Ashes January 14, 2009

Ashes prediction, number 1 of 21

Greetings Confectionery Stallers, and welcome to the first instalment of the Confectionery Stall’s Ashes result prediction blogs, which will pepper the year from now until the final over of the series
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Greetings Confectionery Stallers, and welcome to the first instalment of the Confectionery Stall’s Ashes result prediction blogs, which will pepper the year from now until the final over of the series.

By the time the action begins in, of all places, Cardiff, I confidently predict that I will have confidently predicted all 21 possible series outcomes. I will therefore be able to march onto The Oval outfield in August as the teams shake hands for the final time, brandishing a print-out of one of these blogs, shouting “I told you so” through a loud-hailer, before being manhandled by over-zealous stewards for attempting to express my historical right to walk on the outfield at the end of a Test series (see sub-blog below).

The last couple of months have given many pointers to what will happen in the Ashes. The difficulty is working out which of these are pointing in the right direction, and which are, like Italian road signs, completely and deliberately misleading. Are England plunging into turmoil, or plunging out of it, with Pietersen stung and invigorated and Strauss bringing wisdom and control? Are Australia really weaker than they have been for two decades, or already rebounding from their entertaining-for-the-neutral slump? Or both?

ENGLAND

My suspicion is that England’s messy but rapid bout of blood-letting will benefit the team in the short-to-medium term, which in an Ashes year is all that matters. All the evidence suggests that Strauss is a good captain, but he will need several of his players to break out of their current cycles of not-quite-bad-enough-to-be-dropped tolerability.

He will also require greater consistency from his one world-class batsman – the deposed captain and victim of one of the oddest coups in cricket or any other walk of life. Pietersen has been hit or miss for some time. He has scored an outstanding 7 centuries in his last 18 Tests (since July 2007), but still averages only 47 in that period. He has been out for less than 20 in 13 of these 32 innings, and has no scores between 45 and 94. He has played great innings, but not great series. England will need one from him in the summer, and they may well get it. If he seriously wants to captain England again, he knows the only way he will do so is by (a) behaving himself, and (b) scoring brontosaurus-loads of runs. Perhaps Pietersen’s entire captaincy reign was an elaborate ruse by the ECB to ensure his continued dedication and a crushingly dominant resentment-fuelled Ashes.

(As a possibly interesting statistical appendix to this, Pietersen has on occasion been compared to Viv Richards, and the Master Blaster himself was also not one for destroying his opposition with consistent, merciless unstoppability. After his annus mirabilis in 1976 – six centuries in 8 Tests – over the rest of his career he only once scored more than 400 in a series (446 v Australia in 1988-89), and only once hit more than one century in a series (two, against England in 1980-81). Brian Lara, by contrast, topped 400 in 11 series, and scored two or more hundreds on nine occasions.)

On the bowling front, England’s attack may not be the most consistently threatening, but the Ashes is a home series and since 2005, every single England bowler has a better average at home than overseas (apart from Broad, marginally and unimpressively). Panesar and Anderson both have significantly better records in England, and Harmison, since his breakthrough tour of West Indies four years ago, has averaged 29 at home and 46 away.

Furthermore, if Brett Lee fails to recover from his injury in time, it is probable that they will face a bowling attack with a grand total of zero Test wickets in England. If England can keep it that way for the duration of the series, they will probably win (barring some some overly cautious declarations, some overly jaunty declarations, an encyclopaedia of run outs, or a two-month monsoon) (although with Cook and Strauss opening, regular scores of 450-0 off 210 overs may not be enough to give the bowlers time to force a victory).

AUSTRALIA

Australia’s victory in the Sydney Test has enabled the baggy greens to perch a little less baggily atop the heads of Ponting and his men, and, less importantly, allowed them to retain their position as number-one-ranked cricket team in the world, despite having lost consecutive series to the two best cricket teams in the world.

Cricket’s undisputed number-one-ranked sage, Sir Richie Benaud (his knighthood has been bestowed upon him unilaterally by The Confectionery Stall, in recognition of Sir Richie’s services to brightening my summers from 1981 to 2005), famously stated that “captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill – but don’t try it without the 10 per cent”. Thus, in my book, cricket captaincy is statistically identical to scientific research, veterinary surgery, piloting an aircraft, and seduction. And it should be noted that Benaud had one of the biggest 10 per cents known to mathematics.

