My Australian XI for the Ashes
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.
Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here