With all the previews on Sky Sports and every major newspaper in the country getting onboard I felt that the Cricket Observer [CO] had to be on the front foot as they say, and get in a early with a strong prediction for those that will and won’t make the grade during this years Ashes series.
A lot has been spoken and will continue on about the Gatting side of 1986, that being the last English side to win a series in Australia . And there is no doubt that England have all the hype behind them going into the 1st Test at the Gabba. Rather than go though every player and ground for the series I’m going to give a quick look at the top bowler, batsman and ‘match changer’ for each side for the series, as well as put out who and how I think the series will finish. Enjoy.
The Hosts – Australia.They haven’t exactly given their faithful public much to croon about in the lead up, losing a series against India away and Sri Lanka at home. Taking in mind the only 5 day cricket was in India and there were good if not great performances. With many players heading back to their State sides in the lead up, I think a good does of home cooked food and familiar faces will invigorate the side prior to Thursdays start.
Bowler: Mitchell Johnson
The wayward bowler from the last series will be looking to provide the spark for the Australian side. Having lost his way on and off the field of play, he has shown the greatest strides to having a good series having gone back to WA and score a century and taken wickets in the lead up.
Batsman: Simon Katich
It was hard to pick who should be standing up for Australia , as it seems that most of the top order have been struggling of late. Ricky Ponting seemed an obvious choice. As the English are sure to target him I felt he is always in the firing line, but the wild old vet in Katich has and continues to cause problems for visiting sides on home turf. Having recovered from a shoulder injury and the unspoken possibility that this could be his last Ashes, he will surely want to set the record straight.
Match Changer: The Spinner ??
Who will be the spinning option for the Aussies? It seems that the new selection panel may be looking to make its mark in this series and a change at the last minute with Doherty putting his hand up as a solid spin option. Steve Smith was taken to England for the Pakistan series, but I felt he was more of a part-timer in this area and seems to be an all-rounder rather than a 4th bowler. Hauritz is under siege and this could either be good for him or work the other way, either way this is a space that will be watched carefully by more than just Shane Warne.
The Visitors – England
They arrived in the sun burnt country with their sails full of wind, having dominated the hosts in a one-day series and also taking apart Pakistan and Bangladesh . Some see this as not the best build up for an Ashes series, but with the cricket this time around making sure the team plays plenty of tour matches prior to the first test, should see the players in a could frame of mind.
Bowler: Graeme Swann
The jolly gentleman who snags wickets and saves cats from under floor boards will be in his element I think among the sometimes jovial Australia supporters, but it is his spin that needs to do the talking. Many saw him as a saviour in the Lords test and was great with the bat in Cardiff to leave the Australians guessing what was next. Having improved again I see him being the leader among all the bowlers.
Batsman: Kevin Pietersen
Never one to stand in the shade, KP will be looking to fight the late season demons of the Hampshire/Surrey move ,as well as his ill timed twitter rant to show that he is the superstar batsman in the England side. With no Freddie about all the attention will be on him, and it’s a situation he should enjoy. KP showed a dedication to his overall improvement by getting himself a few hours at the crease by returning to South Africa, and despite a slip up against Australia A, I feel he is in his prime to be a thorn in the batting order.
Match Changer: Steve FinnWill he or won’t he? That is the question bursting into the early summer tests in England with 5 wicket haul at Lords and then hidden from all in a cave one could only guess in the Lake District . England have been saving this young man for this moment, but will the moment be too much for him. With a solid action that would suit Australian conditions and being unseen by most of the batsman that didn’t spend a summer on the county circuit, Finn could change the out come in no small way.
Now what you’ve been waiting for my prediction. I see Australia winning this series and maybe it’s the green and gold in my veins, but I don’t see England handing it to us like last time. It will be a hard toil of a series and a result of 2-1 is how I see the matches. Parts of Australia have had the wettest winter on record, so rain could be a factor for at least 1 match, and with both teams not will to give an inch a draw is definitely on the cards. As always hero’s will become of those who win, and the losers I’m sure will have a ‘full ‘investigation as to why they lost.
For the rest of series here at the Cricket Observer I shall be in between the countries of the 2 sides, spending the 1st and 2nd Test here in England and travelling to Melbourne for the 3rd and 4th. Always getting you the best in news and opinion from both sides of the pond, I look forward to everyone’s responses on my thoughts of the upcoming series.