From 1995 to 2007, Australian skippers were blessed with a healthy wodge of the 90 per cent luck portion of the captaincy cake, simply by being able to say to themselves: “I think I should probably put Warne and/or McGrath on now. Yes, Warne and/or McGrath it is. Yup. Lovely piece of captaincy there Mark/Mr Waugh/Ricky [delete as appropriate], even if I do say so myself.”

Ponting, by contrast, now has Hauritz and MacDonald at his disposal. However much of the 10 per cent you believe Ponting possesses, and it is certainly not all 10, it should be remembered that even Michelangelo would have struggled in the Sistine Chapel if someone had snapped his paintbrush in half, and told him to work with a pair of chopsticks instead.

However, with the retirement of Hayden and the injury to Lee, only Ponting remains of the golden era regulars. Perhaps this will help the new generation to play without constant comparisons to the players they are not. Batsmen are queuing up in state cricket, and Johnson and Siddle should be dangerous in English conditions. England may be playing Australia six months too late. After all, Michelangelo would eventually have adjusted to his chopsticks and come up with a half-decent ceiling if the Vatican Painting and Decorating Committee had been threatening to sack him if he didn’t.

PREDICTION

The Confectionery Stall’s first Ashes series prediction, then, is England 2 Australia 2. These are currently two reasonable sides, neither as good as they were in 2005. They should be evenly matched, with England perhaps slight favourites due to home advantage.

As an England supporter raised in the 1980s, however, I am pessimistic by inclination, and see the cricketing glass as not merely half empty but also leaking all over my trousers. And thus I am aware that the last time an Ashes series began the sides apparently evenly matched and with England slight favourites, in 1989, England were on completely the wrong end of a seismic, era-defining 4-0 clattering from which it took the team and me 16 years to fully recover. But still, it’s going to be 2-2 this time. As long as the selectors don’t pick 29 different players. And as long as Terry Alderman stays in retirement. And Tim Curtis too.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Marilyn Monroe on January 29, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    Why do you abundantly avail of alliterations!

  • Glenn McGrath's convincing imposter 2 on January 23, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    7-0 ,I must say. But...considering this is a 5 match series, 5-0 then let it be.

    On a serious note, I think it should be 2-1 in the favor of England.

  • Sanjeev Priyam on January 21, 2009, 11:54 GMT

    So when are you gonna release your next prediction. Pendulum swings!!

  • rext on January 18, 2009, 8:56 GMT

    Thinking of coming to England to watch and drink some beer and find out where you keep all the cats necessary to make it! In fact quite a few English defectors will probably visit home hoping to see the United Nations players win a game and get a castle each! But it's all good natured hatred isn't it? Us 4-1!

  • Yogesh Zaveri on January 17, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Great post. Loved Hi Jinx' comments. How would england handle the Warne method ? Peitersen would abuse everyone around, esp his coach and Botham's gin slinging dodderers, Strauss would look uncomfortable with his B&H, while Cook would surreptiously leave them in the crease for the Aus batsmen, but Monty...I'm still rolling on the floor trying to visualise him co-ordinating puffing and abusing... great stuff. Waiting for the next 20 predictions. And High Jinx's comments on them.

  • JC on January 16, 2009, 16:58 GMT

    Though teams are evenly matched and Australia are on the vane, Australia still remember bits of how to win close games.

    Australia winning third test against SA vs England letting games slip against India.

    Still think Australia will win 2 or more see-saw games in this series.

  • JC on January 16, 2009, 16:53 GMT

    21 predicted results.... ! That is all that is mathematically possible for a 5 match series.

    Good blog though! Keep it going.

    On Ashes, this year will be an even contest, but I think it will be a case of seeing who is less talented (unlike in 2005).

  • Doc on January 16, 2009, 13:08 GMT

    What utter bollocks! Perfectly ridiculous and hilarious. No doubt about the results though - Oz to win it 2-1. English bowling attack about as potent as a sleeping lap dog (bar Flintoff). Ponting and co will have a feast of runs! Only reason the Poms will avoid a whitewash is the similar impotence of their Ozzie counterparts (bar Johnson). Watching the spin bowlers during the Ashes should be enough to bore a sloth to death!

