A history that’s so precious, a series that changed the face of cricket, an epic battle of fierce rivalry and equally healthy sportsmanship. Most of all, a series in which two of the world’s best teams fight it out to earn the infamous urn – The Ashes. This series never fails to get your attention, no matter which nation you belong to.
But this biannually held series has lost its charm in the recent years, undoubtedly because of the English team’s superior play the last two times it was contested. The Australian squad could only end the 2011 series with a disappointing 3-1 loss. And the trend goes back in time two years further, when England beat Australia 2-1 in the 5 Test series, in 2009. 2013 is the year the Ashes return again to entertain us. But the question still prevails – will this year be the end of Australia’s woes?
England started this year off on a positive note, winning the New Zealand – England Test series 2-0. This boosted their morale for the future series. With Joe Root in form and looking peerless the whole series, England skyrocketed to the top of their game. Then the most awaited for series – the ICC Champion’s trophy – was the next stop. And making the most out of their new found confidence, the English squad made their way to the finals, winning 2 out of the 3 matches with a rather large margin. On the other hand, we have Australia who didn’t win a single match played against England and Sri Lanka but managed to get that mere single point due to a no result caused by the famous British ‘summer’ rain.
The next major series is the Ashes. With England being all dominant, it is easy to imagine Australia losing it all again. And there’s no denying that they might just travel down that lane. The silver line separating a winning team like England and a ‘used to win’ team like Australia is simple; in layman’s terms, we’d just call it ‘not in form’.
The Australian team has a very strong bowling attack, I’d say the best in the world. There are bowlers like Clint McKay and James Faulkner who performed very well in the Champions Trophy. Then there’s Mitchell Starc who looks to be in top form since his 4/29 earlier this month against the West Indies. Key players like Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khwaja have been omitted from the Ashes series. Johnson, who played very well throughout IPL, has been an underrated player. Bringing him back would be a right call that the board of cricket in Australia takes. After all, which team doesn’t want a stronger bowling attack?
Those were the names comprising of the best bowling attack in the world, and they all belong to the Australian squad. What about the other half that completes the whole? After the retirement of Michael Hussey, former captain Ricky Ponting and on and off injuries to Clarke, their batting order has become weaker than ever. And that’s where Australia has been struggling the most, and will continue to.
The only performing batsman that Australia has is Shane Watson, whom they rely on most of the time. And there’s also their injury prone captain, Clarke, who can hit big shots, like the way he did yesterday against Somerset during the Ashes warm up match. Yet hopes are high for former coach, Mickey Arthur, who was quoted saying his side “had the best bowling attack in the world”, and would put England under pressure in the Ashes. “England are a very good cricket side but I would like to see how they handle pressure for a sustained period of time,” he told Test Match Special. “I honestly believe we can win the Ashes – we have the best all-round bowling attack in world cricket,” he said.
On the other hand, England has a balanced team so far. Alistair Cook, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell are the mainstays in the batting department. And then there is Stewart Broad and Swann to keep the wickets falling, which is equally important as this is what kills the momentum. There is also the one and only Eoin Morgan who is an exceptional fielder. Just like elements combine to form a compound, elements of all – batting, fielding and bowling – are what are going to keep a team balanced, leading to myriad successes in the future.
Recently, the Australian coach Mickey Arthur was sacked following poor performances and disciplinary issues within the camp. And he has been replaced by former Test batsman Darren Lehmann. Hopefully this big change will result in the turnaround we’re all looking for.
The coin can flip either side, only time will tell if it’s Australia’s year to take home the urn.