A fortnightly talk show hosted by one of India's most popular cricket commentators

'England have a swagger about them'

Ian Chappell and Mark Nicholas size up the teams heading into the Ashes (33:07)

Producer: Raunak Kapoor

July 8, 2013


'England have a swagger about them'

July 8, 2013

Excerpts from the discussion below. The numbers in brackets are the duration for each segment

England celebrate as they win a review against Kane Williamson, England v New Zealand, 2nd Investec Test, Headingley, 3rd day, May 26, 2013
"After winning the last Ashes in 2010-11, England start this edition as overwhelming favourites" © Getty Images

Is this the first time in many years that England start the Ashes as overwhelming favourites? (2.25 - 3.31)

Mark Nicholas: Overwhelming favourites, yes. They were probably favourites the last time there was an Ashes series, but yes, they are overwhelming favourites for the first time for long time, and it is as much because of the relative disarray in the Australian camp as it is because England look in reasonably good order.

Ian Chappell: I think they are less overwhelming favourites than they were a couple of weeks ago, but you have to say England are strong favourites, and Australia have got a lot to prove. There's a lot of euphoria in Australia in the last couple of weeks. It may be misplaced but we will find out better when we've had a few days' play at Trent Bridge.

Most of the euphoria is centred around the appointment of a coach who is neither going to score a run nor take a wicket (3.35 - 6.20)

IC: Probably the biggest positive effect a coach can have on the team is if he can help to get the right players on the field and get them batting in the right order. Darren Lehmann's done a bit in that direction, he's got Watson batting at the top of the order and why Watson hasn't been batting at the top of the order for however long he's been fit I have no idea, so that's a step in the right direction. He's got Watson happy with himself and that's important because Australia aren't going to win anything without him in decent form. So that's a positive. The rest of the batting I'm not so sure about.

MN: Another thing Darren Lehmann will do alongside Michael Clarke is encourage people to play freely. I think some of the players were clamped up a bit and uncertain about their future, and I think Lehmann will tell the guys, "You only live once, so go out and be the cricketers you are, don't try and hang on to someone else's idea of what you should be."

IC: He'll talk a bit of cricketing common sense, and from Cricket Australia there has been virtually no common sense coming for at least the last 12 months. We've had some absolute rubbish go on, some rubbish spoken, and Darren will clear a lot of that out.

Are England enjoying all this disarray that Australian cricket is in? (6.40 - 7.25)

MN: Well, they'd be very stupid if they were sitting back and saying, "Ha ha, look at the mess they're in!" What you want to do is make sure that your own cricket is in the best possible shape that it can be. If you're Michael Clarke, you must be saying, a very strong Australian side came to England in 2005 and got beaten, so good teams get beaten, and England could be beaten.

While England look settled, what is Australia's best XI and their batting order? (8.30 - 12.37)

IC: As far as I'm concerned, Watson and Warner should have been opening for Australia for as long as Watson was fit. Now it's asking a bit much to send Warner in to open in this first Test match when he hasn't had a leading game. Who they are going to bat at No. 3, I don't know at this stage. If they're thinking about Ed Cowan then they should think again. I'm very much against picking three openers.

"You are going to have a problem when you've got some marginal batsmen. That's not a knock on the system that Cricket Australia has allowed. As far as producing batsmen is concerned, it's almost the laughing stock of the world" Ian Chappell
I think [No. 3 is] a very important position and you've got to have a very good player there. Ed Cowan is very susceptible to offspin, as are probably all the left-handers in the Australian side, which will make Swann's day - he chews up left-handers and spits them out.

Clarke is not your proto-typical No. 3. But when you haven't got one and Clarke is far and away the best batsman in the side, then he's got to bat at No. 3. Now, he won't do it, and why he won't move up from No. 5 is beyond me, but I think that's a mistake.

I think if you ask most batsmen who have played international cricket, if they'd rather go in at one for very few or three for not many, I think anyone with his head screwed on right would say one for not many.