  • P Govindaraman on January 16, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Hi Andy great, hilarious post as usual. only thing i don't agree with is your prediction of your result. I think England are on the ascent in spite of their recent misadventures and the Aussies are on thier way down. I think the English are going to win 2 or 3-0. I hope they do. That will still only probably make them the 4th best team in the world at the moment and Amen to that. Hope the kid is doing fine. Good luck.

  • Glenn McGrath's convincing imposter on January 16, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    Australia will win 5-0

  • Marilyn Monroe on January 29, 2009, 11:37 GMT

    Why do you abundantly avail of alliterations!

  • Glenn McGrath's convincing imposter 2 on January 23, 2009, 11:39 GMT

    7-0 ,I must say. But...considering this is a 5 match series, 5-0 then let it be.

    On a serious note, I think it should be 2-1 in the favor of England.

  • Sanjeev Priyam on January 21, 2009, 11:54 GMT

    So when are you gonna release your next prediction. Pendulum swings!!

  • rext on January 18, 2009, 8:56 GMT

    Thinking of coming to England to watch and drink some beer and find out where you keep all the cats necessary to make it! In fact quite a few English defectors will probably visit home hoping to see the United Nations players win a game and get a castle each! But it's all good natured hatred isn't it? Us 4-1!

  • Yogesh Zaveri on January 17, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    Great post. Loved Hi Jinx' comments. How would england handle the Warne method ? Peitersen would abuse everyone around, esp his coach and Botham's gin slinging dodderers, Strauss would look uncomfortable with his B&H, while Cook would surreptiously leave them in the crease for the Aus batsmen, but Monty...I'm still rolling on the floor trying to visualise him co-ordinating puffing and abusing... great stuff. Waiting for the next 20 predictions. And High Jinx's comments on them.

  • JC on January 16, 2009, 16:58 GMT

    Though teams are evenly matched and Australia are on the vane, Australia still remember bits of how to win close games.

    Australia winning third test against SA vs England letting games slip against India.

    Still think Australia will win 2 or more see-saw games in this series.

  • JC on January 16, 2009, 16:53 GMT

    21 predicted results.... ! That is all that is mathematically possible for a 5 match series.

    Good blog though! Keep it going.

    On Ashes, this year will be an even contest, but I think it will be a case of seeing who is less talented (unlike in 2005).

  • Doc on January 16, 2009, 13:08 GMT

    What utter bollocks! Perfectly ridiculous and hilarious. No doubt about the results though - Oz to win it 2-1. English bowling attack about as potent as a sleeping lap dog (bar Flintoff). Ponting and co will have a feast of runs! Only reason the Poms will avoid a whitewash is the similar impotence of their Ozzie counterparts (bar Johnson). Watching the spin bowlers during the Ashes should be enough to bore a sloth to death!

  • P Govindaraman on January 16, 2009, 7:25 GMT

    Hi Andy great, hilarious post as usual. only thing i don't agree with is your prediction of your result. I think England are on the ascent in spite of their recent misadventures and the Aussies are on thier way down. I think the English are going to win 2 or 3-0. I hope they do. That will still only probably make them the 4th best team in the world at the moment and Amen to that. Hope the kid is doing fine. Good luck.

  • Glenn McGrath's convincing imposter on January 16, 2009, 6:51 GMT

    Australia will win 5-0

  • John Buckley on January 16, 2009, 5:38 GMT

    D.V.C. - that was a brilliant post

  • Jon on January 16, 2009, 5:36 GMT

    I have already knighted Sir Richie, Andy. I predict that a lot of Poms will consider it a given that you'll win back the Ashes, while Aussies will insist that there's no way you will.

    If Freddy and Harmison have good series and yiou get Jones back, the Poms will be a force, assuming the batting holds together. Strauss must lead from the front and Pietersen will have to get over his recent problems, as will England team management. A lot of 'ifs'...

    On the other side, we need to sort out the all rounder question. Shane watson is my first choice. It looks like Hauritz has the spinning front running. Oh, for a legspinner.

    Our batting might get into trouble again, if the reverse swing is happening, as it did last time. Johnson will be dangerous and I hope Tait is picked and fit for the tour. Clark, if fit, should be pretty useful in England.

