There is a lot of optimism in England regarding the Ashes. The source of this optimism is, perhaps, more the dismal performances of Australia in all forms of the game in recent time than the success of the English cricket team. Australia enjoyed a period of absolute domination in International Cricket which coincided with their domination of the Ashes. The tide turned, as far as the Ashes is concerned, after the memorable series of 2005 which England won narrowly. Even though Australia bounced back in the next edition contested in Australia, England had gained the belief that the period of monopoly and domination was coming to a hurried end. And it was to be so. England now have the prospect of winning their third consecutive Ashes title and if form is considered a parameter for predictions, the scales are tilted heavily in their favour.
Australia are travelling with a relatively senior squad with a number of players in their 30’s, but they boast of an energetic bowling side. Michael Clarke will lead this Australian side and he will want to repeat the heroics of previous Australian leaders, especially Ricky Ponting. England, on the other hand, will have a relatively settled side which has tasted a lot of success in recent times. Their most recent success came against the Kiwi side which was defeated 2-0 in a two-match Test series. The young players on both the sides will play a significant role in the performance of their respective sides, but it will also be a perfect platform to justify their selection and create a reputation for themselves.
Here is a list of the top 5 young players to watch out for during the Ashes.
5. Jonathan Bairstow
The right-handed batsman is a contender for a start in the first Ashes Test as indicated by his exclusion from the squad for the T-20 series against New Zealand. The batsman played a steady hand against the Kiwis in the last Test match but does not have much else to his name on the International stage. England might give him an opportunity at the biggest stage of them all and hope that he grabs it with both hands. An average of 31.00 in the eight Test matches he has played does not represent the ability he possesses. It will be interesting to see how he faces up to the Australian quicks.
4. Mitchell Starc
Much of Australia’s Ashes aspirations rest on their fiery bowling line-up. They have the experience of Siddle and the youth of Pattinson and Starc to count upon. Mitchell Starc has had a promising start to his career but he remains vulnerable to inconsistency. He has the pace to trouble the English batsmen and can swing the ball when the conditions are suitable. He needs to complement those skills with dedication and clever execution. If he can do that, he will be an asset for Michael Clarke. The 23-year-old boasts of 30 wickets in the 9 Test matches he has played.
3. Steven Finn
The 24-year-old is an experienced campaigner in some sense as he had an early start to his career. However, he has suffered because of the multiplicity of options available to England. However, he has been a more regular fixture in the English side in recent times. He made some crucial contributions in the series against New Zealand but usually played second fiddle to Broad and Anderson. He can extract that bit of extra bounce from the surface with his height and that is his USP. His record of 88 wickets in 22 Test matches bodes well for England.
2. James Pattinson
He has been the saving grace of Australian cricket along with Shane Watson in the recent times. The talented paceman can join the ranks of Dale Steyn and James Anderson with a top performance in the Ashes. He has the wherewithal to dismantle any top order of the world as he extracts swing in most conditions at a healthy pace. He seems to have an intelligent cricket mind and that is always a good sign in a fast bowler. He had a huge learning curve with the tour against India and should come out as a better bowler. His performance will be crucial for Australia’s fortunes at the Ashes.
1. Joe Root
The gritty right-handed batsman has been a find for English cricket. He came to limelight with his admirable performance in the alien and hostile conditions of India. He has become a key member of the ODI side since. The 22-year-old has a mature head on his shoulders and can defend and attack with equal ease. He has been an ideal number four for England so far but might have to go down the order with the return of Kevin Pietersen. Even though nascent averages can be misleading, this stat of 42.00 in 6 Test matches is surely a sign of bigger things to come.