford to come up with same plans for a set of batsmen.
Talking about fielding, it will also be easier for Smith to set fields and won’t require any specific changes. With the top-order being accumulators and the lower being attacking, setting fields won’t be a headache for Smith. In short, it will be a bit easier for Australia to formulate plans.
Also, who are the modern day batsmen who have done well in Australia consistently? Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, David Warner. All of them are flair players.
Rahul Dravid had a fantastic record in Test cricket but didn’t have a great run in his ultimate tour Down Under and he was also ageing. In four Tests, which was also his final series in Test cricket, Dravid garnered 194 runs in eight innings at 24.25. This is one of the classic examples of an accumulator and ageing batsman struggling in Australia.
Graeme Smith and Jacque Kallis although accumulators themselves had good records in Australia, but they had a lot of attacking batsmen around them, which helped them succeed in their last two tours of Australia. Also, when Dravid did well, Sehwag was firing with all cylinders at the top and Laxman below him, hence providing the cushion.
England could shuffle their batting a bit to counter-attack this and have a perfect mix of accumulators and attacking batsmen. They have the ingredients but need to line-up with care. As of now, things seem to be in Australia’s favour. Although they themselves have few issues to be addressed in their batting, but the holes are bigger for England. The first Test commences on November 23 at Brisbane.