MN: I don't think it matters that Warner hasn't played cricket for a month. Given the way that Warner goes about batting, I think he may be better coming in without any baggage. They reckon they've cleared the air on what happened in that bar and I'd tell him, "Strap them on, mate, go out and play the way you play", because the one way you can make life difficult for a good England seam attack is carrying the attack back to them.

So I would go with Watson and Warner at the top and play [Chris] Rogers at three simply because he's been in form in England.

On the other hand, it all seems settled for England (17.54 - 19.59)

MN: Yes, they got very lucky with the timing of Joe Root's maturity. The great thing about him is that he's himself. If you go and watch him play for Yorkshire and play for England, he's exactly the same person. The way he bats, the way he carries himself, the urgency he has at the crease, the fact that he's looking to score runs and not just occupy the crease. Root technically is the best English batsman I've seen since I've grown up in the game here.

The only question mark with England has been this extra seamer. It's very funny that recently they had this ridiculous practice match against Essex. Why all the players aren't playing in the County Championship with competitive cricket, I'll never know. Why Australia aren't playing against a full county team instead of one that includes Nick Compton as a guest, I'll never know, but that's another issue.

And England have seen no wickets from Finn or Bresnan, who they think are in a shootout for the third seamer's spot, but my choice would be to go for Finn. I think he offers something that you don't find too often - that is, height, bounce and pace - but I'm not sure England will.

Australia may not have the players for the team to play around when they need to fight (22.51 - 23.51)

IC: You are going to have that problem when you've got some marginal players playing, and I'm talking about marginal batsmen. That's not a knock on the selectors, it's a knock on the system that Cricket Australia has allowed. This system is now no longer the envy of the cricket world, and as far as producing batsmen is concerned, it's almost the laughing stock of the world.

Do England have the self-belief, aura and swagger to play like frontrunners? (25.00 - 25.48)

MN: The aura depends on how the opposition view them, but they certainly have the swagger. There are plenty of cocky blokes there who believe they can play cricket. They've won the last two Ashes series, home and away. They see a less good Australian side from the last one they played against, and they're probably no less good themselves. So England have no problem with their self-belief at all.

I think the indifference in New Zealand did come on the back of conscious or sub-conscious complacency after what was the best performance I've seen from an England team abroad, perhaps ever, against India, but that was made by Pietersen's innings, so they know they've got that genius batsman to do that. Yes, I think England have a swagger about them and I think they'll be very hard to beat here.

Joe Root drives the ball through the off side, Essex v England, 1st day, Chelmsford, June 30, 2013
Nicholas: "Root technically is the best English batsman I've seen since I've grown up in the game here" © Getty Images
Would 5-0 be whispered somewhere in that England dressing room? (25.55 - 27.38)

MN: No, I don't think so. I think Australia will play some quite good cricket. I think they've got a good captain and they would have had a good feeling from Lehmann being around them, and I think they've got one or two very good players who can win sessions. And remember, you can get conditions in England that help swing and seam bowling and guys like Pattinson, Starc and Siddle can take four or five in a session and knock England over and turn the series. I can't see 5-0 but I can see a comfortable enough England victory here.

IC: England have got to start favourites but it's ridiculous to talk about 5-0. I don't think I've ever played with a player who thought about 5-0 before the series started. You're pretty stupid if you are thinking that way. You should try and win the first one, and if you've done that, then you should try and win the second one. Don't get too far ahead of yourself. I can see Australia winning a Test, because they've got an attack, but I expect England to win the series and they should do it reasonably comfortably.

Numbers Game question (28.45 - 32.18)

In the last 35 Tests that Australia have played (March 2010 onwards), how many centuries have their No. 3 batsmen scored? In the same period, how many have England's No. 3s scored from 40 Tests?

Posted by Simonmartin on (July 9, 2013, 11:07 GMT)

Just in case people are trying to find out, Australia have scored 1 century at number 3 where as England have scored 9 since March 2010. Australia's 1 was by Marsh. Trott has scored most of England's, Pietersen and Bell the others.

