The Ashes is all set to begin tomorrow and the hosts despite their comfortable win against Test newbies Ireland have lots to think about. Their batting collapse in that one-off game cannot be taken as a one-off. They have been struggling in the longer format for a while and the game against Ireland just underlined that fact.
The flattering scoreline of 4-1 against India at home last year was only made possible by some good bowling conditions and a resilient lower-order batting but that came crashing down earlier this year against West Indies away. The top-order woes once again resurfaced in the Carribean but this time there wasn’t any heroics from the lower order.
It is surprising that World Cup-winning ODI team who have been the trendsetters in batting in that format would struggle in the longer format with almost the same personnel. The biggest issue for England over the past year has been the opening combination. Alastair Cook’s retirement meant that England no longer have a stable combination to fall back on and their experiment with Jason Roy is just an act of desperation.
They have tried multiple combinations at the top to no avail and will be hoping that Jason Roy would be able to replicate his ODI form to the Tests as well. The middle order of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, and Jos Buttler will once again be the key if England is to reclaim the Ashes. England would need big scores from the experienced middle order as the rest of the batting is comprised of inexperience. The all-rounders Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes will also play a key part with the bat if England has to put up a big total.
Australia comes to England with a formidable bowling line up and they will surely try and attack the top three English batters. The new opening pair of Rory Burns and Jason Roy will be under tremendous pressure at the top to give the hosts a good start. The last year has been a struggle for the top order and if the performance against Ireland is anything to go by it isn’t gotten any better.
The England bowling though as always will be formidable at home. Their bowlers know how to make the best use of the conditions and with James Anderson and Stuart Broad taking the new ball they will always be a threat.
The two veterans will have Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes for the company as well to trouble the Aussie batting line up.
For Australia though the return of Steven Smith and David Warner means that they now are a more settled batting unit that what they were earlier this year. Their bowling attack will be boosted by the return of Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc with the new ball. Nathan Lyon who is probably the best spinner from either side will be a huge weapon for Australia as well against a struggling English middle order. James Pattinson’s return does offer an attacking option for the Aussies and it will be interesting to see if he will make the XI.
Cameron Bancroft’s return means that he may go to the top of the order with David Warner. Bancroft has been playing a lot of county cricket in England since his ban with huge success and his experience in these wickets will be a huge advantage for Australia. Marcus Harris who was very impressive against India earlier this year will be the frontrunner though to open the batting with David Warner.
Even though at home England start as the favorites they aren’t without their chinks. The Australian team will be confident to put up a good show as they are back to their full strength with bat and the ball. This will be a good series as no team has a distinct advantage this time around. Both teams have some great match winners and at the same time are extremely flawed which makes this series extremely interesting.
Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
David Warner, Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine (capt), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Michael Neser, Nathan Lyon.