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April 25, 2013

Ashes

My Australian XI for the Ashes

Matt Cleary
James Pattinson: will blast good batsmen out  © Getty Images
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Australia's Ashes team? I like it.

There aren't many great batsmen, because Australia don't have many. Indeed, Australia have one. The rest are serviceable enough odd bods with eclectic skill sets.

Shane Watson is capable of thumping knocks at the top of the order, though he chokes like a disco chicken the closer he gets to three figures. (Disco chicken? Dunno. But I'm goin' with it.) Big Watto is like inclement weather - he's always threatening but is very rarely as bad as feared.

Still, I'm opening with Watto and Western Australia's decade-long 50-average man, Chris Rogers. No one deserves a Test spot more than the Western Australian, except for Brad Hodge, and Jamie Cox, and Stuart Law, and a few others. But mainly Hodge. He was robbed like Hurricane Carter.

Elsewhere I have to fit Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes and Dashing Davey Warner into two of the remaining spots, and to be fair dinkum… yeah, I dunno. I wouldn't have taken any of them.

Yes, I would. They are all very good and capable of Test centuries. But so is Watto and he has only scored two.

So Rogers straight in to open, and Watto's next to him. No. 3? I dunno, Phil Hughes. Michael Clarke should be there but doesn't want to bat there because he has scored a hundred at No. 5. Fair enough? I dunno. Best batsman for mine is at three, as everyone from Chappelli to Ricky to the ghost of the Don would tell you. But Clarke isn't out of place at No. 4, followed in my XI by Usman Khawaja, the talented and stylish left-hander with big possibilities. For mine, if Khawaja gets an extended run and nails a ton, there'll be a flood. Some blokes are like that.

At six? Dashing Dave, swinging like the T20 player he sort of really is. I can't put him at the top of the order in Test cricket. But coming in four-down for however many, he's going to play the same way. And with some of the swingy nippiness off the ball, and whatever other tricks the dastardly Poms are known for, Warner could make hay.

The reborn Brad Haddin gets the gig of the gloves over Matthew Wade, because of his superior batting and wicketkeeping. Haddin is also superior in age to Wade, something selectors once felt went against the 35-year-old Queanbeyan Bluebags. But Haddin is a hard-arse. And there's a Matt Prior-esque steel and late-order runs in him. I like him. Always have.

The bowlers can toss for it, though Mitchell Starc was one run from a ton in India, and he and Pete Siddle outbatted the top order more than once. Indeed several times. For some reason their more limited strokeplay was better able to combat the Indian spinners on their dusty decks. Go figure. One reason could be that the Australian top order is shit against spin. Could be just me.

Bowling attack? On those green and swing-friendly England wickets, it is tip-top class, friend. And there are lots of them. So many, indeed, that they have picked one spinner and couldn't fit in the leading wicket-taker from the 2009 series, Ben Hilfenhaus, nor tattooed and tongue-pierced Wild Man of Western Australia, Mitchell Johnson.

And that, friends, is all cool and the gang. Because these guys are good. Have a go at 'em:

Peter Siddle Super-fit, lionhearted leader and canny man, can bend it both ways, get a bit off the seam, and be at 'em all day. Merv Hughes used to play a similar role for Allan Border, and Big Sids is better than him.

Mitchell Starc Long and lean and left-handed, comes around the wicket with the old ball and flings in late-swinging devil balls at batsmen's toes. And they don't like it. He's a ripper, M Starc.

Ryan Harris He's old but he's good. He's very good, in fact. And if they get three of five Tests out of him, he'll take a bag of wickets, and win sessions, if not Test matches, for his country. He's a ripper, too, Rhino.

James Pattinson The craziest and quickest of them all. Nothing like a spunk-filled punk giving batsmen a gobfull. That, fans, is entertainment. And Patto v Kevin Pietersen will be more entertaining than nude celebrities dancing on ice. Quick, aggressive, accurate, snarly, Patto will blast good batsmen out.

Jackson Bird Leading wicket-taker in successive first-class competitions, when Tasmania won the Sheffield Shield, Bird had to fly. Ha. That is lame. But again, I'm goin' with it. Bird? The word (ha) is he's super-accurate, patient like McGrath, does a little off the seam. A recipe for 98 first-class wickets at 19.3. He can bowl, Bird. They call him the Big Squid. Can't remember why. You can Google it.

Spin bowling? Selectors have rightly (rightly? Too rightly) resisted selecting two of these people, wisely realising there's only one who is any good. Sure, Pakistani refugee Fawad Ahmed has been the best-performing legspinner in domestic cricket. And there's a kid from the west, Ashton Agar, who has been mentioned in despatches.

But you don't bowl in despatches, whatever they are, and he and Fawad remain raw like the meat of a freshly butchered beast. Something like it. But they can look ahead to a possible gig in Sydney if it's a typical fitter'n (turner).

Nathan Lyon? Pretty smart offie, if a little one-d. If Clarke can get him looping them (and give his bowlers something to @#$% bowl at!) Lyon will test Test batsmen. But then he isn't guaranteed a Test spot, looking at the attack agents that make up the pace-bowling sextet. And if there are hints of Ireland in any of the wickets, Clarke is not afraid to go four-prong fast.

A wildcard selection comes in the form of James Faulkner, a big lump of Launceston who bowls quick and gives it a thump. He's the only allrounder picked, given Shane Watson's brittle body, though Starc has claims after 68 not out against South Africa and 99 against India.