Posted by kensohatter on (July 9, 2013, 5:55 GMT)

I agree and disagree with Chapell. Hes right clarke needs to bat higher than 5... 3 down before your best bat comes in is to late. Clarke needs to step up and lead. I dont agree that Cowan is one opener to many. I think he provides stability and a value in his wicket that is not seen in warner or hughes. Australia will open with Watson and with rogers I quite like it but we need watson to bowl more and for that reason id like to see him tackle the new ball at 6. Also Khawaja needs to be there. My team would be. 1. Rogers, 2. Cowan, 3. Warner/Hughes (think im leaning towards Hughes), 4. Clarke, 5. Khawaja, 6. Watson, 7 Haddin, 8. Siddle, 9. Pattison, 10. Starc, 11. Lyon

Posted by Angry_of_Wembley on (July 9, 2013, 4:51 GMT)

Australia's team is a good deal older than England's, and there is no-one other than Warner in the side who you'd say is a brilliant fielder. Clarke, when fit, is good in slips, and Haddin is a very good keeper...er, that's about it. AoW

Posted by Angry_of_Wembley on (July 9, 2013, 4:25 GMT)

Not so sure, jmcilhinney, re the fielding.

Posted by   on (July 8, 2013, 17:27 GMT)

Its going to tough cricket,tight cricket .expect each n every player to play above themselves.ashes means a lot to england than the australia ,i simply feel this way

Posted by chitti_cricket on (July 8, 2013, 14:58 GMT)

Ashes major have been won by good bowling attacks, Warne, Mcgrath and Gipplepse or Hamison, Flintof and Swan etel. The batting has been always impacting. The great bowlers on either sides won the Ashes for their respective teams and batting has given a needed impact that is all. At this moment Australia has better fast bowling attack but no great verity and that can undo them. As per batting is concerned I have no doubts they have better batting side. Coming to bowling options England has more verity and guile in bowling in the form of Anderson, Broad and Swan. That is what making every one think England are better side to win this Ashes. But all beware, Australia never goes down or leaves anything for opposite team in terms of fight, so I don't think England are overwhelming favourites. For the good of cricket we want Ashes be fiercely competitive and that is what it is going to be is my bet. Looking at both sides nothing separates them major except a good spin bowler.

Posted by Sir_Ivor on (July 8, 2013, 11:44 GMT)

The main difference between both the sides is that England looks a well settled side while Australia looks like a team that has still to convince anyone of their abilities. England lost to Pakistan 3-0 in the desert and then shared a series with Sri Lanka 1-1. Then they beat India 2-1 in India, which is probably as great an achievement as beating Austalia in the Ashes in Australia the last time it was played. But they lost 0-2 to South Africa at home and were held 0-0 by New Zealand who are considered as being not very good at the moment. Of course New Zealand were thrashed by England at home recently 2-0 even if they bowled almost as well as England in similar conditions. Australia on the other hand were thrashed by India 0-4 in India even if they thrashed India 4-0 in Australia on a series of green tops. They produced docile strips against South Africa though and almost pulled off a coup till South Africa won at Perth.So it is wrong to believe that Australia are pushovers.

Posted by Governor on (July 8, 2013, 7:26 GMT)

Ian Chappell does have a valid point on Shane Watson. Shane Watson should have been opening the batting since the West Indies tour of 2012. It is quite obvious Mickey Arthur convinced Michael Clarke that Shane Watson could be our version of Jacques Kallis without realising the fact that he won 2 AB Medals as our premier opening batsman.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 8, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

The subject of Australia's fielding and particularly their catching came up at the end but I think that England's catching is just as important. It has been inconsistent for a while and very poor at times and it has cost them dearly. You could look as far back as the drawn series in SL where dropping Jayawardene was a significant factor in their losing game 1. They were poor against WI at home but were still good enough to win that series but I predicted then that they would be in trouble against SA if they didn't improve. They didn't and they were. If they'd held their catches they would have been a good chance to draw or even win against SA but you can't keep giving batsmen that good second chances. It may have cost them game 1 in India when the dropped Pujara. They dropped 3 in their warmup against Essex. If they drop Clarke in particular then it could cost them dearly against Australia but there are others who could make them pay too.

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