Australia looks a lot less settled than England ahead of back-to-back Ashes series
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Australia gets two bites at the Ashes cherry this year and it will need every chance it can get against an England side that seems determined to reclaim its status as the world’s No.1 side.
The Aussies had their chance to take the No.1 mantle earlier this summer, getting the better of South Africa in two drawn matches before injuries and exhaustion wore them down in the final Test in Perth.
Since then there have already been some significant changes to the Australian team. Ricky Ponting played his final match for Australia in Perth and Michael Hussey finished the series against Sri Lanka, but also called time on his career.
Further to this is the revelation that Shane Watson may no longer be available to play as an all-rounder, as continuing calf injuries mean he is unlikely to keep bowling into the future.
None of these things appear immediately helpful for a side looking to win a series in England, but things get even worse when you look at how England have been preparing for the Aussies.
The Poms have been going through their own a transition of sorts, albeit a lot less dramatic than the Australians'. Andrew Strauss is no longer part of the team, with Alastair Cook doing a fantastic job as captain, while the jury is still out on Nick Compton, Cook’s new opening partner.
The English have just completed a 2-1 away win over India, something they haven’t achieved in 28 years and something Australia has only done once in the last 40 years.
Cook led the way with the bat during the devastating victory, and joins Douglas Jardine, David Gower and the late Tony Greig as the only English captains to have tasted series victory in India. Cook finished the four-Test series with 562 runs and will be even harder to dismiss once he gets back on English wickets.
The only good news for the Aussies after a close inspection of the English side is that their all-rounder Stuart Broad appears to be just as crocked as Watson. Broad missed the final match of the Indian series with a recurrence of the heel injury which has seen him in and out of the sides in recent times, and he appears no certainty to play every match against the Aussies as he recovers.
Things look nowhere near as steady or predictable within the Australian team. While England appears fairly settled, apart from Compton and the fitness of Broad, you would suggest that only two Australians have locked away a spot in the starting 11 – Michael Clarke and Peter Siddle. The rest of the team may not move, but they give the feeling they still have to prove themselves on a constant basis. Ed Cowan has massive question mark over his work as an opener, having failed to impress against a soft Sri Lankan attack.
David Warner has gone some way to improving his consistency, but like Watson, finds himself getting out between 50 and 100 far too frequently.
Phil Hughes and, most likely, Usman Khawaja are still a long way from proving they belong in the team, although at least Hughes is well aware of how to play on English pitches after a full county cricket season there last year.
And Matthew Wade is still under pressure from Brad Haddin to keep the wicket-keeping spot.
The biggest problem facing the Australian bowlers continues to be injuries. If Patrick Cummins and James Pattinson can get fit and stay on the park for 12 months, they will be able to join a rotation that includes Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Jackson Bird and Mitchell Johnson, and provide a very good attack both in England and in Australia. This, however, looks increasingly unlikely.
Based on current form and looking at both squads, we say Australia has no chance of winning in England. The series in Australia also looks difficult, but 11 months is a long time and perhaps England may run into a few pitfalls by then - that would be Australia’s only chance.
The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.
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