Who's going to win? Dunno. The Poms are good but couldn't beat New Zealand. Australia were dusted in the dust. For mine, it's a clean slate.

Can't wait.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

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Posted by Beertjie on (April 27, 2013, 11:28 GMT)

Reckon there'll be 'hints of Ireland' at Trent Bridge and Riverside, so Lyon won't be needed there. Can't disagree with any of your views except Ahmed/Agar should be considered at Adelaide. Lyon was pretty poor there, so he needs to do more than keep Pup's place in the team by upping the over rate. Another that will help us get a better team at home would be Burns, if Hughes doesn't take his chance. Ditto Watson's on the last chance saloon. Good handling by the selectors to keep Burns and Cummins back to replace the likes of Harris and all those openers who don't make it in Ashes I. My idea is give Harris the games alongside Watson. Chances are one will get injured while the other fails. But neither worse case scenario will cost a game because Watto as fifth bowler can stand in for the broken down Harris. Conversely, Watto may come through with the bat and whatever games Harris plays in England are a bonus while others learn the right lengths to bowl. Sayers is a natural replacement.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (April 27, 2013, 7:22 GMT)

Pattinson, Siddle, and Harris (if fit). Would be beautiful to see Pat Cummins. And of course, Nathan Lyon as the offie.

Posted by SamRoy on (April 26, 2013, 16:19 GMT)

First of, Faulkner swings it both ways and is not quick. Unless you want to call a bowler who bowls 132 kmph on average quck. Slightly quicker than Moises Henriques (or B. Kumar). Secondly only in the dreams of some is Harris playing in 3 tests fully. He might play 2, will definitely break down in the middle of the second. On the contrary Warner at 6, is a good option but Tamim Iqbal and the very young Virender Sehwag (in 2002) did make merry in England. So all hope is not lost for dashing openers. Of course Warner is no Greenidge but still he is quite talented.

Posted by gm47 on (April 26, 2013, 16:02 GMT)

@Jayzuz we dont need short memories.... didn't Australia get thrashed in India not long ago !!!! and if my memory is any good I think England did quite well there :)

@Mitty2 You say"they have a worse win/loss since the last ashes" the records say that both ENG/AUS have played 8 won 4 lost 2 and drawn 2 !! also ""they have an inferior pace attack"... you are having a laugh here... aren't you :) I guess it's a matter of opinion.

+ of course England have 4 players in the top 20 of the ICC rankings and Aus only have 1 of their squad there.

Posted by Jayzuz on (April 26, 2013, 11:45 GMT)

@Mustafa Fayyaz and @gm47, it's people like you that make me realise that there are a lot of people out there with short memories. Australia lost one series in 2 1/2 years before the India series (an unlucky 1-0 loss to SA), and you think it is a stretch to suggest they might do OK in England? You might recall England lost 3-0 vs PAK not that long ago. They couldn't win a test vs NZ. But now England are suddenly invincible? The conditions in India were an abomination, and nothing like what will be dished up in England. If ENG dish up green tracks, Starc, Pattinson, Bird and co will have a field day, esp. if AUS win the toss. There will be more than a few battered ENG batsmen after this series.

Posted by Mitty2 on (April 26, 2013, 6:57 GMT)

@derpherp, starc has too good an action and seam position in comparison to MJ to be without swing, and if he doesn't get it, he could do the good ol' angle it across the right hander and hope for an edge. Starc looks to me better than MJ in most facets: better action for swing, same amount of pace, can reverse it and extracts more bounce, not to mention more accurate. Once he gets accurate [enough] he will be in the top echelon of world quicks.

@gm47, there's two aspects that England are worse than us: they have an inferior pace attack, and they have a worse win/loss since the last ashes. Oh and they lost a test to sri Lanka and couldn't win a game against new Zealand..

I'm sensing a bit of hype lately from us aus fans because of the selections.. So much more hope than straight after the 0-4 drubbing. If we had an XI of: Warner Cowan Rogers Hughes Clarke khawaja haddin o'keefe siddle agar I can definitely say that that whitewash would not have been so. Look what good selections do.

Posted by gm47 on (April 26, 2013, 6:24 GMT)

The aussies have 2 chances of winning this series..... slim and none :)

player V player........ England are better in every position.

sorry chaps ... best to stick to surfing this year.... cos you won't be happy watching the cricket.

Posted by derpherp on (April 26, 2013, 6:16 GMT)

I hope Starc doesn't end up like the other Mitch; only gets wickets when he swings it...otherwise goes for 4.5 an over.

Posted by mk49_van on (April 26, 2013, 2:37 GMT)

Don't really care who is in the squad- but for the first time since forever I will be rooting for the Aussies over the Poms.

Posted by   on (April 26, 2013, 1:24 GMT)

Great article. And what a luxury of riches we have in our bowling stocks.

Bird, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson, Harris, Faulkner, Lyon

while sitting at home we got:

Hilfenhaus, M Johnson, Butterworth, Sayers, O'Keefe and Agar.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Cleary
Matt Cleary reckons he watched more of the 1978-79 Ashes series than any eight-year-old. Despite this punishment - Geoff Boycott batting for days - Cleary was hooked. As a journalist he's written about sport, travel, beer, wine, swimming with stingrays in the Alice waters of Bora Bora, and touring Australia on a four-month lap, playing golf. Yet he counts doing ball-by-ball commentary for ESPNcricinfo as the most fun he's had with a keyboard. He writes for several of Australia's sports and travel magazines, notably Inside Sport, Inside Cricket, Golf Australia and Rugby League Week. @JournoMatCleary

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