    Australia 2-1

  • gokul on January 16, 2009, 5:28 GMT

    well.. duh.. after havin lost to india and saf.. i do want the oz to lose their way again in england.. but the way the english are fightin it out and playing it seems its gonna be oz this year.. oz-2 england-1

  • Heysoos on January 16, 2009, 4:46 GMT

    Oz just needs another bowler to stand up consistently at the other end now that Johnson has found his groove. Had the Saffas just about buggered but had no-one to land the sucker punch after he softened them up. Siddle may well do that with another series under his belt against the Saffas and Lee and Clark will be taking back seats and be back ups to these 2. The selectors have to take wonderboy (phil hughes) to the Saffas and get him ready for the Ashes, Jaques and Rogers must be back ups only. Hussey won't fail in England and the crab (Katich) will frustrate at least 2 centuries out of the poms and will have a 400+ series. A last hurrah from Symonds is on the cards before he goes fishing permanently. A fake story from Bhaji saying Symo is washed up will do nicely coming out of England just before the Ashes will do nicely. Wildcard will be Hilfenhaus. You spoke of Alderman Andy and here he is, dressed up as a Tasmanian. He can swing it and he will just what Ricky needs to win 2-1.

  • Hi Jinx on January 16, 2009, 4:18 GMT

    Very good Andy. However the Aussies will keep the urn quite easily unless ..... Warney coaches the Old Dart. What would Australia do if England came out texting and dragging on a Benson and Hedges whilst sledging everyone who moved ? Monty would sure look a treat I reckon.

  • Nathan on January 16, 2009, 4:13 GMT

    Great work! This is funny stuff ... I love the statements 'it is probable that they (England) will face a bowling attack with a grand total of zero Test wickets in England. If England can keep it that way for the duration of the series, they will probably win'. Who can argue with such brilliant logic and analysis?

  • Maurice Fordham on January 16, 2009, 4:00 GMT

    Two great umpires doing the one day match (16 Jan). If these two did the ashes series it would be a no brainer, the aussies would be a shoo in.

  • Geoffrey Plumridge on January 16, 2009, 2:30 GMT

    I've been following English cricket for some time and even though they've been the butt of many jokes they have been the only team to beat that great Australian team that included McGrath, Warne, Langer, Martyn & Gilchrist. Now the team isn't as strong as it was in 2005 but it hasn't weakened to the extent that the Australian team has. It's a shame though that no-one is playing for the number one spot anymore (which can jointly go to SA & IND).. so that should take some of the gloss off an English victory. But as far as ashes grudge matches go.. this should be a cracker.

    BTW Siddle & Johnson on English wickets with a Dukes ball = cannon fodder for some hungry English batsman.

    SHame this will be a mediocre English side versus a woeful Australian one (which resembles the Windies side of the late 90's).. but the ashes history will ensure it won't be boring.

  • Weez on January 16, 2009, 1:13 GMT

    Great article thanks. The frustrating thing about England is that they have all the ingredients but no recipe - all the spares but no manual.

    Every batsmen in your line-up averages 40+ Even the keeper bats & can make hundreds You have better spinners than SA, Aus, and the Windies (combined) You have great fast bowlers some even swing the ball You have a great allrounder in Freddy (Ronald McDonald or the other clown (Symonds) is no match)

    Yet you have no clue...get hold of a decent coach or a good psychiatrist or Sangoma(witchdoctor - KP will know) and you might well win the whole thing.

  • MrKricket on January 15, 2009, 22:17 GMT

    I see you predicted 4-2 at one stage. Are there 6 Tests? If Cardiff is one venue then Chester-le-Street must get a run too! Lots of huge 600 plus scores to both sides due to ineptness of the bowling attacks and miserable weather will lead to a 0-0 result.

  • Aussie Din ks on January 15, 2009, 18:01 GMT

    I just love your articles they are so funny I read them about 6 times just in case I missed something. I think this Ashes will be much closer than before but I think the Aussies will do it.

  • Liz on January 15, 2009, 5:26 GMT

    The young Aussie team may be ready to go. Although the english may not know them by name, we have had our down period and now we are ready to ascend. In 2005, Australia beat South Africa both home and away then had their down period during the Ashes. In 2009, we have had our down period 6 months earlier and will be chomping at the bit come July to Fe,Fi,Fo,Fum....I smell the blood of the Englishmen.

    Of course terrible typical english summer weather could spoil it all.

    Australia 2 England 0.

  • REDNECK on January 15, 2009, 4:59 GMT

    andy, do you do stand up or just radio? if you do stand up could you please consider touring aus when the ashes are here in 2011! keep these predictions comeing

  • Arjun Miglani on January 15, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    Great post as always...wait, is that John Oliver?

  • Jazz on January 14, 2009, 23:01 GMT

    England 2 - Australia 1

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on January 14, 2009, 18:19 GMT

    haha. i love predictions. as funny as astrology, but less likely. contrary to rob heinen's opinion, i believe anderson would be useful. harmy is such weapon that could shoot itself on the foot. monty needs work, a bit too much to ask for by the summer though. maybe Swann could do a crash course on Mendis-ing? as much as i hate his boyband hair, i like broad. my prediction is this: am gonna laugh my a$$ off reading andy's predictions :) also strauss will be man-of-the-series either way, i dont really like england (tho i live in London) or Oz. let's hope to see some good cricket.

  • D.V.C. on January 14, 2009, 17:45 GMT

    I would like to offer a correction, if I may. The Australian attack does have a Test wickets in England. Simon Katich took 1/36 in Test No. 1760 (the 3rd test, at Old Trafford, in 2005). And Ricky Ponting took 1/9 in Test No. 1762 (the 5th test, at Trent Bridge, in 2005).

    However, both of those wickets are Michael Vaughn. So, perhaps Moores was right to not consider him for upcoming series. The current Australian attack seems to have it 'all over him' in English conditions.

  • Sagar on January 14, 2009, 15:52 GMT

    Great one Andy!

  • Thomas on January 14, 2009, 14:55 GMT

    Brilliant, thank you for brightening my deary Wednesday.

  • rob heinen on January 14, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    Lose anderson, harmison, panesar. Clone Sidebottom & Broad - and a few extra clone's deep frozen - find Mendis' English mother and you should be alright for the summer. No worries, mate.

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  • rob heinen on January 14, 2009, 13:51 GMT

    Lose anderson, harmison, panesar. Clone Sidebottom & Broad - and a few extra clone's deep frozen - find Mendis' English mother and you should be alright for the summer. No worries, mate.

  • Thomas on January 14, 2009, 14:55 GMT

    Brilliant, thank you for brightening my deary Wednesday.

  • Sagar on January 14, 2009, 15:52 GMT

    Great one Andy!

  • D.V.C. on January 14, 2009, 17:45 GMT

    I would like to offer a correction, if I may. The Australian attack does have a Test wickets in England. Simon Katich took 1/36 in Test No. 1760 (the 3rd test, at Old Trafford, in 2005). And Ricky Ponting took 1/9 in Test No. 1762 (the 5th test, at Trent Bridge, in 2005).

    However, both of those wickets are Michael Vaughn. So, perhaps Moores was right to not consider him for upcoming series. The current Australian attack seems to have it 'all over him' in English conditions.

  • Dimuthu Ratnayake on January 14, 2009, 18:19 GMT

    haha. i love predictions. as funny as astrology, but less likely. contrary to rob heinen's opinion, i believe anderson would be useful. harmy is such weapon that could shoot itself on the foot. monty needs work, a bit too much to ask for by the summer though. maybe Swann could do a crash course on Mendis-ing? as much as i hate his boyband hair, i like broad. my prediction is this: am gonna laugh my a$$ off reading andy's predictions :) also strauss will be man-of-the-series either way, i dont really like england (tho i live in London) or Oz. let's hope to see some good cricket.

  • Jazz on January 14, 2009, 23:01 GMT

    England 2 - Australia 1

  • Arjun Miglani on January 15, 2009, 3:23 GMT

    Great post as always...wait, is that John Oliver?

  • REDNECK on January 15, 2009, 4:59 GMT

    andy, do you do stand up or just radio? if you do stand up could you please consider touring aus when the ashes are here in 2011! keep these predictions comeing

  • Liz on January 15, 2009, 5:26 GMT

    The young Aussie team may be ready to go. Although the english may not know them by name, we have had our down period and now we are ready to ascend. In 2005, Australia beat South Africa both home and away then had their down period during the Ashes. In 2009, we have had our down period 6 months earlier and will be chomping at the bit come July to Fe,Fi,Fo,Fum....I smell the blood of the Englishmen.

    Of course terrible typical english summer weather could spoil it all.

    Australia 2 England 0.

  • Aussie Din ks on January 15, 2009, 18:01 GMT

    I just love your articles they are so funny I read them about 6 times just in case I missed something. I think this Ashes will be much closer than before but I think the Aussies will do it.